Robert Alexander Spiers
27 September 1945
|Died||8 December 2008 (aged 63)|
Robert Alexander Spiers (27 September 1945 – 8 December 2008) was a Scottish director. He is particularly noted as the director of the early series of Absolutely Fabulous (1992–2001), the musical comedy Spice World, and of the second series of Fawlty Towers (1979). He also worked with Steven Moffat on Press Gang and Joking Apart. Spiers won a BAFTA Award twice for his work as a television comedy director.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he attended Southgate College in the 1960s. "Jock", as he was affectionately known at the time, organised several student trips from the college to mainland Europe, including Brussels and Cologne, during this period. Spiers joined the staff of the BBC in 1970, working as an assistant floor manager and later a production assistant, before eventually working his way up to become a director and producer. In this capacity he worked on several high-profile programmes, such as Dad's Army, Are You Being Served? and It Ain't Half Hot Mum, all sitcoms, a genre with which he became particularly associated. During the 1970s he met his wife, Annie.
It was because of his talent for directing comedy that he was chosen to handle the second series of Fawlty Towers in 1979, which already had an enormous reputation on the basis of its initial six episodes in 1975, and it won him his first BAFTA award. Spiers subsequently provided a commentary for all the episodes he directed of Fawlty Towers when the series was released on DVD. Shortly after he directed the series and the unbroadcast pilot of Not the Nine O'Clock News, Spiers left the staff of the BBC to work as a freelance director.
Throughout the 1980s he worked on a number of programmes, of particular note being Channel 4's anthology comedy series The Comic Strip Presents... and the BBC sketch shows French and Saunders and A Bit of Fry and Laurie. He began his association with writer Steven Moffat in 1989, directing over half of the episodes of the teen comedy drama series Press Gang (1989–1993) for the ITV network. According to Moffat, Spiers was the "principal director" taking an interest in the other episodes and setting the visual style of the show. Spiers particularly used tracking shots, sometimes requiring more dialogue to be written to accommodate the length of the shot. The other directors would come in and "do a Spiers". Spiers then directed all twelve episodes of Moffat's sitcom Joking Apart (1993, 1995). The show won the Bronze Rose of Montreux and was entered for the Emmys.
His association with comedians Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders from directing their sketch show led to him working on individual projects from each of them during the 1990s. With French he worked on the macabre comedy anthology series Murder Most Horrid, with some episodes written by Moffat (such as "Overkill"). More famously, with Saunders, he helmed Absolutely Fabulous throughout the decade, the show having originated in a sketch from an episode of French and Saunders which had also been directed by Spiers. Absolutely Fabulous won Spiers his second BAFTA award.
In 1997 he directed the pop group the Spice Girls in their film Spiceworld. He had been working in America on the Disney film That Darn Cat at the peak of the Spice Girls' popularity, and was unaware of the group when first offered the job of directing Spiceworld until friend Jennifer Saunders advised that he take it. He arrived at a meeting with them in a New York hotel unaware of what they looked like. He also directed two episodes of the Australian ABC series The Adventures of Lano and Woodley.
- Anthony Hayward, Jon Plowman "Bob Spiers: Director of 'Absolutely Fabulous', 'Fawlty Towers' and 'Dad's Army'", The Independent, 9 December 2008
- Carl Oprey "Other Lives Obituary: Annie Spiers", The Guardian, 21 August 2007
- Paul Cornell (1993) "Press Gang" In: Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1993). The Guinness Book of Classic British TV. Guinness. p. 218. ISBN 0-85112-543-3.
- Steven Moffat & Julia Sawalha, Press Gang: Series 2 DVD audio commentary
- Gallagher, William. "Joking Apart", Inlay booklet, Series 2 DVD, ReplayDVD.
- Kibble-White, Graham (May 2006). "Fool If You Think It's Over". Off the Telly. Archived from the original on 9 December 2006. Retrieved 22 December 2006.
- Jarvis, Shane (8 May 2006). "Farce that rose from the grave". The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 March 2007.
- Bob Spiers and Stacey Adair, Joking Apart, Series 2 Episode 2, DVD audio commentary, replaydvd.co.uk