Thursday, September 28, 2006

Peter Ling obituary

Script writer and editor Peter Ling has died at the age of 80. There's an obituary in The Guardian by Philip Purser.
Peter Ling, who has died aged 80, was a radio and television writer especially successful in the discipline of soap opera, and one of its first exponents to apply professional guidelines to the maintenance of these popular, in theory never-ending, serials as they took off in the late 1950s and 60s.

Though Tessa Diamond still wrote most, if not all, of her pioneering (1957-66) Emergency - Ward 10, it was becoming apparent that few authors could furnish every script for a twice-weekly show crowded with characters. Coronation Street (born 1960) was a team effort almost from the outset. In the case of Crossroads, which Ling and Hazel Adair devised for ATV in 1964, even a pair of writers would have been hard pressed, for at first this saga set in a Midlands motel went out five times a week.

The customary practice was for each member of a team to be allotted a short run of episodes - perhaps three or four - for which they were solely responsible, as long as the story conformed to an agreed general plot. The trouble was that the fate one writer had in mind for a character might be inadvertently scuppered by the next hand on the tiller.

At the suggestion of the producer, Reg Watson, Ling switched to assigning a writer to each individual storyline as it evolved, whether it was a dawning romance or someone heading for trouble with local villains. The chosen writer would then stay with this strand until it - or his contract - fizzled out. Another innovation of Ling's was to change the writers every six months, to prevent staleness.

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