Dennis Kirkland was one of Britain's top television comedy producers and directors and best-known for his long association with Benny Hill. He worked with Hill for more than 18 years, first as a floor manager, then as a director and producer. He was, finally, Hill's best friend and confidant and wrote a revealing memoir of the comedian.
Born in North Shields, Northumberland, he originally wanted to become an actor but decided to go into television and worked initially as a props man at Tyne Tees Television. Later, he worked at the Royal Opera House and the Windmill Theatre in London, before joining ATV as a floor manager.
He joined Thames TV as a floor manager in 1968 and quickly worked his way up from children's programmes to become a leading comedy director and producer. He took over the reins of the Benny Hill Show in the eighties when the comedian was at the height of his creative powers. Hill's saucy seaside humour and cleverly written sketches made the show an international hit. The series was screened in more than 100 countries and by 1985 not a single day passed without The Benny Hill Show being screened somewhere in America.
In 1988, however, the Broadcasting Standards Council denounced the show as being "increasingly offensive" and the following year Hill was called into the office of Thames TV's new head of light entertainment, John Howard Davies, and sacked. Whatever the reason, the board of Thames TV was unaware of the decision and attempted to entice Hill back. Kirkland was furious and persuaded Hill to go to Central TV to make a new series of programmes.
Sadly, this was never to materialise. During the Easter weekend of 1992, Hill died alone at his flat near Teddington Studios. He was found two days later by Kirkland. On the day that Hill died there was a contract in the post to him from Central TV.
Kirkland remained bitter towards Thames TV, not least because the company went on to make a fortune through their archive sales of Hill's show. He continued working in television both in the UK and Ireland until ill health forced him to retire in 2005.