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April 1: The Man Who Brought You The Avengers and Dr. Who

April 1, 2014
sydneynewmanSydney Cecil Newman, a Canadian and British Broadcasting producer who created The Avengers and Dr. Who, was born to Russian Jewish immigrants in Toronto on this date in 1917. Newman began his career as a graphic designer before switching to film — but his lack of a work permit stopped him from taking a job with the Disney company in Hollywood. Instead he became a film editor with the National Film Board of Canada. In 1962 he began working for the BBC, where he became in one decade, according to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, “the most significant agent in the development of British television drama.” He launched The Avengers in 1961 and Dr. Who in 1963; the latter series has lived on in various incarnations ever since. In 1967, Newman gave the nod to The Forsyte Saga, which was viewed by 100 million people in 26 countries. Newman returned to Canada in 1970, became an official within the Canadian Radio and Television Commission, and had some nasty run-ins with Quebecois filmmakers (Newman did not speak French) and with anti-censorship activists. In 1981, he was awarded the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor. To see Emma Peel’s very first appearance on The Avengers, look below. “[U]p to the age of 40, I don’t think there was a science-fiction book I hadn’t read. I love them because they’re a marvelous way — and a safe way, I might add — of saying nasty things about our own society.” -Sydney Newman