When your brief can be anything from interviewing prime ministers to quizzing Michael Palin about his latest travel series, you need to be a supremely flexible journalist. Adrian Furness — who died after a long battle with cancer, aged 63 — was widely acknowledged to be one of the TV weeklies’ most gifted writers.
Born in Ealing, Adrian spent the bulk of his 40-year career on TV Times, where he was as well-known for his warmth and wit as for his distinctive, word-perfect copy. Landing his first journalism job on Aluminium Abstracts, where he met his wife Sue — wooing her with poetic extracts from the trade mag’s pages — he moved to Reader’s Digest, before joining TV Times in 1970. Starting as a sub, he went on to become, in the words of then-editor Peter Jackson, "an accomplished and most versatile feature writer". This included braving mafia molls in Chicago and interviewing Margaret Thatcher.
A devious spin bowler, Adrian was a founder member of the TV Times cricket team, the Old Bedfordians, named after the local watering hole.
The club’s annual tours to such far-flung places as Australia, Vietnam and South America allowed him to indulge his passions of travel and cricket, and he was delighted when a brief remission from cancer meant he could join his team-mates on a trip to Grenada last November. "Adrian was an invaluable asset both on and off the pitch," recalls former colleague, Mike Roberts.
Adrian had no desire for promotion, happy doing what he did best — writing.
Leaving TV Times in the early 90s, he became features editor at Bauer’s newly launched TV Quick, a position of authority he quickly relinquished after realising how much it involved "bossing people around".
Returning to IPC’s TV titles as an in-demand freelance, his playful, humorous prose continued to shine, even within the stylistic restrictions of listings magazines. After one brilliant feature about an amorous mouse (the subject of an unremarkable wildlife programme), a reader’s letter arrived at the What’s On TV office, simply stating: "Adrian Furness is a genius".
A measure of his popularity came on his 63rd birthday, when he organised a party at the Marie Curie hospice in north London, where he spent his final days. After issuing an open invitation, he was forced to call dozens of guests, asking them not to come, so worried were staff at the hordes which threatened to descend.
Working at IPC until shortly before his death, he also contributed beautifully observed travel features to the Express and Now, among others. Adrian will be sorely missed by friends and colleagues, but especially by Sue and their daughter Lisa.
by Richard McClure and Chris Twomey