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This Life: Sky-high in telly land

STUART Murphy was raised in Yeadon and Rawdon, attending St Peter and Paul's Primary School and then St Mary's School in Menston, where his parents still live.

After leaving Cambridge University he joined the BBC and went on to become director of programming for BBC Three, where he commissioned hit shows such as Little Britain, Gavin and Stacey, The Mighty Boosh and Torchwood.

Since joining Sky, the 39-year-old has been responsible for bringing Ricky Gervais' An Idiot Abroad to Sky One as well as unleashing Pineapple Dance Studios and its star Louie Spence on an unsuspecting public.

Now a director of programming at Sky, he is launching brand-new channel Sky Atlantic which starts on February 1.

He lives in London and has two sons, Max, 10, and eight-year-old Josh. Interview by Grant Woodward.

I love TV. I remember growing up, me, my sister and brother would have our baths and then come down in our pyjamas and dressing gowns to watch Doctor Who.

Some people are a bit snotty about television and get embarrassed about saying they love it. I just couldn't get enough of it. Everything from Johnny Ball to Channel Four News.

My first job was working as a tea boy on news programmes at BBC Manchester.

I did that for about a year-and-a-half before going on to be a researcher on things like the Sunday Show with Dennis Pennis.

It was good because now when you deal with people who make the tea you remember to say please and thank you.

It's amazing the number of people who think you're invisible if you're not high up in an organisation.

After a while I was really bored and felt stuck in a rut at the BBC so I quit.

I booked two single tickets to Bombay for myself and my girlfriend at the time but in the end we decided not to go.

I tried to make board games, I even tried to make dresses, but I was rubbish at just about everything.

Then I thought I should probably pull my finger out and get a job, so I joined MTV as an assistant producer.

In my first week the producer got fired so I was made the producer. In the second week the series producer got fired so I was made series producer.

I went from being part of a group of 35 to being boss of a group of 35. It was one of those sink or swim moments.

There has certainly been some serendipity in terms of my career, but when I've been given the chance, I've worked hard to not muck it up.

I've been lucky to meet some brilliant people doing this job.

When I was at MTV I worked with a young, cheeky presenter called Davina McCall.

And when I launched UK Play for the BBC the first people we signed up were Matt Lucas and David Walliams to do a show called Rock Profile.

Who's the most impressive name in my phone?

Well, I've got people like Jonathan Ross and Ricky Gervais in there, but probably the most impressive would be Dustin Hoffman.

Not that I'd ever dream of calling him, though.

I think the thing that would surprise people about me is that I work really hard.

Often people assume that you get there by luck or that you don't have to put the hours in.

If you come across as cheery it doesn't mean you're not under pressure, but it's a resolution of mine not to pass my problems on to anyone else.

The other thing would be that my children come first. I still pick them up from school and when I go on holiday my Blackberry stays off.

There's no real magic to spotting a good TV show.

With something like Little Britain you just read the script and if it makes you laugh it's a funny script.

I ended up commissioning 34 comedies at the BBC and most of them were fairly obvious when you read them.

If they're funny people, who look or behave funnily and if there are characters in it that remind you of people you know or who make you laugh, then people are going to like it.

My first love was a girl called Rachel Oakden who played violin in the Leeds Youth Orchestra. I fell completely in love with her.

To relax I play the clarinet, go running and box twice a week.

I'm also learning Russian – a tutor visits me in my office once a week and shouts at me.

What I love about working for Sky is that they don't drag their feet.

When I said to my bosses I wanted Ricky Gervais they just said, 'Go and get him.'

They discuss something 10 per cent of the time and they just get on with it 90 per cent of the time.

That's the polar opposite of other places I've worked.

The best piece of advice I've ever received is to be nice to people.

It may be a boring thing to say but I truly believe niceness and manners are two of the most important things in life.

It would be fairly easy to do a competitive job and behave in a way that doesn't fit with your own personal code, but I couldn't do it.

I can't remember the last time I cried but I was close to tears the other week when my sons were fighting.

They were weeing on one another in the bathroom and driving me mental.

The great thing about them though is that they're completely unimpressed by the people they meet.

At the weekend we were with James Corden, who's a mate of mine, and they just don't bat an eyelid.

My philosophy on life is that it's a game so it's best not take it too seriously.

It's a temporary thing, so we should try and enjoy life and make the most of it while it lasts.

The thing I love about Leeds is the sense of humour. You can get on a bus and someone will say something funny.

That and the beautiful countryside around it.

FAVOURITE THINGS

Food: Thai

Holiday: Mexico

TV: Six Feet Under

Author: David Sedaris

Actor: Al Pacino

Star Sign: Scorpio

 
 
 

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