Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Jackson, Paul (1947-)

Producer, Director, Executive

Main image of Jackson, Paul (1947-)

Credited as the man who brought the alternative comedy generation to television, Paul Jackson has risen from minor player in 1970s light entertainment to international media bigwig.

The son of TV producer T. Leslie Jackson - whose own credits included This is Your Life (BBC, 1955-64) and Call My Bluff (BBC, 1965-88) - he was born Kevin Paul Jackson in London in 1947, joining the BBC around 1970, initially as a runner. By the end of the 1970s, he had graduated to producer/director, with a host of light entertainment credits, including Top of the Pops (1964-), Blankety Blank (1979-89), The Two Ronnies (1971-86) and Larry Grayson's Generation Game (1978-81) - the kind of programming that many of the new comedians hoped to sweep away.

It was in a personal rather than professional capacity that Jackson found himself, one night in early 1980, at the Comedy Store in London's Soho, epicentre of the newly born 'alternative cabaret'. The evening would determine the path of his career over the next few years. He first pitched to the BBC a 26-part series capturing the live experience; with understandable caution, BBC executives agreed to a single 35-minute slot. For the resulting programme, Boom Boom... Out Go the Lights (tx. 14/10/1980), Jackson assembled five of the scene's most notable talents - Alexei Sayle, Keith Allen, Rik Mayall, Tony Allen and Nigel Planer (but not Mayall or Planer's respective stage partners, Adrian Edmondson and Peter Richardson) - who performed elements of their live acts in a crude approximation of a club environment. Music was provided by the not-very-alternative Paul Jones' Blues Band, one of whose songs gave the show its title. Broadcast in a thankless slot, Boom Boom... won little attention or audience response. Nevertheless, it was a spearhead of sorts, and did appear to boost audiences at the Comedy Store. A follow-up programme seven months later (tx. 5/5/1981), adding Edmondson, Richardson and others, fared a little better.

In the meantime, Jackson went freelance, set up his own company, Paul Jackson Productions, continued to produce Blankety-Blank, and launched the slightly-alternative Three of a Kind (BBC, 1981-83), as well as the more old-school Carrott's Lib (BBC, 1982-83). In 1982, however, The Young Ones (BBC, 1982 & 1984), finally broke alternative comedy on television, although its cult was not quite matched by its audience figures, especially in the first series.

Despite his close association with the scene, he never abandoned his commitment to more mainstream comedy. Sandwiched between alternative showcases like The Entertainers (Channel 4, 1983) - which shone the spotlight on the likes of Hale and Pace, French and Saunders, and Ben Elton - Girls on Top (ITV, 1985-86), Saturday Live (Channel 4, 1985-87) and Filthy Rich and Catflap (BBC, 1987) were production credits for Cannon and Ball (ITV, 1979-88). "I don't think there are that many differences between someone like Rik Mayall and Cannon and Ball," he once said - an attitude that didn't endear him to some of the alternative comics, notably Alexei Sayle and Peter Richardson, who had long suffered a fractious relationship with Jackson.

In 1986 he joined the independent Noel Gay Television, marking a new direction which would take him into an increasingly executive role - although he continued to produce, notably with the surprise hit Red Dwarf (BBC, 1988). He was instrumental in securing an ITV franchise for Michael Green's Carlton, and in 1991 took up post as the company's managing director, rising to managing director of Carlton UK Productions in 1995, before returning to freelance production and direction and ultimately rejoining the BBC as head of entertainment in 1997, becoming Controller of Entertainment the following year. Two years later, however, unhappy at restructuring, he left the BBC once again, to become managing director of Granada Media Australia. In 2002 he was recalled to the UK as Granada's director of international formats and entertainment. He didn't stay at home long; in summer 2003, he was appointed president of Granada Entertainment USA, becoming chief executive of Granada America in early 2004.

Mark Duguid

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Boom Boom... Out Go the Lights (1980)Boom Boom... Out Go the Lights (1980)

First TV showcase for the new wave of alternative comedians

Thumbnail image of Filthy Rich and Catflap (1987)Filthy Rich and Catflap (1987)

Post Young-Ones sitcom about a talentless actor and his cohorts

Thumbnail image of Girls on Top (1985-86)Girls on Top (1985-86)

Flatshare comedy with French, Saunders, Tracy Ullman and Ruby Wax

Thumbnail image of Red Dwarf (1988-99)Red Dwarf (1988-99)

Hugely popular SF sitcom that defied BBC critics to run for over a decade

Thumbnail image of Saturday Live / Friday Night Live (1985-88)Saturday Live / Friday Night Live (1985-88)

Live variety for the alternative comedy generation

Thumbnail image of Three of a Kind (1981-83)Three of a Kind (1981-83)

Sketch comedy with Lenny Henry, Tracey Ullman and David Copperfield

Thumbnail image of Top of the Pops (1964-2006)Top of the Pops (1964-2006)

Long-running, hugely influential chart-based pop music programme

Thumbnail image of Two Ronnies, The (1971-86)Two Ronnies, The (1971-86)

Hugely popular sketch series uniting Ronnies Barker and Corbett

Thumbnail image of Young Ones, The (1982-84)Young Ones, The (1982-84)

Anarchic sitcom which launched a generation of alternative comedians

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Alternative ComedyAlternative Comedy

The new broom of early '80s humour

Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Cannon, Tommy (1938-) and Ball, Bobby (1944-)Cannon, Tommy (1938-) and Ball, Bobby (1944-)

Performers, Actors, Writers

Thumbnail image of Granada TelevisionGranada Television

Broadcaster, Production Company