Entertainment & Arts

Porridge director Sydney Lotterby leaves 'true legacy of laughter'

Sydney Lotterby,

Tributes have been paid to the Bafta-winning TV comedy director and producer Sydney Lotterby, who has died aged 93.

Lotterby made British comedy classics including Porridge, Last Of The Summer Wine and Yes Minister.

The director was also known for As Time Goes By, Butterflies, May To December and Open All Hours.

BBC director general Lord Tony Hall said he will be "hugely missed", but leaves "a true legacy of laughter".

"Sydney Lotterby wasn't just part of the golden age of British comedy - he made many of the shows that stand out as real icons of the period," said Lord Hall.

BBC Entertainment correspondent Lizo Mzimba described him as "a giant of a golden TV age".

The influential TV-maker collected four Bafta awards for comedy, during an illustrious career - for Porridge, Going Straight and Yes Minister.

Such is the enduring appeal of the prison-based comedy, starring Ronnie Barker; the BBC commissioned a revival, with Kevin Bishop playing the grandson of Barker's character Fletch.

'Porridge was pure luck'

Speaking to The Stage and Television Today, in 1980, Lotterby rather modestly put his success down to good fortune.

"Absolute luck," he said, when asked about his association with such comedy gold. "And I'll prove it."

Image caption Ronnie Barker and Fulton MacKay in Porridge in 1975

"Last of the Summer Wine wasn't my programme at all," he continued, "It was Jimmy Gilbert's. He became the boss, somebody had to do and it fell to me.

"Porridge was pure luck. A long time ago - it must have been 1972 - Jimmy was producing and I was one of the two directors on a series built around Ronnie Barker and called Seven of One.

"Ronnie had just started to be talked about and I happened to fall for the script called Prisoner and Escort. That became Porridge."

Image caption Producer and director Sydney Lotterby with actress Jenny Funnell on the set of As Time Goes By in 1997

"Yes Minister was done as a pilot in the early months of last year," he added. "Then came the election and there's an embargo on political programmes at election time.

"Five of the scripts had been written and a director had been brought in from outside to do the pilot. Then it came back this year, there was no director and I happened to be around.

"You see - luck."

Image caption Lotterby worked with Dame Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer

Lotterby began his career at the BBC as a cameraman in the 1950s, and worked his way up. His first directing credit was in 1960, for two episodes of Charlie Drake.

He later went on to direct Twist!, Sykes And A... - starring Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques - and On The Margin.

As a producer he was also responsible for much-loved shows such as Up Pompeii!, Me Mammy, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and A Gentlemen's Club, all of which led to him being appointed an OBE in 1994.

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