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Barclay, Humphrey (1941-)

Producer, Executive

Main image of Barclay, Humphrey (1941-)

Humphrey Barclay's first foray into showbusiness was via the Cambridge Footlights, revues where he appeared alongside the likes of Tim Brooke-Taylor, John Cleese and Miriam Margoyles. Offered a job as a BBC radio producer, he signed-up former university colleagues and produced a scatological new comedy, I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, which began in 1964. Barclay produced four series of the show before being wooed to Rediffusion by Jeremy Isaacs, who wanted him to produce a children's comedy show for the channel. Barclay took up the challenge and built a new team (Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Denise Coffey and his new discovery David Jason) for Do Not Adjust Your Set (ITV, 1967-69). The series may have run in a children's slot but its zany, surrealistic humour had a cross-over appeal, and along with fellow ITV series At Last the 1948 Show (1967-68), formed the foundation for Monty Python's Flying Circus (BBC, 1969-74).

Following the ITV franchise changes of 1968, Barclay was hired by Frank Muir, Head of Light Entertainment for new broadcaster London Weekend Television (LWT). Among Barclay's successes at LWT was the long-running Doctor... series (1969-77), one episode of which - penned by John Cleese - was an embryonic Fawlty Towers (BBC, 1975; 1979). Barclay remarked at the end of the episode that he thought there might be a series in the hotel proprietor and his wife, and years later he was proved brilliantly right.

Barclay became Head of Comedy at LWT in 1977 and oversaw such audience pleasers as A Fine Romance (1981-84) and groundbreaking series like Agony (1979-81). However, following criticism at the Edinburgh International TV Festival of the casual racism evident in one of his shows (Mind Your Language, ITV, 1977-79; 1986), Barclay became acutely conscious of television's failure to respond to ethnic minorities and commissioned No Problem! (C4, 1983-85), the first black-made sitcom for British TV (an earlier series featuring a black family, The Fosters (ITV, 1976-77), had been a remake of a US show).

In 1983, Barclay left LWT and formed Humphrey Barclay Productions, creating such shows as dark satire Hot Metal (ITV, 1986; 1988) and Desmonds (C4, 1989-94). He returned to LWT as Controller of Comedy in 1996, and in 1999 became Head of Comedy Development for Granada Media International. In April 2002, he joined Celador Productions as Development Executive.

Dick Fiddy

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Madcap children's sketch show starring several future Pythons

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Bittersweet sitcom starring real-life couple Judi Dench and Michael Williams

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