Obituary: Bill Grundy

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The Independent Online
William Grundy, television presenter, broadcaster and producer, born Manchester 18 May 1923, married 1946 Jane Nicholson (four sons, two daughters), died Marple Cheshire 9 February 1993.

BILL GRUNDY, who was one of the most watchable television reporters of his generation, could easily have modelled for Hogarth as a version of John Bull or been drawn and colour-washed by Rowlandson as the boatswain of a press gang rounding up the idle youth of an 18th-century village.

The bluff, four-square, no-nonsense appearance - jutting jaw, bristling brow, piercing eye and an expression hovering somewhere between the sardonic and the challenging - could strike terror into the heart of even the grandest VIPs. But these characteristics were all of a piece with the pugnacious posture he had adopted with such relish for his role as a television inquisitor.

Grundy was an early recruit to Granada and joined the company as soon as it was on the air in 1956, establishing himself as a performer who feared neither man nor issue and who could generate within the four walls of a current-affairs studio that heady whiff of danger which acts as an intoxicant for audiences and producers alike.

But his belligerent attitude was no sham. Born in Manchester, he was educated at Manchester University where he read geology. For some time he also worked as a schoolmaster. It was his sharp, pithy writing for the small screen which revealed him as a populariser of culture and education, contemptuous of all humbug and pretension, and a man who cared passionately about getting at the truth. His heyday was during the early years of Granada. This was the time when the 'round-table' atmosphere of the company and the sense of being part of a close-knit group of friends both indulged his somewhat eccentric belligerence but also encouraged him to produce his best and most characteristic work.

He was then part of a team which included such strikingly different personalities as Brian Inglis, Mike Parkinson, Mike Scott and Peter Eckersley. His many appearances on current-affairs programmes included his work as a fluent and sharp-eyed reporter at party conferences, and as a highly efficient producer of World in Action and Granada documentaries and over 80 highly spirited and challenging performances on What The Papers Say. In all these roles he provided Granada with what Sidney Bernstein aptly described as: 'roughage - a little roughage is good for all of us', and for some time it stood him in good stead, his unpredictability being regarded as an asset and his natural aggressiveness as a studio draw. But after his ties with Granada loosened it seemed he never quite found the really big role in television for which his formidable intelligence and outsize personality should have fitted him.

In 1976, however, he did achieve instant front-page eminence after his famous interview with the Sex Pistols on the Today programme transmitted by Thames Television in the early evening. Grundy, in his self-confessed anxiety to goad these representatives of youth into self-revelation, incited them to an explosive, spluttering volley of four-letter words and blue language which caused an immediate furore and led to his own brief suspension from the programme. Along with such aggressive appearances he continued to write in his brisk and lucid manner for Punch and the Spectator, and his commentaries on television remained required reading for those in the business. But he will be best remembered as a brief bright star of television in that now distant era when independent television had the bravado and the will to occasionally foster brilliant, dangerous and sometimes difficult personalities.

(Photograph omitted)