Tag Archives: Jeremy Beadle

Death of producer Danny Greenstone

Danny Greenstone

Danny Greenstone – So it goes

I had got as far as Newcastle when I read the email.

For most of today (Sunday) I was on the long coach trail down from Edinburgh to London. It took most of the day.

The National Express coach station in Newcastle had a weak telephone signal and no WiFi (neither did their coach) and my iPhone was already running low on battery.

The email was from writer Ian Hawkins.

It said:


I expect you’ve heard by now the dreadful news that Danny Greenstone died suddenly yesterday morning. 


I had not.

Danny and I were going to meet on Wednesday this week to have a chat for my blog, but we had not arranged a place. I was going to email him tomorrow to arrange the details.

The chat was going to be about The Phantom Raspberry Blower Of Old London (which I mentioned in this blog three weeks ago) – the unproduced Goon Show which he was due to direct on stage in London’s West End this October.

LWT Head of Entertainment Alan Boyd with Danny Greenstone

LWT Head of Entertainment Alan Boyd (left) with Danny

I first met Danny in either 1984 or 1985 when we worked together on either Game For a Laugh or Cilla Black’s Surprise! Surprise! The same basic production team worked on both, so it is difficult to remember, especially with my notoriously shit memory.

I remember it was his first job in television and he was suggested and highly recommended by Jeremy Beadle, whose BBC radio show Jeremy Beadle’s Nightcap he had produced.

Danny produces BBC World Service show Old Took’s Almanac, while by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (right) watches

Danny produces BBC World Service show Old Took’s Almanac, watched by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Danny had joined BBC Radio in 1969, as a filing clerk in News Information but, by 1973 he was a producer in Light Entertainment. In 1977, with producer John Lloyd, he invented The News Quiz and, he said, the only argument they ever had was about the title. Danny wanted to call the series Keep Taking The Tabloids.

I asked Ian Hawkins to send me a piece about Danny which I would get when I eventually reached home. This is what he wrote:


He felt unwell on Friday night and his partner Liz called an ambulance in the early hours of Saturday morning when he started having trouble breathing. They said he was having a heart attack. Danny thought they were being melodramatic. Whilst he was being X-rayed, he lost consciousness and couldn’t be revived. All this entirely out of the blue; he was apparently his usual self through Friday. 

I last saw Danny a couple of weeks back – just after Cilla Black’s death – as he was regaling me with stories about being able to get her to do things no other producer could. He was looking a bit thinner, which I put down to the healthy eating regime he was on. We also talked about his job directing The Phantom Raspberry Blower Of Old London. “I’m a West End director,” he told me, “entirely by accident.” And then he was off to do another series of Soccer Prince in the Middle East. 

We shared a love of old jokes and I was showing off my copy of The Joey Adams Book of Ethnic Humour (pub 1972, and understandably never reprinted). Danny also had a copy. Likewise Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish, in which every definition is illustrated with a joke. 

I had found an old business card of my great grandfather whose shop sold china in North London. Danny’s dad was a greengrocer. I emailed it to him, speculating that it wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that one of the Greenstone’s bananas had ended up in one of my ancestor’s bowls. 

I completely adored him. When BBC Three Counties Radio gave him his own show nearly ten years ago, he brought me on to do a newspaper review. Many’s the time he would look at me across the desk while I went off on a tangent somewhere, knowing that he was manning the safety net for when I over-reached myself. Occasionally I actually flew. Plenty of people will tell you a similar story – he had a knack for spotting talent and giving people faith in themselves. He made everyone around him feel they were an essential part of a team.

We met through JLAwhere I was an agent, though not a particularly outstanding one. He did the occasional job for them as a speaker and, rather more often, as a coach for other speakers, including (blind UK politician) David Blunkett. His best advice was ‘always tell the audience something they don’t know about someone or something they do know.’ Less successful was advising David Blunkett to make eye contact with the audience. 

I left JLA to focus on writing, coaching and stand-up and helped him move between homes. I guess the real talent he spotted in me was being able to drive a transit van through London and up to Bedfordshire. Not the greatest of talents but Danny still made me feel like a hero for doing it. 

Though I would’ve crawled over hot coals for him if he’d asked. 

Small mercies: I told him I loved him. He was the sort of man you could say that to. 

Danny was always full of ideas and jokes and puns of varying quality. About three times today I’ve seen something and thought ‘Danny would find that hilarious.’ But then Danny laughed at everything, which is why we were friends. 

Sorry this is a gush, I’m heartbroken. Truly. 


Danny Greenstone in 1988

Danny Greenstone in 1988

Danny used to say he had been involved in the entertainment industry since 1958 when he took the lead role in St.Mary’s Parochial School’s production of Old King Cole.

But, more seriously, in over twenty years, he produced and directed for radio, television and live events. He co-created, wrote and produced BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz and, for television worked on Game For A Laugh, Surprise, Surprise, You Bet, Child’s Play, The Main Event, Going For Gold, Small Talk, Celebrity Squares and many more. His programmes appeared on every terrestrial network in the UK.

He was part of the team that brought the UK’s first series of Pop Idol to the screen and was also instrumental in the creation of Ant & Dec ‘s PokerFace.

Later, in 2008/2009, he was the Director of Culture & Entertainment for Global Village, a theme park in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which, over 102-days, attracted three million visitors.

The post on Facebook

The post on Facebook

In a post on Facebook, his daughter Katy wrote:


Yesterday I lost the most wonderful man I’ve ever known, my dad. 

He has left us far too soon, but his influence has brought happiness, laughter and love to an enormous number of people all over he world – and I am so proud to be his daughter.


Danny Greenstone died Saturday 29th August 2015.

So it goes.

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Jeremy Beadle, little pricks and cruel TV shows

I saw part of a TV show about the series Candid Camera last night, which brought to mind memories of the late, extremely talented, much underestimated and very amiable Jeremy Beadle.

I encountered him when he appeared as a guest a couple of times on the last series of the ITV kids’ show Tiswas and then worked with him as a researcher when he presented the hidden camera stunts on peaktime Saturday night ITV series Game For a Laugh. I was asked to work on his subsequent Beadle’s About series but turned it down because, much as I liked and greatly admired Jeremy, his new producer on Beadle’s About (now dead and extremely unlamented) was a devious little shit with a track record for stealing ideas and taking the credit for himself – a prime example of the old saying “Television is like a porcupine – full of little pricks”.

Alright, I made up that old saying and it has only ever been true a couple of times in my experience (I guess I’ve been lucky). But, in the case of this dead producer, it was true. (My parenthetic advice: never give cunts a namecheck.)

Anyway, Beadle’s About got big ratings, just as Game For a Laugh had, but in the course of its run it unjustly turned Beadle’s image from populist prankster to nasty practical joker. Beadle’s About was a cruel show. The public perception of him changed from smart-arse to out-and-out arse, the man you love to hate. I always thought this was probably the fault of the producer, but I never understood why Jeremy went along with the prick’s ideas; by this time, Jeremy had a lot of creative production clout.

While we were working on Game For a Laugh, Beadle once explained to me what he believed the perfect Candid Camera style stunt was: that you put someone in an extraordinary and embarrassing situation apparently of their own making (though set up by us) and they then have to try to dig themselves out of that embarrassing hole which they cannot explain. There is no cruelty. The audience knows it is a set-up and, when the punter realises a joke has been played on them, there is the laughter of relief. You laugh at the situation and with the punter; you do not laugh at the punter.

The epitome of this, to me, seems to be a stunt which copied a scene from the movie The Graduate.

In one scene, Dustin Hoffman takes his girlfriend Katharine Ross to a hotel in which he has previously had secret sexual assignations with her mother Mrs Robinson (played by Anne Bancroft). All the hotel staff recognise him and talk to him. It is obvious that he has been there before on more than one occasion despite the fact he claims he hasn’t. He has to try to dig himself out of the hole.

On Game For a Laugh, London Weekend Television had bought rights to some US Candid Camera type shows (though not Candid Camera itself). We rarely copied their stunts but we considered recreating one involving an engaged couple.

In the US TV version of the stunt, the woman knows about the gag and the man is the guy on whom the joke is played. Under some pretence, the couple have to go to a hotel for an event and, as in The Graduate, the staff seem to all know the guy, despite the fact he has never been there before. This makes it look like he has been secretly staying at the hotel with another woman, but the audience and his fiancee know it is a set-up. He has to explain to his seemingly worried/upset fiancee why everyone seems to know him, despite the fact he does not himself understand how they can… He has to dig himself out of an embarrassing hole not of his own making but, of course, it is an impossible hole which he cannot ever dig himself out of because it does not exist. When the stunt is revealed to be a hoax, there are laughs and great relief all round.

We did not copy this stunt on Game For a Laugh because, as far as I remember, we could not find the right couple to make it work. However Beadle’s About did later copy the same stunt. But they crucially changed the details.

In their version, it was the guy who knew about the set-up and it was the fiancee on whom the ‘joke’ was played. The result was that – as the stunt progressed and as it became more and more obvious that her lover had been unfaithful to her in this very hotel with another woman – you could see the anguish get worse and worse on her face, because she realised that her life had been destroyed, her relationship was a sham and was breaking up, her beloved was a shit and her marriage would have to be cancelled.

On Game For a Laugh, we would have played the joke on the poor man who had to explain an impossible situation to his knowing fiancee. Funny.

On Beadle’s About, the ‘joke’ was to pretend to the fiancee that her relationship was disintegrating. Not funny. Cruel.

It is the difference between aiming your camera at the face of a man who is apparently seeing his own car being destroyed (which Beadle’s About did) and aiming your camera (as Game For a Laugh did) at the face of a man who appears to have destroyed someone else’s car (which had been set up by us) and then has to explain to the apparently irate owner of the car (a Game For a Laugh performer) how and why he destroyed the car.

Game For a Laugh laughed at the situations and with the punters; Beadle’s About laughed at the punters. The result was the destruction of Jeremy Beadle’s public image.

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Virgin Media: are they incapable of sending e-mails because their broadband is so slow?

My Virgin Media saga continues, like an eight mile long sloth crawling through sticky semolina.

Two days ago, someone in Hertfordshire told me they could only get occasional and erratic internet connections via their Virgin Media broadband line and the alleged Customer Service Helplines don’t. That’s what I found too.

Yesterday, someone in Buckinghamshire told me they could not watch 3-minute YouTube videos on what Virgin Media claim is the fastest broadband in Britain – because the broadband is so slow.

Today, Virgin Media phoned me “as a courtesy” about my leaving them and asked me, before continuing with their “courtesy” call, to give them my security details including password. I refused – I told them Virgin Media had told me not to give my security details to unknown callers which is exactly what this person who called me out of the blue was. They told me Virgin Media had never told customers not to give their security details out to callers.

That seems a very interesting approach to security; and maybe my memory is fading like a Virgin Media broadband line.

Even more bizarre, it seems that, in the 21st century, Virgin Media is unable to send e-mails to customers – possibly because their broadband is so slow.

Or perhaps this is all part of some new Jeremy Beadle style TV series.

If only… If only…

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