Friday, September 28, 2012

Sydney Newman (#77)


Sydney C. Newman was born on April 1, 1917 in Toronto, Canada, the son of a shoe shop owner. Though he originally went to Ogden Public School, he dropped out at the age of 13 and later studied art and design at Central Technical School. Newman originally hoped to become a photographer and artist, making money as a creator of film posters, but when this profession did not make much money, he went into the film industry itself. 

Early Work

Newman went to Hollywood in 1938, looking for work. He was offered a job by the Walt Disney Company, but he had to turn down the job because he could not obtain a work permit. Newman obtained his first major film job as an editor for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). When WW2 began, Newman was assigned to produce documentaries and propaganda for Canada, and in 1949, the Canadian government assigned Newman to work with NBC, creating reports on film techniques of Americans. These reports helped Newman to obtain a job with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), where he helped to televise Canadian sports. Newman also oversaw several other television programs for CBC, including General Motor Theatre,  but none of which gained him much esteem. Newman did, however, make films with a fresh perspective. Instead of using normal plots, he tended to experiment with the format of a show. 

Work in England

Several of the plays produced by Newman in General Motor Theatre were purchased by Associated British Corporation, or ABC. Impressed by the production of the plays, ABC decided to hire Newman in 1958. he was soon promoted to the Head of Drama. As the Head of Drama, he helped to produce many of the shows of the time. Again, Newman used original ideas and concepts in his shows, creating everything from Armchair Theatre to The Avengers (a spy television series, not the superhero movie). His success in ABC got him noticed by the BBC, who hired him in 1962 to revive their drama department. As BBC's head of drama, Newman changed how BBC worked. He initiated several new television shows while also hiring new writers and and directors with original and unique ideas.

Doctor Who

By far, Newman's most famous creation was the television show Doctor Who. In 1963, when Newman was told that a slot between two shows on Saturday evenings needed to be filled, he decided to make a science-fiction drama. The resulting show was Doctor Who. The idea was to have a mysterious man, the Doctor, along with companions travel through time and space in a little blue box that was bigger on the inside than the outside. Newman originally hoped that Doctor Who would be a children's television show. The Doctor's two companions were teachers, one of science, the other of history. Children were to learn history when the Doctor traveled into the past and learn science when they traveled into the future. He, himself said that he wanted no "bug-eyed monsters" in the show. This hope all changed when he took on Verity Lambert as the show's producer. Although he sometimes clashed with Newman because she enjoyed putting strange monsters in the show. Newman eventually accepted her aliens when one of her creations, the Daleks, became a major success and saved the program from going off the air.

Later Work

Newman continued to work for BBC until 1967, going to work for the Associated British Picture Corporation and EMI Films. In 1970, Newman moved back to work for the Canadian Radio and Television Commission until 1975. Later on, he would work as the Special Advsor for Film to the Canadian Secretary of State and as the Chief Creative Consultant to the Canadian Film Development Corporation.

The End

On October 30, 1997, Sydney Newman died of a heart attack at the age of 80. Newman is on our list for many reasons. First, many think of him as one of the main influences on modern Canadian drama. He also revived BBC Drama, allowing it to become the success that it is today. Third, he created Doctor Who, one of the most famous television shows in history along with the longest running science fiction television show in history. Finally, he hired Verity Lambert as Doctor Who's producer, making her the first female producer to work for the BBC.

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