My campaign: What it's really like to work in television
A view from Martin Bowley

My campaign: What it's really like to work in television

Reflections on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? 'genius' David Liddiment, persuading Michael Green that John Thaw was 'any good' and Alex Kingston's Boudica bra.

Working in television was often like mistaking the black run for a blue one and hurtling down with no chance of stopping until you crashed and got dumped at the end. In my case, it was merging with our chums at Granada. Along the way, Campaign reflected the top line of what was going on but could never see the minutiae or what made us laugh along the way.

Two stories spring to mind. The first one sees Andy Allan, Carlton TV’s sadly deceased programme director, attempting to get Michael Green, Carlton Communications’ affable chairman, to sign off John Thaw's Inspector Morse contract. After hours of persuading Michael that John was, in fact, "any good", the topic changed to when it could be signed and the following Friday was deemed the day. Michael explained he couldn't do it then as he'd be in his villa in the south of France. "No worries," Andy proffered. "No worries – I'll fly down, come to the villa and you can sign it there." "No, you can't," Michael replied. "Why not?" Andy asked. "Because it'll make you physically sick if you saw it," he replied.

At a stroke, he changed the way TV would be scheduled

Sales blokes don't impact on telly, but programme people do. And I've chosen an event and someone whose inspiration had an impact that is still felt today. Now everyone in marketing claims to have invented Baileys and it's the same with Who Wants To be a Millionaire?. But I was there when it was commissioned and there to see David Liddiment, ITV’s programme director, explain to us all how it would work. At a stroke, he changed the way TV would be scheduled and a genius to forecast how much live TV and event TV would be crucial to a channel’s success.

At an ITV agency roadshow at a buyers’ meeting at Carat, he was breathlessly selling with insight and energy his new drama Boudica and how pleased he was he'd cast Alex Kingston in the lead role. Spent of energy, he slumped back into his chair, his eyes gazing the hollow-eyed buyers sitting before him, his expression pleading feedback. It came. "Will she have 'er bra off?" the senior buyer guffawed. He left ITV soon after.

Martin Bowley was chief executive of Carlton Television