Tim Dean: Keeping TV Fresh and Funny

Tim Dean
Tim Dean
Tim Dean

For executive producer Tim Dean, his work on television has always been demanding and fulfilling. Witnessing the shows that he oversees achieve their most extraordinary form and entertaining millions is the payoff for spending most of his life at work. When you love your job, this is an acceptable bargain. Tim has a reputation for manifesting the unexpected and seemingly impossible; a trait that was put to the test when Covid 19 shut down so many productions.

Limitations force reinvention and that’s precisely the path which Mr. Dean and his team produced for some of Britain’s most popular and beloved shows. More than ever in the past several decades, it was important for the country to be entertained and to keep laughing. As the executive producer on programs such as Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Lateish with Mo Gilligan, the UK found the means to levity in most trying times. 

Tim Dean with Nicola Coughlan of Bridgerton
Tim Dean with Nicola Coughlan of Bridgerton

Ant & Dec (Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly) have been beloved for nearly three decades by the British public. Tim Dean first worked with the duo during his stint on Britain’s Got Talent. When Ant & Dec personally asked Dean to join them for Takeaway, it was with the belief that his work on such popular BGMT segments as “Ant and Dec Playing Games” was indicative of the immense creativity he would inject into this new program.

This confidence was well founded in the creation of Takeaway segments like performances with the Pussy Cat Dolls, reverse bungee jumps from 100 feet over BBC television centre, and others. Dean’s goal was to establish the unexpected as a baseline. The emotional range the show achieved through Tim’s work was vast. For example, the show presented Petra and Simon Williams, a married couple who started a charity to support grieving parents and siblings, with a £260,000 house. Creating such a heart-warming moment for television with complete authenticity was a herculean task.

Dean convinced homebuilders Bellway to donate this house after finding the worthy couple. In order to capture the honest shock and gratitude of the moment, Mr & Mrs. Williams were enticed to come to London under the pretext that they were coming to film a documentary about their work. The sincerity of this type of moment is balanced out by segments such as the enormously popular undercover pranks which Ant & Dec enacted on celebrities like James Corden, Piers Morgan and Gordon Ramsey.

Hollywood often took part in a regular feature titled “I’m a Celebrity Get Out of  My Ear” in which stars like Mark Wahlberg were fitted with an ear piece and fed lines by Ant & Dec. A BAFTA Nomination as Best Entertainment Show for Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway attests to the show’s critical and public importance.

The Pandemic forced the entire world to recalibrate. For EP Tim Dean, this was just as true as for others. How do you keep a production based upon human interaction on-track in a time which prohibits this for the most part? Sometimes this required accepting delayed gratification. Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway created the biggest prize in UK TV history with the awarding of a trip for 300 guest to attend the show’s live finale at Disney World Florida (the result of Mr. Dean striking a very complicated deal with Disney and Virgin Atlantic airlines).

The unfortunate timeline of this event coincided with the very beginning stages of the pandemic, necessitating the delay of the Disney trip and a tweaking of the approach to the entire show. While disappointed, Tim notes that the show incredibly managed to achieve some of its highest ratings ever with over ten-million viewers. As the EP of Lateish with Mo Gilligan, Mr. Dean has been part of the vanguard for TV in the Covid and post-pandemic era. Socially distanced studio audiences and the safety of featured celebrities has exacerbated the need for thoughtful preparation that aspires to the same levity as the days before Covid.

Segments such as “deny or reply” in which celebs respond to the audience directly, “Deliver-Who” with masked celebrities delivering take-away, and others earned Lateish a BAFTA Nomination and a win from the Royal Television Society for Best Comedy Entertainment Show. For his part, Tim Dean views his work as a way to focus on bringing respite to others through laughter while also allowing him to immerse in being creative.

He comments, “There are many reward for me. Bringing my own personal stamp to these shows and seeing an idea be played across the TV screen, that’s exciting! Speaking with family and friends and hearing how they enjoy these shows as well, it makes dealing with an uncomfortable time so much better for me…and hopefully for others.”

Writer: Coleman Haan