As Independent Television was launched in Britain in September 1955, so too was the television career of writer, director, wit, and occasional performer Ned Sherrin (born Edward George Sherrin in Low Ham, Somerset, on 18 February 1931). Beginning as an associate producer on the morning magazine series Week-End (ITV, 1955), and as a floor manager on ATV Junior Club (ITV, 1955-56), he quickly rose to producer status in February 1956 at the new ATV Midlands.
In a more creative vein, he had also begun collaborating on the writing of stage, television and radio plays with the novelist Caryl Brahms, having struck up a friendship with her whilst a student. Although initially credited under the joint pseudonym of 'Moss Mindelbaum' for their first televised work, the farce Take it Away (BBC, tx. 26/12/1955), a celebrated partnership had nevertheless been born, which would endure until her death in 1982.
Meanwhile, back in television production, a move to the BBC in 1957 saw him assigned as studio director to the daily news magazine series Tonight (BBC, 1957-65). On that same series, he was also editor of a regular entertainment feature. With its inclusion of topical comic sketches this can now be viewed as a precursor of one of the television landmarks of the 1960s: That Was The Week That Was (BBC, 1962-63).
Devised, produced and directed by Sherrin himself, TW3, as it became known, introduced a national audience to the satire boom that had already become well established in London. A phenomenal success, the series established Sherrin as a force in television and ensured that the British comedy and political landscape would never be the same again.
Cut from the same satirical cloth, Not So Much a Programme More a Way of Life (BBC, 1964-65) and BBC-3 (BBC, 1965-66) were to follow, utilising many of the same writers and performers from TW3, and often achieving the same degree of controversy.
Not everything within Sherrin's ambit was so contentious. Less provocative productions, usually co-written with Brahms, included the naval drama Benbow Was His Name (BBC, tx. 7/5/1964), starring Donald Wolfit; a lavish musical, Take a Sapphire (BBC, tx. 4/1/1966), with music by Ron Grainer; and The Long Cocktail Party (BBC, tx. 23/4/1966), featuring Millicent Martin and songs from the 1930s in a visual essay on that decade, which Brahms wrote on her own.
By 1969, Sherrin felt a change of career was in order, and for the next five years. he largely devoted his energies to the cinema, producing ten films, some for his own company. Later to describe this period as a 'mistake', only an adaptation of the Peter Nichols play, The National Health (1973, d. Jack Gold), can be viewed as having any worth.
Although the occasional television production emerged during these years, including Brahms collaborations The Great Inimitable Mr Dickens (BBC, tx. 2/6/1970), a biography of Charles Dickens featuring Anthony Hopkins in the title role, and Ooh La La! (BBC, 1968-73), a series of French farce adaptations, Sherrin never achieved the same level of success that he had enjoyed in the early- to mid-1960s.
With his peak years in television behind him, his creative energies since the 1970s have been largely confined to the theatre, especially following the success on both sides of the Atlantic in 1976 of the musical Side by Side by Sondheim, which he devised, produced and appeared in, garnering a Tony award nomination for his performance. He did, however, enjoy some renewed television success with the songwriter biography series Song by Song (ITV, 1978-80), which he both produced and presented.
He was awarded a CBE in 1997.
Ned Sherrin died from cancer on 1 October 2007.