ACTION TV ONLINE ARTICLES
DAVID: I was reminiscing with a friend about the days when television was worth watching and one of us mentioned The Lotus Eaters, which was a show that I remembered as being exceptionally good. The name of the writer, Michael J Bird, had stuck in my mind and I knew that he had written several other excellent BBC drama series. My friend suggested I take a look at the Programme Preservation Society, which turned out to be a group of like-minded individuals who kept alive memories old TV programmes by pooling their respective video collections.
I joined the society and discovered they had a quarterly magazine called "Radio Tellyscope". The editor was begging for contributions. Since I was a writer I decided that I would offer to do something - and since the work of Michael Bird was my reason for joining the group I suggested something about him. The editor was pleased. (I suspect he would have been pleased with anything, particularly since it was non-paying!)
Doing the research for the article I was disappointed to find next to nothing about Michael Bird on the web. I did find his agent and an e-mail brought the news that he had died the year before but had not written anything for several years.
I finished my research - largely consisting of ploughing through back issues of Radio Times at the local library - and wrote my article. Around the same time I got to see The Lotus Eaters again, courtesy of a member of the PPS. The show was every bit as good as I remembered.
I decided the results of my research needed a home. I had my
writer's web site and had been itching to do another but could
not think of a suitable subject. It all came together nicely
and I decided to put my ramblings on the web in the hope others
might contribute. It opened in May 2002.
When did Olive Bird, his widow, come on board and how much help has she been with documenting Michael's life and works?
After I set up the web site I contacted Bird's agents and asked
they could let his family know about it. Olive Bird wrote to
me in the July offering to help and I have plagued her with
questions ever since! Seriously, Olive has been truly wonderful.
Nothing is too much trouble. Cambridge is a fair distance from
where I live, north of Liverpool, and she invited me to stay
so I could spend time going through Bird's files. I thought
that was a really plucky thing for an elderly lady, living alone
- inviting a relative stranger into her home.
As a writer you are always looking for a market. Though it was
never my intention at the start, the more information I acquired
about Bird the more I felt it deserved wider exposure. I pitched
an idea for a feature article to Cambridge Magazine and they
readily accepted. A book was just the next logical step. I almost
had to do it to exorcise him from my mind!
I suppose I have been doing the research since 2002, when I
wrote that piece for the PPS, but I worked on the book proper
for a little over a year. I write only part-time (I also have
a "day-job") but in January I suffered a bad health
scare and was off work for three months. I was able to spend
a lot of that time working on the book, or it might have taken
Almost everyone I approached was extremely helpful. Stefan Gryff,
who appeared in three of Bird's creations, has been particularly
supportive, as have David Cunliffe, a director and former Head
of Series Drama at YTV, and Richard Wakeley, Bird's agent (now
retired). I think of them now as friends. But there were many
others. Vik Ritelis, another very talented director, wrote the
introduction to the book. It's probably the best piece of writing
Was it difficult to find a publisher?
Richard Wakely kindly arranged for my book proposal to be considered
by Peters, Fraser and Dunlop, Bird's literary agency. Since
Bird was one of their own I had high hopes that they might represent
me, but the subject matter was deemed of only 'minority interest'
and the agency felt it would be difficult to get a publisher
to take it on.
What are the details if someone wants to order a copy?
The details are all on the MJB web site. From anywhere in the
world you can read about the book, view sample pages, and order
a copy from lulu at:
DAVID: I am still collecting odd bits of information and working out how to fit them in to the story. As I said, these days people seem to be seeking me out. If anything significant come up then I can always revise and add it. As they say "that's why second editions were invented!"
DAVID: I have already started a second book - The Armageddon Papers. Hotel Armageddon was a series Michael Bird wrote in the early eighties. He worked on it for two years but in the end became so exasperated with his treatment by the BBC he withdrew it. I have his production notes, storylines, character formats and a couple of the scripts. Olive has agreed I can use them, so I am putting them together as a book so folk can see the one that got away. The book will carry the bye-line "by Dave Rice and Michael J Bird". I can't tell you how much fun that is!
DAVID: Olive says he never really retired. He actually sold two further series, but they were never filmed. David Cunliffe still has the scripts. As time went on Bird became increasingly disillusioned with the way British television was going and I am sure he wouldn't be writing for either the BBC or ITV. He did talk to Richard Wakeley about writing a series of travel books, but he talked about a lot of things that never happened. It is a recurring theme in the book.