Michael Hurll, the man behind some of the best British TV comedy of the last 50 years, has died.
Hurll, who worked with comedy icons The Two Ronnies and devised the British Comedy Awards, died peacefully on Tuesday morning (18 September).
His son, Simon, said a private funeral is being arranged and a celebration of his father’s life will be arranged shortly, with details to be confirmed in the coming weeks. In lieu of flowers, donations are welcome to Parkinsons UK (www.parkinsons.org.uk).
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Born in 1936 and educated at St Paul’s School in Barnes, Hurll joined the BBC in 1956.
His first job at the corporation was as a “call boy” alongside Michael Winner and under the tutelage of legendary impresario and family friend Lesley Grade, bringing on guests for the Billy Cotton Band Show.
He quickly rose to stage manager before producing and directing Cotton’s show.
Hurll remained at the corporation for nearly 25 years and worked with comedy legends such as Bob Hope, Charlie Drake, Jerry Lewis, Ronnie Barker and Billy Connelly.
He oversaw programming ranging from The Two Ronnies and Blind Date to Gerry Cottle’s Seaside Specials and Top of the Pops, where he was credited with introducing a party atmosphere to the chart show.
Hurll also worked with Cilla Black throughout her career on the BBC and more especially at ITV, where he executive produced all her shows at London Weekend Television.
After freelancing during the 1980s he established Michael Hurll Television and joined forces with the Unique Communications Group and later Summer Films.
He went on to produce live events such as the Royal Variety Show, Comic Relief and the Eurovision Song Contest.
Hurll went on to create the British Comedy Awards in 1990 in a bid to boost the profile of home-grown talent. The first show was presented by Michael Parkinson but has since been hosted by Jonathan Ross and was broadcast on ITV for 20 years before moving to Channel 4 in 2010.
Over the years it made headlines with Julian Clary joking about fisting Norman Lamont; Spike Milligan branding Prince Charles a “grovelling little bastard”; and Angus Deayton stepping in for Ross in 2008 in the wake of Sachsgate.
Towards the end of his life, Hurll suffered from Parkinson’s disease, but continued to work.
Announcing Hurll’s passing, he was described as: “Dearly loved husband of Sandra, father of Jeremy (deceased) and Simon, father-in-law of Louise and Isobel, and grandfather of Sophie and Alexander.”
Tributes have already been paid to the TV comedy legend on Twitter.
Sky head of comedy Lucy Lumsden said: “Sad news that comedy & entertainment producer Michael Hurll has passed away. A legend and v nice bloke. RIP.”
Radio DJ Simon Bates, who spent 15 years on Radio 1 and hosted Top of the Pops throughout the 1980s, said: “Very sad to hear that Michael Hurll has died.”
Mike Smith, another former Radio 1 DJ who presented on Noel Edmonds’ Late, Late Breakfast Show (produced by Hurll), said: “RIP Michael Hurll. TOTP & Light Ent legendary producer. A mentor to me and many. He let us be us. And he led like a General.
Claire Sturgess, a former BBC Radio 1 and Xfm presenter, said: “Goodbye Michael Hurll. TOTP was awesome when you were in charge.”
Jonathan Harvey, a writer on Coronation Street who penned BBC comedy Gimme Gimme Gimme, said: “RIP Legendary producer Michael Hurll. Lovely man who was always so nice to me and had me on comedy awards panel for ten years. A gent.”
TV presenter Greg Scott said: “Television producer, Michael Hurll has died… The behind the scenes equivalent of a Wogan or Forsyth passing away. What a legacy.