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Victor Lewis-Smith is a British film, television and radio producer, a TV and restaurant critic, a satirist and newspaper columnist. He is Executive Producer of the ITV1 National Food & Drink Awards. He is a music graduate of the University of York. He is a long-standing contributor to Private Eye Magazine.
Lewis-Smith owns a film, TV and radio production company called Associated-Rediffusion, and was the executive producer of some of the company's documentaries, such as the BAFTA-winning Dudley Moore – After the Laughter for BBC One's Omnibus). He owns an 18th-century chateau in Northern France.
Lewis-Smith is writer and executive producer of Keith Allen's documentaries for Channel 4. These documentaries, which began in 2003, have featured (amongst others) meetings with transsexual Lauren Harries, lottery winner Michael Carroll, billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed, cook Keith Floyd, and Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party. His critically acclaimed The Undiscovered Peter Cook was transmitted on BBC Four in November 2016.
Lewis-Smith is executive producer of a series of more than 60 TV programmes called 21st Century Bach - The Complete Organ Works. The series started on BBC Two in June 2003, and has since aired on Sky Arts. He is the executive producer of In Confidence presented by Laurie Taylor, a series of 76 hour-long interviews for Sky Arts.
Lewis-Smith has appeared in a number of his productions for British television:
- In 1989, he wrote and presented eighteen episodes of Buy-gones for Club X on Channel 4, and contributed scripts for Central's Spitting Image
- Up Your Arts (compiled from his contributions to Channel 4 show Club X; 1992)
- Inside Victor Lewis-Smith (1993) (in which he is a virtually unseen character). This BBC Two series purported to be based within the Frank Bough Memorial Zip Injury Wing of St. Reith's, a BBC hospital for its fallen stars. The series takes place inside the head of a man completely saturated with television, and suffering from a hyperactive spleen.
- TV Offal on Channel 4 (pilot 1997; series 1998)
- TV Offal Prime Cuts on Channel 4; 1999
- Ads Infinitum for BBC Two (pilot 1996; two series, 1998 and 2000)
- Z For Fake for BBC Two in 2001 (8 programmes)
- The Vicious Circle for Channel 5 (UK) in 2002
- Here's a Piano I Prepared Earlier for BBC Four (2005, narrator and producer)
- Jake on the Box for BBC Four (2006, narrator and producer)
Radio and recordings
Lewis-Smith's most notorious work as a producer was to book Arthur Mullard to stand in for Libby Purves, the regular presenter of BBC Radio 4's Midweek programme. He also impersonated Professor Stephen Hawking during lengthy recorded phone calls with Diana, Princess of Wales; some of this material is now available on the Internet.
In 1986 he became a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Colour Supplement and Loose Ends. During this time he won nine awards at the 1988 Independent Radio Advertising Awards (including the gold) for his Midland Bank student campaign.
In 1989 he made his first programme for BBC Radio 1, with producer John Walters, under the pseudonym Steve Nage, parodying the Simon Bates-style mid-Atlantic nasal delivery of Radio 1 disc jockey of the time.
Lewis-Smith's company Associated-Rediffusion made two series of the comedy show Victor Lewis-Smith for BBC Radio 1, for which he won a Best Comedy Radio Programme award in the 1990 British Comedy Awards. A compilation of his spoof calls peaked at No.1 on the iTunes comedy chart on 27 July 2006. They attracted some controversy at the time of their first broadcast: in The Sunday Times on 15 April 1990, Paul Donovan opined that Lewis-Smith's hoaxes were "repugnant". However, The Guardian's Lucy Mangan described some of the recordings as being "touched with genius". Writing about Lewis-Smith's hoax phone calls in The Times Higher Education, Sally Feldman observed that "He chooses his victims carefully, pricking the pompous and the powerful in the very best traditions of satire. His favourite target is the media, his pranks intended to expose their smugness, their laziness and their gullibility."
In the 1980s Lewis-Smith started writing weekly columns in Time Out magazine where he took over from Julie Burchill, the short-lived Sunday Correspondent, and The Mail on Sunday (where he often substituted for Burchill), as well as Esquire magazine. He has also written as food critic for The Independent, and was restaurant critic for Harpers & Queen magazine from 1995 to 1998 as well as The Guardian, where he combined comedy writing and food criticism to help create the now commonplace modern genre of 'amusing food writing'. His review of a terrible meal at a Little Chef restaurant outlet in the Guardian may have led to the chain's demise as major force in the UK.
In 1992 he began a long association with the London Evening Standard, contributing daily television reviews along with other writers, as well as occasional restaurant reviews and travel articles. It was announced in June 2007 that Lewis-Smith would be retiring from his daily television column.
Since 1993, he has edited the "Funny Old World" column of bizarre news stories in Private Eye, and he wrote a weekly page for the Daily Mirror for some years until 2003. From autumn 2004 to April 2005 he was the resident restaurant critic of The Guardian's Saturday magazine supplement.
His books include Buy-Gones and Inside the Magic Rectangle, a collection of his early Evening Standard TV reviews. and more recently TV Reviews, a collection of his Evening Standard TV reviews since 2000 (published in 2011). In November 2008, in recognition of his contribution to journalism, radio, and television, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Westminster.
In 2005, Lewis-Smith took legal action against The Independent newspaper after it queried the impartiality of his television reviewing; the newspaper published a retraction. In June 2006, the television chef Gordon Ramsay, his production company and his producer accepted an out-of-court settlement of £75,000 from Associated Newspapers, after an article in London's Evening Standard written by Lewis-Smith alleged that Ramsay had faked television scenes and installed an incompetent chef. Ramsay said at the time, "We have never done anything in a cynical, fake way." However, a year later, Channel 4 admitted that a scene in another of Ramsay's programmes had been faked, and apologised to viewers.
On 28 July 2006, hypnotist Paul McKenna successfully sued the Daily Mirror for libel over articles written by Lewis-Smith from 1997 alleging that McKenna had a fake PhD, having obtained the qualification from a non-accredited institution in the United States, whose principal had since been imprisoned for making misleading claims about the status of degrees he handed out to candidates.
- "ITV cooks up Food and Drink Awards show". Broadcast Magazine. 17 November 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- "York, University of". The Independent. London. 12 August 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
- Lister, David (19 December 2000). "The strange saga of Dudley and the BBC". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
- "Home". The New European.
- Keith Allen (4 March 2012). "Keith Allen: How I hunted down Nick Griffin – Commentators – Opinion". London: The Independent. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
- "New tributes to three troubled comedy geniuses".
- Shakespeare, Sebastian (8 May 2015). "Listen to the tape of Diana's hoax call from 'Stephen Hawking'". Mail Online. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
- "Steve Nage on Radio One". PodOmatic. 18 May 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
- Lucy Mangan (29 October 2008). "Lucy Mangan on the chequered history of phone-prank comedy | Culture". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
- Feldman, Sally (4 December 2008). "Clear and present danger". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
- Lewis-Smith, Victor (2 April 2005). "Eating out: Little Chef, A65 near Clapham, Lancs". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
- "Media Diary". The Guardian. London. 17 June 2007. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
- Lewis-Smith, Victor (2 April 2005). "Little Chef, A65 near Clapham, Lancs". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
- Lewis-Smith, Victor (25 September 2004). "Manze's, London SE1". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
- Lewis-Smith, Victor (23 April 2005). "Audrey's Fish And Chip Shop, Bridlington, East Yorkshire". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
- Dowell, Ben (16 July 2007). "Channel 4 says sorry for Ramsay spear-fishing 'fake'". The Guardian. London.
- "McKenna wins 'fake degree' case". BBC News. 28 July 2006. Retrieved 9 April 2010.