Japhet Asher, pictured in 2011
|Born||Simeon Japhet Asher
14 January 1961 
|Alma mater||Tisch School of the Arts|
|Occupation||Executive producer for interactive, CBBC|
|Known for||Work in film and television in the United States and England|
|Television||Liquid Television (creator, executive producer, creative director, writer and voice)
Æon Flux (executive producer and one-time guest voice)
Simeon Japhet Asher (born 14 January 1961) is an English-born film and television producer, writer and director who has worked in the United States for most of his career. Having moved back to England, he is the executive producer for interactive at CBBC, the BBC's programming strand for children, and an executive producer of the live action comedy Big Babies broadcast by that network.
Asher wrote and produced his first television film for the American Broadcasting Company, Peace on Borrowed Time, when he was 21 years old, during 1982; it aired the following year. The 1985 HBO documentary Soldiers in Hiding, of which Asher was a producer and writer, was nominated for an Academy Award. As a partner in the San Francisco-based studio (Colossal) Pictures during the late 1980s and 1990s he was the creator of the MTV animated showcase Liquid Television and a key figure in its execution, serving as executive producer and creative director. He was also an executive producer and writer for Æon Flux, a segment of the programme which later became its own show. Between 1995 and 1997 he was the executive vice-president of programming at Tele-TV, an ultimately abortive joint venture by three American telephone companies to provide interactive television, video on demand and internet through customers' phone lines.
Career in film and television
Born in London, England, Asher attended Winchester College for five terms, before moving to San Francisco, California with his family. He graduated from New York's Tisch School of the Arts and worked extensively alongside director Malcolm Clarke during the 1980s. In 1982, when Asher was 21, the duo collaborated on a television film for the American Broadcasting Company, Peace on Borrowed Time, which aired the following year with Asher credited as writer and producer. Asher held both of these roles on two more documentaries directed by Clarke for HBO; the second of these, 1985's Soldiers in Hiding, about Vietnam veterans, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, but lost out to Broken Rainbow, a documentary about the relocation of Navajo Native Americans. Asher's sole release as a director, the television documentary Trouble on Big Mountain, also focussed on the Navajo and was released by San Francisco's KQED network in 1986.
During the late 1980s and 1990s Asher became involved in animation as a partner in the San Francisco-based production house (Colossal) Pictures, most notably as creator, executive producer and creative director of the animation showcase Liquid Television, which was first broadcast in 1991 on MTV. "We're not interested in boring TV," Asher told the Los Angeles Times soon after its première on 2 June that year; "it's zap-free TV. If you're not liking something you're watching, wait two minutes and you'll see something else ... Wait till you see Madonna doing Express Yourself." He elaborated on this in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: "It's part fun house, part laboratory experiment. It's a mix of dozens of different animation styles. There's never been a TV show quite like it before."
Liquid Television was described by Los Angeles Times reporter Lauren Litpon as "state-of-the-art animation ... unlike anything else television has to offer". It crammed about 15 unrelated, mostly animated segments into each half-hour slot at a vastly accelerated pace, linking them together with yet more animation. Violently and deliberately different from the rest of the TV schedule, it was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards during its four-year run, winning one, and included as one of its cartoons Æon Flux, directed by Peter Chung with Asher as an executive producer and writer. Æon Flux became a standalone series in 1992 and ran until 1995. Asher appeared as a voice actor on each of these shows, writing and performing the recurring "Psychogram" skit on Liquid Television and voicing the character "Clavius" in an episode of Æon Flux.[n 1]
Despite the success of both Liquid Television and Æon Flux, Asher later came in for criticism from Mike Judge, the creator of Beavis and Butt-head, a successful animated programme initially featured on Liquid Television. Judge was being interviewed by the British magazine loaded in 1997 when the subject turned to the dislike of anything British by the title characters of Beavis and Butt-head. "You know," Judge said, "This just now occurred to me. There was this guy called Japhet Asher who was sort of in charge of Liquid Television. ... He struck me as one of these British people who come over here [to America] and people think they're smart just because they have a British accent. ... He would say things like, 'A bit of criticism, if I may, Mike.' I wonder if a lot of that is just down to him."
Asher left (Colossal) in November 1995 when he was appointed executive vice-president of programming at the newly set-up Tele-TV network, a joint venture by the Bell Atlantic, NYNEX and Pacific Telesis telephone companies to provide interactive television, video on demand and internet to customers through their copper phone wires, aiming ultimately to compete with cable and satellite providers. Asher was placed in charge of producing original programming for the service, an "unenviable task", said Tele-TV chairman-CEO Howard Stringer. However, Tele-TV failed in 1997 because of conflicts between the partner phone companies and technical difficulties regarding national co-ordination and distribution. Following this, Asher wrote for the MTV animated series Downtown in 1999 and edited stories for Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles during the same year. He wrote for the computer-animated series Pet Alien in 2005 and for the documentary film Koryo Saram – the Unreliable People two years later. Having relocated back to England, he joined the BBC in the late 2000s as the executive producer for interactive at CBBC, the organisation's children's strand. With Asher working as one of its executive producers, the CBBC show Big Babies was nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Children's Award in 2010 as one of the best comedies.
|Title||Year||Type of media||Role(s)||Awards and nominations||Director(s)|
|Peace on Borrowed Time||1983||TV film||Producer
|—||Clarke, MalcolmMalcolm Clarke|
|Being Homosexual||1984||TV documentary||Producer
|—||Clarke, MalcolmMalcolm Clarke|
|Soldiers in Hiding||1985||Documentary feature film||Producer
|Nominated for 1985 Academy Award[n 2]||Clarke, MalcolmMalcolm Clarke|
|Trouble on Big Mountain||1986||TV documentary||Director||—||Himself|
|The West: Back to the Future||1987||TV documentary||Writer||Won 1987 CINE Golden Eagle Award||Fillinger, PaulPaul Fillinger|
|The Serpent and the Rainbow||1988||Feature film||Visual effects producer||—||Craven, WesWes Craven|
|The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley||1988||TV animated series||Production unit: (Colossal) Pictures||—||Various|
|Betty Boop's Hollywood Mystery||1989||Animated short film||Executive producer||—||Evelyn, GeorgeGeorge Evelyn|
|Brenda Starr||1989||Feature film||Visual effects producer||—||Miller, Robert EllisRobert Ellis Miller|
|Liquid Television||1991 to
voice actor[n 3]
|Won 1992 Primetime Emmy Award[n 4]
Nominated for 1993 Primetime Emmy Award[n 5]
|Hays, JohnJohn Hays
|Back to the Future: The Animated Series||1991||TV animated series||Executive producer||—||Various|
|The Wish That Changed Christmas||1991||TV animated short||Executive producer||—||Margerin, CatherineCatherine Margerin|
|Æon Flux||1992 to
|TV animated series||Executive producer
voice actor[n 1]
|—||Chung, PeterPeter Chung|
|Downtown||1999||TV animated series||Writer||—||Various|
|Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles||1999||TV animated series||Story editor||—||Various|
|Pet Alien||2005||TV animated series||Writer||—||Various|
|Koryo Saram – the Unreliable People||2007||Documentary feature film||Writer||—||Chung, Y. DavidY. David Chung
|Big Babies||2010||TV series||Executive producer||Nominated for 2010 BAFTA Children's Award[n 6]||Riche, JonJon Riche|
- In the DVD version of the 1995 Æon Flux episode "Utopia or Deuteranopia?" (episode 1 of series 3), Asher voices the character "Clavius". The character is voiced by Joseph Drelich in the version broadcast on TV and released on VHS.
- For Best Documentary Feature
- Asher wrote and voiced the recurring "Psychogram" segment on Liquid Television.
- For Outstanding Individual Achievement in Graphic Design and Title Sequences
- For Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less)
- For Best Comedy
- Source notes
- "Japhet Asher – Biography". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Creative Writing Seminar – Japhet Asher". London: Kingston University. 15 April 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "TAC Speakers". Ottawa International Animation Festival. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Cleland, Kim (27 November 1995). "Tele-TV to test programming on web". Advertising Age (New York). Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Prince 2002, p. 379
- Goodman, Walter (11 April 1986). "Film: 'Broken Rainbow', Documentary". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Native American Studies Video Collection". University of California, Berkeley. July 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Trouble on Big Mountain". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Litpon, Lauren (9 June 1991). "High-Tech MTV : 'Liquid Television' shows what visual wizards can do with animation and pop culture". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Svetkey, Benjamin (14 June 1991). "MTV Goes With the Flow". Entertainment Weekly (70) (New York: Time, Inc.). Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "The Mike Judge Interview". loaded (London: Vitality Publishing). 1997.
- "Company town: Ex-MCA VP Named Disney Film Music Chief". Los Angeles Times. 17 November 1995. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Griffiths, Katherine (18 September 2004). "Sir Howard Stringer, US Head of Sony: Sony's knight buys Tinseltown dream". The Independent (London). Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Hofmeister, Sallie (5 April 1997). "Tele-TV Slashes Work Force". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Ferguson 2004, p. 111
- "Personnel". koryosaram.net. Y. David Chung and Meredith Jung-En Woo. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Big Babies: interview with executive producers Japhet Asher and Jack Cheshire". London: BBC. 8 March 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "EA British Academy Children's Awards 2010 Nominations". London: British Academy of Film and Television Arts. 25 October 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Cine Golden Eagle Film & Video Competition 1987 Winner Directory" (PDF). Bethesda, Maryland: CINE. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Ferguson, Charles H. (March 2004). The broadband problem: anatomy of a market failure and a policy dilemma. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 978-0-8157-0645-8.
- Prince, Stephen (2002). A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood Under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980–1989. Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-23266-2.