Alan Coleman who began his television career with ATV in the sixties has died aged 76.
Alan Coleman was born in Birmingham, England. He began his career as an actor, but ventured into the world of television as a cameraman at the Alpha Television Studios in Birmingham, home of ATV and ABC Weekend.
Alan was the first director on Britain’s founding daily serial, Crossroads, later becoming head of Children’s Drama at ATV; before moving to Australia where he over saw such shows as Neighbours and Home and Away.
Joining ATV in the early 1960s he worked on many programmes including pioneering live daytime entertainment series Lunch Box. In 1964 he moved from cameraman to director bringing to life the first five-nights a-week 25-minute serial broadcast on UK television with the goings on at the Crossroads Motel. The series was broadcast ‘as-live’ to tape – such was the budget – no editing facilities were available. Alan’s vision along with Reg Watson made the series a massive success for the ITV network, it became the broadcasters’ top rating daytime programme and won several awards including ITV Show of the Year 1966 and 1967 as voted for by viewers. It also won top gongs from newspapers ranging from The Sun to the Daily Telegraph as readers rated it more entertaining than Corrie or Emmerdale Farm.
By the 1970s Alan had been promoted to Head of Children’s Drama at ATV Network and introduced to ITV audiences classics such as Escape into Night, The Jensen Code and Kids From 47A – many of which have become cult classics on DVD in recent years. He was also part of the team which won a San Francisco International TV and Film Festival award for best programme for ATV’s 1974 documentary On The Road To Nowhere.
In 1974 Alan was headhunted by Reg Grundy and flown out to Australia to help set-up and run the Grundy Organization’s Drama Department. He departed England for the sunnier charms down under along with Reg Watson, a native Australian who’d come to Britain in the 1950s and had become one of ATV’s most experienced producers. Alan and Reg were the driving force behind the medical soap The Young Doctors – Alan produced, directed and wrote the series – and it would go on to become the longest running drama series in Australian television history as well as the first Aussie soap to sell internationally.
While with Grundy – now Fremantle Media Australia – he produced, wrote and directed many other shows which have in recent years become known as “soap operas”. These include Australia’s first teenage-aimed serial Class of 74 – and it’s follow-up Class of 75, Glenview High, female inmate drama Prisoner: Cell Block H and it’s male-prison spin-off, Punishment.
In the 1990s he was the Executive Producer on Neighbours during one of its more popular eras of the decade. Alan famously blew-up the original Waterhole pub in the saga. Also as Executive Producer he established Shortland Street – which was New Zealand’s first-ever weeknight soap. For the Seven Network he gave his creative experience to Home and Away.
In the late 1990s the award winning producer and director returned to the UK and joined Thames Television – part of the same family as Grundy – to produce the Channel 5 daily soap Family Affairs.
In 2008 he added another gong to his collection as he was crowned the winner of the inaugural Lifetime Achievement accolade at the Aussie Soap Awards. The awards are held each year by online radio programme ‘The Soap Show’ to recognise excellence in this unique art form.
“I am absolutely thrilled to receive this award,” said Alan at the time, “and to be recognised in this way for doing a job that I love.”
After 50 years in the television industry Alan continued to produce for the art he loved and also ran special workshops for people of all ages teaching them the unique skills and disciplines required to work for the film and television camera. He lived in Sydney, Australia, with his wife Barbara. He also has three grown-up children Nick, Chris and Jacqui and grandchildren.
“Alan has pioneered the unique art form that is five nights a week fast turn around drama,” his agent Darren Gray said at the time of his Soap Show Award, “He has launched the careers of hundreds of actors and behind the scenes crew members and his productions have been enjoyed by millions of viewers around the world.”
To mark the 55th anniversary of Associated Television – ATV Network – launching back in 1955 as one of the first ITV companies, we were incredibly proud to have Alan Coleman join the company as Honorary President. It was far from a ‘token’ title as Alan lived television and offered ATV information, ideas and assistance whenever it was required.
Alan’s agent Darren Gray announced the news of Alan’s death earlier this morning, noting:
“I am very sorry to have to report that Alan Coleman has died. Alan produced The Young Doctors, as well as many other hit shows around the world, and wrote and directed many hundreds of episodes. A true gentleman and a very good friend to me. I am proud to have worked with him and to have had him as a friend.”
Actor Tim Page who played Dr Graham Steele in The Young Doctors posted online:
“Alan was a great hands-on producer. His intelligence, humour and energy were inspirational. A generous, kind and supportive friend and colleague. One of the really bright sparks has just left the planet – and it is sadder for his absence.”
Alan Coleman 1936 – 2013
[Pictured top: Alan Coleman on the set of Family Affairs for Thames TV, Middle: with Sue Nicholls as Marilyn Gates in Crossroads and bottom with the Kids from 47a for ATV.]