Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Michael Ember

Robert Robinson's "friend from East Molesley" has died, in his 85th year (I was initially out by 10, for which I apologise - but he wouldn't have minded). Producer Michael Ember was the creator of two key Radio 4 shows - Stop the Week ("Stop the rot", to Robinson) which ran on Saturdays from 1974 to 1992, and In The Psychiatrist's Chair, from 1982 to 2001.

Michael (Miklos) left his native Hungary in 1956 at the age of 24; he had been goalkeeper for the national Under 21 side. He studied criminology and psychology, and then joined the BBC's Hungarian Service, where duties included record request shows.

In 1971, he brought his sharp blazers, perfectly-creased slacks and immaculate hair to Broadcasting House, working across a range of programmes, from current affairs documentaries to Monty Modlyn pilots. In 1972 he took over as producer of Start The Week, and in 1974, a proposal for a sister show was accepted.

Recorded on a Friday afternoon, with the help of a little BBC Club champagne, the first few weeks featured ring-master Robinson with Dennis Barker, Edward De Bono and Anna Raeburn. Michael would over-record by ten or fifteen minutes, and then sharpen things up ("boiling off the fat", he called it) with the help of a studio manager and a number of  razor-blades. The longest serving regulars included Anne Leslie, Laurie Taylor, Benny Green, Dr Michael O'Donnell and Milton Shulman.

In The Psychiatrist's Chair was conceived by Michael with another Stop the Week regular, Antony Clare. I was working on Midweek at the time, and said, boldly for one so young, that the title was rubbish. Everyone knew the Psychiatrist sat in the Psychiatrist's Chair, and that the Patient lay on a Couch.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bill - thanks for your tribute. Michael was my father-in-law. Just a couple of things - although he'd have appreciated your shaving 10 years off, he was in his 85th year. And I can confirm he was indeed a professional goalie for the national under-21's team. A man of many talents, and great charm!


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