No 96 – Mike Neville

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Better the Neville you knowOK, so the name might not mean much to 90% of the country, but for those from Whitby to Wallsend, MIKE NEVILLE was probably the most famous man on television.

Mike has to be the ultimate regional TV presenter, someone who loved their region and was loved back, and showed no interest in moving to London to further their career when they were so happy and successful on home ground.

Formerly an actor, Mike started off in the early days of Tyne Tees before moving over to BBC Newcastle in 1964 on the departure of Frank Bough.

He soon established himself as the perfect anchorman, being a proud Geordie with a innate feeling of what the viewers of north-east England were interested in, and forever able to switch between the serious and the silly.

For Mike, the latter meant endless editions of Larn Yerself Geordie with his mate George “Jarge Hoose” House, delighting in local slang that was completely incomprehensible to anyone outside the region.

But Mike’s real skill, which became vital, was his ability to ride out any technical cock-ups. With BBC Newcastle being based in an ancient nineteenth-century building held together with sellotape and hope, that was a skill he used most nights, not caring how daft he looked and carrying on regardless of the show falling apart around him.

The most notable of all these moments came when they cocked up the timings and finished two minutes early, so Mike simply put his feet up on the desk, got the paper out and read it (“See the weather forecast’s no good… what are Newcastle United doing?”).

In 1988 the Beeb finally moved to the Pink Palace, a proper TV studio that was a quantum leap forward, although cock-ups still abounded and Mike was still clearly the star. In 1996, though, north-east England was shattered when he defected to Tyne Tees, where he stayed for a further decade before retiring due to ill health, conveniently just before the ITV regions went to crap, and thereby making him the longest serving daily presenter in British TV history.

When he left, not only did Tyne Tees devote the entire bulletin to him, but so did the Beeb. That’s how famous he was.

THE DEFINING ROLE: Although he occasionally came to London to do the odd stint on Nationwide, he was never better than when he was holding court in Newcastle, chuckling through the cock-ups.

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2 responses to “No 96 – Mike Neville”

  1. Glenn A says:

    I have had the pleasure of meeting him at the old BBC studios in New Bridge St and yes that building was held together with sellotape. As Mike said to me, it wouldn’t fit inside the cleaner’s cupboard at the Television Centre.

  2. Gavin says:

    Apparantly Mike is one of the inspirations behind The Viz character Roger Mellie.

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