Obituary: Roy Bottomley
The Times 22 December 2011

Roy Bottomley


Television writer and producer who was responsible for the revival of This Is Your Life presented by Eamonn Andrews


Roy Bottomley was representative of a breed of journalists who exchanged newspapers for television in the 1960s. He became an industrious contributor to comedy and drama, fiction and factually based entertainment, as a writer and producer. Nearly all his work was for ITV, his populist instincts mirroring those of the commercial network. His most conspicuous achievement was the 26 years he spent as scriptwriter and archivist of This Is Your Life.


Born in Oldham, his childhood was centred on his parents' pub, the Ordnance Arms, in the Glodwick area. Commencing his journalistic career on the Oldham Chronicle, he subsequently set up the Oldham Press Agency with Tom Brennand, his writing partner on virtually all his television projects. Both men entered television in the early 1960s, as reporters and subsequently producers, or "editors" as they were credited on screen, on ABC at Large, the regional news programme for ABC, the ITV region for the Midlands and the North.


Before his involvement with This Is Your Life, Bottomley had worked with the series host, as programme editor on The Eamonn Andrews Show, also for ABC. His time on the chat show, shown on Sunday evenings, included one still extant segment from 1967, a rare television interview with Joe Orton shortly before his murder. The producer Malcolm Morris was another future This Is Your Life colleague.


Again for ABC, Bottomley and Brennand were writers on Sat'day While Sunday (1967), a drama series about young people in the North, with early roles for Malcolm McDowell and Timothy Dalton, and narrated by Roger McGough. They then wrote for Z Cars in 1968 and 1969, and contributed to the northern sitcom Nearest and Dearest (Granada, 1968-73) throughout its life, sharing their agent, Kenneth Ewing, with its creators Harry Driver and Vince Powell. Their only film credit was a 1972 big-screen outing for the fractious pairing of Hylda Baker and Jimmy Jewel.


Bottomley maintained that it had been his idea to revive This Is Your Life, after its initial BBC run from 1955 to 1964. (An attempt by the BBC themselves, with Cliff Michelmore mooted as host, did not go into production.) The loss of ABC's franchise, and subsequent absorption into the new franchise holder Thames, left him with "a third child, a huge mortgage and no work". Andrews was, similarly, without a vehicle and the show's return was given the go-ahead by Thames's director of programmes Brian Tesler, an ABC colleague of Bottomley. The writer's initial idea to retitle it This Is Your Colourful Life, to coincide with the advent of colour broadcasting by ITV, was dropped.


The first subject (Bottomley abhorred the term "victim") to have their life written by Bottomley and Brennand was Des O'Connor, on November 19, 1969. They continued throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, Andrews becoming the target himself (for the second time) in 1974. After Andrews' death in 1987, Bottomley initially feared that the series would be laid to rest with him, but Michael Aspel was appointed as his replacement the following year.


In episodic television, Bottomley and Brennand continued with scripts for Special Branch (Thames, 1969-74), generally credited as the forerunner of The Sweeney, Man At The Top (Thames, 1970-72), a solidly British success derived from John Braine's novels about the womanising anti-hero Joe Lampton (Kenneth Haigh), and Shirley's World (ITC, 1972), a transatlantic disaster for Shirley MacLaine.


Bottomley and Brennand had written Not on Your Nelly!, a slapstick black comedy starring Hylda Baker, at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool, in 1971. Despite being another vehicle for her, written by the pair and almost identically titled, Not on Your Nellie (LWT, 1974-5), was a sitcom with a totally different premise, placing Baker and her malapropisms in charge of a pub in Fulham. It ran for three series.


The partnership with Brennand, who left This Is Your Life in 1985 and published an unflattering biography of Andrews in 1989, ended the following decade. Bottomley returned to producing with Jimmy Greaves (Central, 1988), an early-evening chat show for the former footballer, and Classmates (Central, 1988-89), revisiting celebrities' schooldays in a format not unlike This Is Your Life.


Continuing with the latter as consultant, after its return to the BBC following the loss of the Thames franchise, he retired in 1995.


He is survived by his wife Patti, a keen amateur actress, their daughter and two sons.


Roy Bottomley, writer and producer, was born on July 25, 1933. He died on November 28, 2011, aged 78