Obituary: Geraint Morris

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A producer of classic series such as Softly Softly: Task Force and The Onedin Line, and responsible for launching the long-running Casualty, Geraint Morris switched from a distinguished career at the BBC to oversee HTV's drama output during his last few years; there he provided the ITV network with a similar audience-puller in the detective series Wycliffe and the Welsh Fourth Channel, S4C, with distinguished dramas.

A humorous Welshman who held on to his roots in Wales and the west, Morris joined BBC Wales in 1963 after graduating from the University College of North Wales in Bangor. As well as working on Welsh-language programmes such as Ystafell Ddirgel and Lleifior, he was involved in the production of programmes screened nationwide on the BBC such as Gwyn Thomas and Selected Exits, starring Anthony Hopkins.

Then, as a director, he worked on Softly Softly, Barlow at Large and Sutherland's Law between 1971 and 1973, before taking over as producer of Softly Softly: Task Force (1973-76), during its final three series.

The original series, Softly Softly, starring Stratford Johns and Frank Windsor as Det Ch Supt Charlie Barlow and Det Ch Insp John Watt, was a spin-off from Z Cars, the gritty programme that changed the image of the police on British television. Softly Softly was based in the Bristol area and followed the exploits of a regional crime squad.

Morris next produced and directed The Onedin Line (1976-80), following in the footsteps of Peter Graham Scott and Peter Cregeen. The drama, which began in 1971 and was filmed off Dartmouth, told the story of a 19th-century Liverpool shipping family and starred Peter Gilmore as James Onedin. Its combination of period costumes and settings,and boardroom-to-bedroom storylines, became essential Sunday-night viewing for millions during the Seventies.

Morris subsequently produced King's Royal (starring Tom Bell as head of a whisky-blending family, 1982), Juliet Bravo (featuring Anna Carteret as Inspector Kate Longton, 1983-85, after earlier series had starred Stephanie Turner as Inspector Jean Darblay) and Collectors (1986).

He stuck with his formula for producing programmes of popular appeal by launching Casualty in 1986. It came about when Michael Grade, then controller of BBC1, sought ideas for a hospital drama series.

Its creators, Jeremy Brock - who had worked with Morris on Juliet Bravo - and Paul Unwin, conceived Casualty as a gritty, realistic series with several different storylines running through each episode. Morris joined the pair in researching the realities of life in Bristol Royal Infirmary. The screen hospital became the fictional Holby General.

The plots were to be more important than the characters and Casualty gained notoriety - and criticism from Conservative MPs - for dealing with issues such as Aids, terrorist bombings and race riots.

However, the main characters were well drawn and popular with viewers: the charge nurse and union representative Charlie Fairhead, the motherly female nurse Megan Roach, the senior nurse, Duffy, and a whole team of doctors, paramedics, managers, receptionists and porters. The programme was an instant hit, attracting 10 million viewers in its second year, and Morris directed the first three series (1986-88).

He left the BBC to produce ITV's hard-hitting police drama series The Bill (1988-89) but returned to the Corporation to revamp Casualty, making a further two series (1990-92).

In 1994, after making a new production of Selected Exits, he became senior drama consultant to HTV and producer of its new detective series, Wycliffe, starring Jack Shepherd and filmed in Cornwall. He helped to revitalise the Wales and West of England's drama output, which had in the Seventies and Eighties been notable for its adventure series and mini- series.

Last year, Morris was appointed HTV's head of drama and Wycliffe is still running. His notable HTV Welsh-language productions for S4C, as executive producer, included the award-winning television film Yn Gymysg Oll i Gyd (All Mixed Up, 1995), which depicted a schizophrenic's struggle to cope with life, and Pam Fi, Duw? (Why Me, God, 1996), a series set in a comprehensive school in South Wales.

Anthony Hayward

Geraint Morris, television producer and director: born Merthyr Tydfil 28 March 1941; married (two sons); died Chepstow, Gwent 12 July 1997.

Comments