For over forty years, Paul Jackson has been integral to some of Britain’s best loved television shows. Beginning his BBC career as part of Bill Cotton’s Light Entertainment department during the early seventies, Jackson worked on a whole range of comedy programmes which brought him into contact with the biggest stars of the day. Of course television and Light Entertainment was nothing new for Paul whose late father, T. Leslie Jackson had been executive producer on quiz shows of the fifties and sixties including What’s My Line and Call My Bluff. He recalls often being shown around TV Centre visiting the sets of TW3, Steptoe and Son and Dad’s Army. This offered the Young Paul an insight into the business which would surround the rest of his life and he’s never looked back since.
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One of his first BBC posts came when he found himself as assistant floor manager on The Morecambe and Wise Show before opting for the other long standing double act in the BBC armour: Corbett and Barker. On The Two Ronnies, Jackson was able to climb the ranks from floor manager to executive producer and developed a close working relationship with these two comedy titans. As he states, when you were working on The Two Ronnies you were actually working for them and this was one of the only jobs in television where the producer and director were not the ones in charge. Instead it was Jackson’s job to make it possible for Barker and Corbett to do the things they wanted whilst maintaining BBC protocol, a mixture which proved successful for the best part of twenty years until Ronnie Barker’s shock retirement in 1987.
Towards the end of the 1970’s Britain was changing and with it arose a new brand of comedy which was slowly gaining a cult status within London’s West End. The Comedy Store opened its doors on the 19th May 1979 and gave birth to a minor revolution soon to become known as Alternative Comedy. Television producers like Paul Jackson were slowly aware of this comedy revolution and set about exploring how to transform it onto the small screen. This coincided with the introduction of Channel Four and the new channel seemed like the perfect platform to air this kind of show. Saturday Live hosted by comedian Ben Elton provided a variety show for eighties Britain, giving birth to homegrown stars such as: French and Saunders, Harry Enfield, Rick Mayall and Adrian Edmondson to name but a few.
In the late nineties Jackson returned to the art of Light Entertainment when he became Head of Entertainment at London Weekend Television. One of the many programmes which fell under his wing was the Saturday night institution; Blind Date. By this time, the once unmissable show was beginning to go out of favour with the audience. After attempting several “tweaks” to the show, a live episode was commissioned where the late great Cilla Black announced she was quitting the show after eighteen years.
Now into his fourth decade in entertainment, Paul Jackson has just finished a series of programmes for BBC Radio 4 Extra entitled The Comedy Controllers where he celebrates the various landmarks in British comedy alongside an esteemed panel of Beryl Vertue, Jimmy Mulville and John Lloyd. For more information on this show please click HERE. In addition, Paul is preparing his sun cream to go to Spain to produce the latest series of ITV’s hit sitcom Benidorm replacing his dear friend: the late great Geoffrey Perkins.
It was an honour to spend an afternoon with Paul and wish him well for the rest of his career in entertainment.