Paul Watson obituary


Paul Watson, who has died aged 81 after affected by dementia, was a distinguished tv documentary-maker who pioneered fly-on-the-wall movies, bringing folks’s each day lives into viewers’ residing rooms. He made his repute in 1974 with The Household, a 12-part collection following Terry and Margaret Wilkins and their kids in Studying, Berkshire. Watson and his crew spent three months with them, filming 18 hours a day to current a portrait of household life, warts and all, that was as near actuality as potential.

The clean-up TV campaigner Mary Whitehouse, amongst others, attacked the programme, complaining that the Wilkinses could be seen to be a “consultant” household as they swore, tackled the advantages system and talked actually about intercourse, race and having kids exterior marriage.

Watson directed The Household with Franc Roddam, basing it on the 1973 US collection An American Household. Its type revived that of the documentary motion led by John Grierson a long time earlier and furthered by these in tv from the Fifties resembling Denis Mitchell and Norman Swallow, who depicted working-class life and gave a voice to the unvoiced. Equally, Watson stated he needed to “make a movie concerning the form of people that by no means received on to tv”. The Household was groundbreaking in being a collection, quite than a one-off, on a single topic.

The Family, made by Paul Watson in 1974, was a warts-and-all, 12-part series about the Wilkins family in Reading, Berkshire.
The Household, made by Paul Watson in 1974, was a warts-and-all, 12-part collection concerning the Wilkins household in Studying, Berkshire. {Photograph}: BBC

It paved the way in which for different fly-on-the-wall programmes. 20 years later, the shape advanced into “docu-soap”, a label that some critics gave to Sylvania Waters (1992), which Watson produced. The collection made a celeb of Noeline Baker and her household in Sydney however prompted a backlash, for which they blamed Watson, when yobs graffitied their plush waterfront home and the Australian deputy prime minister claimed that the smoking, swearing, hard-drinking Noeline was symptomatic of the nation’s working-class well being issues.

Watson left the BBC in 1994, later saying: “I used to be kicked out. The BBC can’t function with one or two so-called mavericks.” His later movies have been made largely for Channel 4 and ITV. The brand new docu-soap style was additionally dubbed “actuality TV”, a time period that Watson later fought vigorously towards. “What now passes as actuality TV is, after all, removed from actual,” he wrote in 2008. “Such exhibits are as scripted and choreographed as any drama.”

A lot of his work after becoming a member of the BBC in 1967 was on conventional single documentaries. “Once I got here into tv, I used to be a boring younger lefty and I used to be uninterested in the Oxbridge brigade speaking to digicam,” he stated.

As a director, with out overtly broadcasting his political opinions, he satirised the upper-middle-classes in The Fishing Celebration (1986), with Metropolis of London commodity brokers looking, taking pictures and fishing as they discuss earning money, the necessity for self-discipline, bringing again capital punishment, getting married as a way to have kids and somebody to drive them residence when drunk, and canines being extra helpful than girls. “I’m not likely apprehensive concerning the nation, really,” says one. “I’m apprehensive about me.” Watson noticed The Fishing Celebration as an opportunity to make a touch upon the get-rich-quick Thatcher years.

The theme continued in The Dinner Celebration (1997), screened earlier than an election the Conservative get together was anticipated to lose – and did. Eight white, middle-class Tories responded to an advert within the Every day Telegraph to participate within the banquet and tucked into prawns and pork whereas they made racist feedback and denounced “queers within the military” and the “work-shy” unemployed. The 2-part White Lives (1998) featured largely bigoted white South Africans voicing their fears within the post-apartheid period.

Watson was accused of being a “stitch-up service provider” – one in all his biggest skills was profitable his topics’ belief, alongside skilful modifying that informed the reality as he noticed it from his liberal perspective.

He took a extra observational strategy for The Manufacturing facility (1995), a five-part collection about management-shopfloor relations in a Liverpool manufacturing agency struggling for survival. Later, meting out with digicam operators and sound recordists, and taking pictures documentaries himself with small unobtrusive cameras, he made intensely private portraits of individuals struggling well being issues.

Rain in My Coronary heart (2006), winner of a Grierson award, confirmed the decline of 4 alcoholic folks, and switched between a hospital ward and their houses. It was a harrowing account as Watson explored their particular person causes for ingesting. Two of them died, one in all them having been filmed answering Watson’s questions solely two days earlier than his dying, the opposite proven unconscious in his closing hours. A brand new component launched by Watson was his personal items to digicam justifying such probing into his topics’ lives.

A scene from Malcolm and Barbara: A Love Story, which Watson made in 1999.
A scene from Malcolm and Barbara: A Love Story, which Watson made in 1999. {Photograph}: ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

This challenge had develop into extra outstanding in Malcolm & Barbara… A Love Story (1999), his account of 1 man’s descent into Alzheimer’s illness and the care he receives from a spouse whom he scarcely recognises, which gained the Royal Tv Society’s greatest documentary award.

Eight years later, Watson was embroiled in controversy with the sequel, Malcolm & Barbara… Love’s Farewell. ITV’s advance publicity claimed it confirmed the pianist and former college lecturer Malcolm Pointon’s dying when, in reality, he was final seen sinking right into a coma three days beforehand. Watson’s insistence that he had by no means claimed to point out Malcolm’s dying was disputed by ITV – and, by the point it was broadcast, the documentary ended together with his clarification of the reality.

Regardless of the claims and counter-claims, Watson’s 11 years of filming the Pointons have been testomony to the dedication he confirmed to his topics and his empathy for them.

Paul was born in London, to Joan (nee Southwell) and Leslie Watson, a senior supervisor on the Courtaulds textile firm. The household moved to Bolton, Lancashire, and he admitted to being a tearaway as a toddler however credited Altrincham grammar faculty, Cheshire, with turning him round.

He studied on the Royal Faculty of Artwork in London (1963-66) and likened his documentary-making abilities to these of portray. “You set a color subsequent to a color and so they work together with one another,” he stated. “It’s the identical with movies, however it’s important to transfer issues round with honesty to the topic, in any other case you would possibly as properly write a drama.”

In 1966, Watson joined the BBC as a researcher. After producing and directing episodes of Whicker’s World, he demonstrated his expertise for representing the each day lives of unusual folks – from newlyweds to miners and a pop group – in A 12 months within the Life (1969-70), winner of a Society of Movie & Tv Arts award.

Elevated to government producer in 1988, he commissioned BBC documentaries such because the Nice Journeys collection (1991) and, from 1993 to 1994, was editor of the 40 Minutes strand. His later movies as a director included A Wedding ceremony within the Household (2000), which went past the wedding vows to delve into the lives of all of the members of the family, and The Queens’ Wedding ceremony (2002), about drag queens and a homosexual marriage ceremony.

Bafta introduced its particular award to Watson in 2008. He wrote and directed three performs for BBC Radio 4 in 2008 and 2009, together with How Now TV, a satire on actuality tv.

Watson’s two marriages, to Carol Butcher (1964) and Barbara Wijngaard (1981), each resulted in divorce. He’s survived by Rebecca, the daughter of his first marriage, and Dan and Tom, the dual sons of the second. Ben, the son of his first marriage, predeceased him.


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