William G Stewart, the TV producer and director who became the long-time host of quiz show 15 to 1, has died aged 84.
“Sadly William G Stewart passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by his family after a brief illness,” his agents confirmed.
Stewart, a former Butlins redcoat who began his television career behind the camera, presented the Channel 4 show from 1988 to 2003.
His stern, no-nonsense demeanour made him a firm favourite with viewers.
‘Like a severe teacher’
Yet his background was in TV sitcoms, producing and directing such comedies as Father Dear Father, Bless This House and Love Thy Neighbour.
In the 1980s he turned to game shows, working on such ITV favourites as Family Fortunes and The Price is Right.
He originally wanted Jonathan Ross to present 15 to 1, only taking the job himself when nobody more suitable could be found.
The show saw 15 contestants try to avoid elimination by either answering questions correctly or having other contestants answer first.
“They always thought I was like a severe teacher,” Stewart told the BBC in 2009. “I was described as a geography master standing in front of pupils.”
The idea for 15 to 1 came from a former British Telecom sales manager who gave Stewart a 12-month option to explore its potential.
The producer paid £200 for the privilege, later calling it “the best money I’ve ever spent in my life”.
The show returned to Channel 4 as Fifteen to One in 2014 after an 11-year break, hosted by Sandi Toksvig.
Stewart – whose middle initial stood for Gladstone – continued to make sporadic TV appearances after his stint on 15 to 1 ended.
In 2009, for example, he appeared on Daily Politics to express his support for the licence fee.
His support for the BBC, though, did not stop him criticising the corporation for allegedly vetoing him as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.