Michael Mills (British producer)

Michael Mills (13 May 1919 – 7 January 1988) was an English television producer and director who served as the BBC's Head of Comedy.

Michael Mills
Born(1919-05-13)13 May 1919
DiedJanuary 7, 1988(1988-01-07) (aged 68)
OccupationTelevision producer, director
Years active1947–1986

Early life and career

Born in Prestwich, in Lancashire, Mills joined the BBC before World War II as a sound effects operator, and served in the Free French Navy, on secondment from Royal Navy, during hostilities where he undertook revue-type shows.

In 1947, he returned to the BBC, as a light entertainment producer.[1] Yvonne Littlewood, then his personal assistant, recalled one live production of the three act Vivian Ellis musical Jill Darling in February 1949 which used both studios at Alexandra Palace, the set being changed in one while the second act was being broadcast.[2]

Mills served as the BBC's Head of Comedy for a period of five years from 1967-1972. While Head of Comedy at the BBC in 1968, it was Mills - according to creator Jimmy Perry - who suggested that a forthcoming series should be titled Dad's Army instead of The Fighting Tigers, and that John Le Mesurier should play the Sergeant and Clive Dunn, Corporal Jones.[3] It was Mills who thought Frankie Howerd's role in the British stage production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum could be the basis for a series. This became Up Pompeii! (1969–70).[4] He was also responsible for commissioning the sitcom The Liver Birds in 1969.

While the first series of Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969) was still being transmitted, he wrote to John Cleese: "The shows seem to be getting better and better and this a view shared by most people who see it." Offering him a role in the second series, he had been told by Barry Took that Cleese was unsure about continuing: "I do hope you will be able to take part both as a writer and performer because the show would lose a great deal if you are not one of them."[5]

Last years

Mills was the original producer of television series Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (1973-1975), and briefly supervised Wodehouse Playhouse (1976). Mills joined Thames Television around this time, where he remained for the rest of his career. Here he was responsible for the production of such series as Get Some In! (1975-1978) and Chance in a Million (1984-1986).

Personal life

From 1974, Mills was married to the actress Valerie Leon. The couple had two children, one of whom is The Guardian newspaper journalist Merope Mills. Michael Mills died in Gillingham, Kent in 1988.


  1. Barfe, Louis (1 January 2013). Turned Out Nice Again: The Story of British Light Entertainment. London, England: Atlantic Books. p. 53. ISBN 9781848877573.
  2. Barfe, Louis (1 January 2013). Turned Out Nice Again: The Story of British Light Entertainment. London, England: Atlantic Books. p. 54. ISBN 9781848877573.
  3. Pertwee, Bill (3 November 2009). Dad's Army: The Making of a TV Legend. USA: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 9781844861057.
  4. Joshel, Sandra R.; Margaret, Malamud; McGuire Jr., Donald T. (2005). Imperial Projections: Ancient Rome in Modern Popular Culture. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 180–81. ISBN 9780801882685.
  5. Verkaik, Robert (31 May 2009). "BBC bosses almost lost faith in 'disgusting' Monty Python". The Independent. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
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