Richard Harris (television writer)

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For other people named Richard Harris, see Richard Harris (disambiguation).
Richard Harris
Born 1934 (age 80–81)
London, England, United Kingdom
Occupation Screenwriter, playwright

Richard Harris (born 1934[1]) is a prolific British television writer, most active from the early 1960s to the mid-1990s. He writes primarily for the crime and detective genres, having contributed episodes of series like The Avengers, The Saint, The Sweeney, Armchair Mystery Theatre, and Target. He has helped to create several standout programmes of the genre, including Adam Adamant Lives!,[2] Man in a Suitcase,[3] and Shoestring.[4] Despite a career which has been largely spent writing for the crime and detective genre, in 1994 he won the prize for best situation comedy from the Writers' Guild of Great Britain for Outside Edge, a programme he had originated as a stage play.[5][6] Indeed, though the majority of his work has been for television, a substantial amount of his output has been for the stage.

Career[edit]

Harris began writing freelance episodes for British television in his mid-twenties. His first sale was to Sydney Newman's 1960 ITV series, Police Surgeon, for which he wrote the final episode, "The Bigger They Are".[7] Though he wrote for the initial runs of The Avengers and The Saint, much of the early 1960s was dominated by his contributions to anthological mystery programmes like The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre and situation comedies like Hancock. His attempts at comedies in the early 1960s were largely collaborative efforts with Dennis Spooner. These joint efforts did not establish either writer in the comedy genre, Instead, as their two failed pilots for Comedy Playhouse proved, the duo were really more interested in writing dramatic works.[8] Despite his commercial failures with Spooner, he continued to collaborate with others during his early career—perhaps most successfully in 1966's Adam Adamant Returns!, whose pilot he wrote with Donald Cotton. By the end of the decade, he had contributed individual episodes to no less than twenty series.

From the late 1960s onward, producers began allowing him to write a number of "first episodes", effectively making him co-creator of a number of projects like The Gamblers[9] and Life and Death of Penelope.[10] Despite having turned a number of ideas into initial scripts, however, he only occasionally received on-screen credit as co-creator. This pattern is evident in two of his most recent shows, both adapted from literature. On The Last Detective, he is recognised as having "devised the series for television".[11] On A Touch of Frost, he is not—despite having written the entirety of the programme's first season.[12][13]

Beginning in about 1971. Harris turned his earlier comedic ambitions towards the stage. The vast majority of his comedic work, even if it later ended up film, derives from his career as a playwright. Throughout the 1970s, a new play of his would be produced almost annually. Though the frequency of his stage work slowed in later decades, his plays continued to debut into the early part of the 21st century.

While the vast majority of his career has been spent as a freelancer, he has been an occasional script editor, with shows like Hazell[14] and Hunter's Walk.

He is an intermittent radio dramatist, and has won the Giles Cooper Award for adapting his teleplay, Is It Something I Said?[15] One of his plays, Stepping Out,[16] [17] has appeared in three different versions, ultimately allowing him the opportunity of a musical film adaptation.[18]

A substantial part of Harris's body of work is adaptation. Often, as in examples cited above, this has taken the form of adapting his own work from one medium into another. However, he has also taken a number of literary characters and adapted them into ongoing series. The most long-running of these adaptations are A Touch of Frost and The Last Detective, but he has also converted works including Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper into limited-run serials. A third and more minor kind of adaptation has been the conversion of non-English sources into English drama. His play, The Last Laugh, derives from a Japanese work,[19] and his adaptation of a Norwegian source into the dual-language film, Orions belte, won the inaugural Amanda for Best Norwegian Film in 1985.

Because Harris is a contemporary of the late Richard St. John Harris, his writing credits are sometimes erroneously ascribed to the Irish actor.[20]

Writing credits[edit]

Production Notes Broadcaster
Inside Story
  • "Return to Base" (1960)
ITV
Police Surgeon
  • "The Bigger They Are" (1960)
ITV
The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre
  • "Attempt to Kill" (1961)
  • "Man Detained" (1961)
  • "Locker 69" (1962)
  • "On the Run" (1963)
  • "The Main Chance" (1964)
N/A
The Avengers
  • "Square Root of Evil" (1961)
  • "Hunt the Man Down" (1961)
  • "The Winged Avenger" (1967)
  • "Game" (1968)
  • "The Interrogators" (1969)
ITV
Man Detained
  • Feature film (1961)
N/A
Attempt to Kill
  • Feature film (1961)
N/A
Locker 69
  • Feature film (1962)
N/A
Strongroom
  • Feature film (1962)
N/A
The Saint
  • "The Loaded Tourist" (1962)
  • "The Pearls of Peace" (1962)
ITV
Call Oxbridge 2000
  • "Episode #2.7" (1962)
ITV
Harpers West One
  • "Episode #1.5" (1961)
  • "Episode #1.11" (1961)
  • "Episode #2.6" (1962)
  • "Episode #2.10" (1962)
ITV
On the Run
  • Feature film (1963)
N/A
Hancock
  • "The Early Call" (1963)
BBC1
Ghost Squad
  • "The Last Jump" (1963)
ATV
Sergeant Cork
  • "The Case of the Stagedoor Johnnie" (1963)
ATV
The Plane Makers
  • "Always Another Saturday" (1963)
  • "The Silent and the Damned" (1963)
  • "Lover Come Back" (1963)
  • "Who Goes First?" (1963)
  • "All Part of the Job" (1963)
ITV
Comedy Playhouse
  • "The Plan" (1963)
  • "The Siege of Sidney's Street" (1964)
BBC1
Love Story
  • "The Frauds" (1963)
  • "The End of the Line" (1964)
ITV
The Main Chance
  • Feature film (1964)
N/A
Foreign Affairs
  • "Episode #1.4" (1964)
ITV
The Hidden Truth
  • "A Question of Involvement" (1964)
ITV
Armchair Mystery Theatre
  • "You Must Be Virginia?" (1964)
ITV
Redcap
  • "Epitaph for a Sweat" (1964)
  • "Strictly by the Book" (1966)
  • "Information Received" (1966)
ITV
No Hiding Place
  • "Truth or Dare" (1965)
  • "Hi-Jack" (1965)
  • "What's All This Then?" (1965)
  • "Charlie Come Lately" (1966)
  • "Leo Did the Picking and It All Went Bad" (1966)
ITV
The Sullavan Brothers
  • "Incident" (1965)
  • "Insufficient Evidence" (1965)
ITV
Pardon the Expression
  • "The Little Boy Lost" (1965)
ITV
The Wednesday Play
  • "Who's a Good Boy Then?" (1966)
BBC1
Knock on Any Door
  • "Sunday in Prospective" (1966)
ITV
Mrs Thursday
  • "Margate Comes But Once a Year" (1966) / (written by)
ITV
Adam Adamant Lives!
  • "A Vintage Year for Scoundrels" (1966)
  • "The Last Sacrifice" (1966)
  • "The Doomsday Plan" (1966)
BBC1
The Informer
  • "A Word in Your Ear Brother" (1966)
  • "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" (1967)
ITV
Drama '67
  • "Drama '67: Cross My Heart and Hope She'll Die" (1967)
ATV
Armchair Theatre
  • "A Slight Formality" (1967)
ITV
The Gamblers
  • "Read 'em and Weep" (1967)
  • "Arthur Through the Looking Class" (1967)
ITV
Man in a Suitcase ITV
Sherlock Holmes BBC1
The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun
  • Feature film (co-written with Sébastien Japrisot, Anatole Litvak and Eleanor Perry, 1970)
N/A
Fraud Squad
  • "Inquest" (1970)
  • "Remission: Negative" (1970)
ITV
I Start Counting
  • Feature film (1970)
N/A
Shadows of Fear
  • "At Occupier's Risk" (1971)
ITV
Trial
  • "On the Evidence You Will Hear" (1971)
BBC2
Suspicion
  • "I Can See Your Lips Move" (1971)
ITV
Public Eye
  • "The Man Who Didn't Eat Sweets" (1971)
  • "The Man Who Said Sorry" (1972)
  • "Horse and Carriage" (1972)
  • "What's to Become of Us?" (1975)
ITV
Spyder's Web
  • 13 episodes (1972)
ITV
New Scotland Yard
  • "Prove It" (1972)
ITV
Hunter's Walk
  • "Disturbance" (1973)
  • "Local Knowledge" (1973)
  • "Reasonable Suspicion" (1973)
  • "Care and Protection" (1973)
  • "Kids" (1974)
ITV
Sporting Scenes
  • "When the Boys Come Out to Play" (1974)
BBC2
Dial M for Murder
  • "Dead Connection" (1974)
BBC1
Centre Play
  • "Is It Something I Said?" (1974)
BBC2
Life and Death of Penelope
  • "The Discovery" (1976)
  • "The Nightmare" (1976)
ITV
The Prince and the Pauper
  • 6 episodes (1976)
BBC1
The Squirrels
  • "Burke in Clover" (1976)
  • "The X Factor" (1976)
ITV
Murder Most English: A Flaxborough Chronicle
  • "Hopjoy Was Here" (1977)
  • "Lonelyheart 4122" (1977)
  • "The Flaxborough Crab" (1977)
  • "Coffin Scarcely Used" (1977)
BBC2
Cottage to Let
  • "Saving It for Albie" (1977)
ITV
Target
  • "A Good and Faithful Woman" (1978)
BBC1
The Sweeney
  • "Down to You, Brother" (1976)
  • "Trust Red" (1978)
ITV
Hazell
  • "Hazell and the Walking Blur" (1978)
  • "Hazell and the Rubber-Heel Brigade" (1978)
  • "Hazell and the Weekend Man" (1978)
  • "Hazell and the Happy Couple" (1979)
ITV
Shoestring
  • 21 episodes (1979–1980)
BBC1
Sunday Night Thriller
  • "Blunt Instrument" (1981)
  • "The Business of Murder" (1981)
ITV
Outside Edge
  • Television film (1982)
ITV
Play for Today
  • "Dog Ends" (1984)
BBC1
Orion's Belt
  • Feature film (1985)
N/A
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • "The Norwood Builder" (1985)
ITV
About Face
  • "Searching for Señor Duende" (1989)
  • "This for the Half Darling" (1991)
ITV
Stepping Out
  • Feature film (1991)
N/A
The Darling Buds of May
  • "Christmas Is Coming" (1991)
  • "Oh! To Be in England" (1992)
  • "Stranger at the Gates" (1992)
  • "The Season of Heavenly Gifts" (1992)
ITV
A Touch of Frost
  • "Care and Protection" (1992)
  • "Not with Kindness" (1992)
  • "Conclusions" (1992)
  • "Widows and Orphans" (1994)
  • "Nothing to Hide" (1994)
ITV
Outside Edge
  • 22 episodes (1994–1996)
ITV
The Last Detective
  • 5 episodes (2003–2004)
ITV

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Work Category Result Reference
1994 Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award Outside Edge TV - Situation Comedy Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bibliographic entry for The Last Detective at the Fremont (CA) Public Library.
  2. ^ http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/517661/index.html The British Film Institute's page on Adam Adamant Lives!
  3. ^ http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/512060/index.html The British Film Institute's page on Man in a Suitcase.
  4. ^ http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/986651/index.html The British Film Institute's page on Shoestring.
  5. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0365234/awards Harris' awards page at imdb.com.
  6. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/guide/articles/o/outsideedge_1299002452.shtml The BBC webpage on Outside Edge.
  7. ^ http://theavengers.tv/police/episode-12.htm Smith, David K. "Episode Synopsis: The Bigger They Are" © 2002–2007.
  8. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/guide/articles/s/siegeofsydneysst_1299002836.shtml Lewisohn, Mark. "The Siege of Sydney's Street". Guide to Comedy. bbc.co.uk. 2003.
  9. ^ http://imdb.com/title/tt0904477/ imdb entry for "Read 'em and Weep", the pilot of The Gamblers
  10. ^ http://imdb.com/title/tt1044466/ imdb entry for "The Discovery", pilot of Life and Death of Penelope
  11. ^ http://imdb.com/title/tt0772526/fullcredits#writers Full credits for an episode of The Last Detective on imdb.com.
  12. ^ http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/1206994/index.html The British Film Institute's page on A Touch of Frost.
  13. ^ http://epguides.com/TouchofFrost/guide.shtml Seasonal credit list for A Touch of Frost at epguides.com
  14. ^ http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/975974/index.html The British Film Institute's page on Hazell.
  15. ^ http://members.aol.com/amberlanepress/harris_richard.htm Amber Lane Press announcement prior to the release of Harris' book, The Business of Murder.
  16. ^ New York Times
  17. ^ New York Times
  18. ^ New York Times
  19. ^ http://www.onlinereviewlondon.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=277:the-last-laugh&catid=223:the-last-laugh&Itemid=304 Firouzabadi, Iona. "The Last Laugh". onlinereviewlondon.com. February 2007.
  20. ^ http://www.tv.com/richard-harris/person/35819/summary.html?q=&tag=search_results;title;7 TV.com's page on Richard St. John Harris, which falsely attributes Shoestring to the actor.

External links[edit]