Brian Finch


Television scriptwriter

Born: 25 July, 1936, in Wigan.

Died: 27 June, 2007, in London, aged 70.

BRIAN Finch was one of the most prolific writers for many television programmes, but he is particularly associated with the long-running ITV soap Coronation Street. He wrote 151 episodes and introduced such stalwarts as the brassy barmaid Bet Lynch, the controversial hard man Mike Baldwin, and the still-in-residence Jack and Vera Duckworth. Finch wrote the first episode for the girl with frizzy hair and moon-shaped face: Deirdre Hunt (later Langton, then Barlow, then Rachid and back, now, to Barlow).

James Brian Finch had a fine line in bringing these new characters and the existing Corrie regulars to life: he always insisted that before the commercial break or at the conclusion of the episode there should be a cliffhanger (he liked to describe it as "sheer jeopardy"). It was vital to retain loyal viewers as, during Finch's time at Granada, Coronation Street met severe competition from the BBC's EastEnders.

At script conferences Finch was always alive to every storyline possibility; he had a keen instinct of how best to present a dramatic storyline and how to keep the viewer guessing.

Perhaps his most thrilling contribution - certainly the most memorable story - concerned the gripping episodes that involved the corner shop's Rita Fairclough (Barbara Knox) in 1989. She was involved in an on/off relationship with the local bad egg, Alan Bradley - played by Mark Eden. He was defrauding Rita and about to mortgage her house. The story gained much notoriety and climaxed with Bradley trying to murder Rita before she and Bet Lynch tracked him down to the prom at Blackpool. There he got his come-uppance and was dramatically run over by a tram.

Finch's dialogue for these episodes and ensured mounting drama and excitement. As, indeed, did one of his first episodes in 1977, when he wrote of Rita's marriage to Len Fairclough - another ne'er-do-well. They were the sort of characters Finch brought vividly to life.

Prior to his spell with Granada, Finch had done national service with the RAF, and worked as a journalist in Manchester and in the BBC's press office. He submitted scripts to various TV companies and was involved with a police series called Hunter's Walk in the early 1970s and the BBC's popular series The Brothers. In 1978 he wrote a well received series for Granada called Fallen Hero, about a Welsh rugby hero who joins a rugby league club in Lancashire to earn money and is then forced to retire through injury.

After his stint on Coronation Street (Finch left in 1989) he was involved in providing scripts for two other hugely popular series. First he did a decade on the veterinary series All Creatures Great and Small and even longer - 14 years in all - on Heartbeat. For good measure Finch also wrote several episodes of Juliet Bravo (1980-82), Bergerac (1984), The Bill (1989) and Hetty Wainthropp Investigates (1997). He also created The Flying Lady, in which Frank Windsor blew his redundancy money on a Rolls-Royce.

In 1998 he adapted the children's novel, Goodnight Mister Tom for the BBC. It provided a heavily bearded John Thaw with one of his last major TV series. Thaw played a First World War veteran who looks after a young evacuee during the Second Wold War. It gave Finch the opportunity to relive his own childhood during the war and the series won much praise and BAFTA's Lew Grade Award.

Finch's subtle and witty dialogue worked well on television. He did write two films (Heidi with Diana Rigg and The Shell Seekers with Vanessa Redgrave) but his pithy and concentrated style was undoubtedly seen and heard to best effect on the smaller screen.

Finch, a devout Roman Catholic and keen cricket fan, married Margaret Moran in 1963. She and their son and three daughters survive him.