Reginald James Watson
27 August 1926
|Died||8 October 2019(aged 93)|
Sons and Daughters
Reginald James Watson AM (27 August 1926 – 8 October 2019) was an Australian pioneering television producer and screenwriter, best known for creating Crossroads, described as Britain's "first true soap opera", and Australian serials such as Prisoner, Sons and Daughters and Neighbours.
Watson was born on 27 August 1926, and grew up on a sugar farm in Queensland. He began his career as an actor at the age of sixteen on Australian radio firstly as an actor and then as an announcer, before moving to the UK in 1955. He was soon hired by ATV and in 1956, joined Ned Sherrin and Noele Gordon in Birmingham to establish the base of ATV Midlands where his job was as Head Of Light Entertainment.
In this role, he created many programmes for the station with his first big hit being the live daily chat show, Lunchbox. It ran from 1956 to 1964 to over 3,000 editions with its presenter, Noele Gordon, becoming a regional celebrity. In 1958, Watson submitted a proposal to ATV for a new Midlands based soap opera, however it was not until 1964 that Lew Grade, head of the company, granted approval for a series. Initially called The Midland Road, the project was renamed Crossroads by Watson just before its run began. Created by Hazel Adair and Peter Ling, it achieved audiences of 18 million.
After ten years producing Crossroads and eighteen years at ATV, he decided to return to Australia in 1973. Upon his return home, he took up the post of head of drama at Reg Grundy Productions. Thanks to his popular British soap, he was able to create many more series in Australia including Until Tomorrow (1975), The Young Doctors (1976), Glenview High (1977), The Restless Years (1977), Prisoner (1979), Taurus Rising (1981), Sons and Daughters (1981), Waterloo Station (1983), Starting Out (1983), Possession (1985), Richmond Hill (1988). The Young Doctors, Prisoner, Sons and Daughters and Richmond Hill later aired in the UK.
The prominence he gained from Sons and Daughters helped his idea for Neighbours to be picked up by the Seven Network in 1985. After being cancelled by Seven that year due to low ratings, it switched to the Ten Network at the start of 1986 and slowly its ratings climbed. The show still airs on channel 11 and is the longest-running drama series in Australian television history. At the 47th Annual TV Week Logie Awards held on 1 May 2005, Neighbours became the 22nd inductee into the TV Week Hall of Fame.
Watson also dabbled in television in the US, producing Dangerous Women, a short-lived soap opera based on the Australian Prisoner series.
Watson was a private man and rarely gave interviews. He retired in 1992 and did not produce any new television drama from then onwards.
On 8 October 2019, Watson died aged 93, after a short illness. Neighbours announced his death on their official Twitter account. The show's executive producer, Jason Herbison described Watson as a "pioneer of drama". While writer Bevan Lee called him "a trailblazer in Australian commercial television drama". Both Lee and television historian Andrew Mercado believed Watson should be inducted into the Logie Hall of Fame.
- "Reg Watson, 'Godfather of the modern soap' who created 'Crossroads' and the smash hit Australian suburban drama 'Neighbours' – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 13 October 2019. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
- Knox, David (18 March 2015). "Neighbours creator Reg Watson "very proud" on the 30th Anniversary". TV Tonight. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "Reg Watson AM". Australian Honours Database. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
- "Neighbours creator Honoured". Archived from the original on 21 July 2010.
- Hayward, Anthony (13 October 2019). "Reg Watson obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
- Knox, David (12 October 2019). "Vale: Reg Watson". TV Tonight. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
- @neighbours (12 October 2019). "'Everyone at Neighbours is sad to hear of the passing of our creator, Reg Watson. He was a pioneer of drama, prolific in his output and by all accounts a lovely person to work with. His legacy lives on in Ramsay Street to this day.' – Jason Herbison – Neighbours EP" (Tweet) – via Twitter.