Introducing… Mike Neville
18 Apr 2017 3 comments. tbs.pm/11833
From the Radio Times North of England edition for 19-25 October 1968
The man from Look North has many fans — but daughter Carolyn, aged four, is his sternest critic
Recognised almost everywhere he goes in the North-East, this genial Geordie with a smile as broad as the Tyne is at the helm of a regional news magazine programme which surprised its rivals by sailing into the region’s top-ten audience ratings.
Look North, North-East and Cumberland edition, is introduced each week night from the BBC’s Newcastle studios by Mike Neville, and his personality has captured a considerable audience.
‘I get a bit tired of the whisperers wherever I go,’ he says, ‘but if people didn’t recognise me I’d be worried that no one was watching the show.’ Popular in his own region, Mike is known outside the North-East to fans of the Miss United Kingdom contest and Come Dancing, who may recall his exuberant face on several occasions in the past couple of years.
He’ll be commentating in the new series of Come Dancing from Whitley Bay. ‘There’s one snag: I can’t dance a step. Watching Come Dancing makes me wish I could.’
In a part of the world where men are especially admired for their down-to-earth sincerity (and capacity for strong beer), Mike rates highly. He must also be one of the most sought-after garden fete openers in the North-East, judging from the invitations he gets.
Why is he so popular? Mike says simply, ‘A good programme.’ But it’s his humour and masterful ad-libbing which have led to his personal success.
Take that never-to-be-forgotten embarrassing moment which most TV performers dread. Most of the day the Newcastle Look North team had been rehearsing the opening to the programme. Eventually, it was decided that Mike should walk across the studio with a camera following him, and sit at his desk. On the air, and halfway across the studio, he was brought to a sudden gurgling halt as the cameraman trod on the cable of Mike’s lanyard microphone — almost strangling him. He eventually reached his desk, ‘but I couldn’t say a word — I was helpless with laughter.’
After National Service with the Wiltshire Regiment in Cyprus he became an insurance agent. ‘I was a failure. If it rained, I couldn’t be bothered collecting money.’ Through his speech teacher, he got minor parts at Newcastle Playhouse and this led to full-time acting with repertory companies. He met his wife Pam, an actress, during a production at Blyth. Then came nine months on tour, playing a different town each week. ‘The play was a tragedy, although we turned it into a comedy.’
Mike Neville never made the big time as an actor — the nearest he got to the West End was the Chiswick Empire — and was out of work several times.
‘One day my agent said: “There’s a job going with Tyne-Tees Television as an announcer. Are you interested?” With only a quid in the bank, of course I was.’ He got the job, and after only a year was voted Television Personality of the Year.
Next came the move to the BBC – over 1,000 Look Norths ago. ‘I’ve no clear ambitions really, I just take things as they come,’ he says. ‘I’d like to do some acting again, and the part I dream of most is being a sort of comic Perry Mason.’
Mike’s sternest critic: his daughter, Carolyn, who’ll be five on Christmas Day. ‘I know it’s been a good programme if she says “Daddy was funny today” when I get home.’