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Michael Fish was a character on the long running nightly fictional BBC drama serial, The Weather, a show about the trials and tribulations of an eccentric and motley gang of British Meteorological Service weather forecasters. A regular character for nearly 50 years, Michael Fish has been played by several comic actors over the run, including John Kettley, Bruce Forsyth, and, in the early years, by Albanian national hero Sir Norman Wisdom. For brief periods, other actors who have played the role include Dame Judy Drench and Sir Ian McKellen.
The storyline most people in Britain remember about The Weather was when, in 1987, Fish was wrongly accused of being responsible for the Great Hurricane of 1987 which mirrored a real life event, also in 1987, called the Big Wind of 1987. Most people remember this because, until the character was deleted in 2004, every episode of the serial featuring Fish contained a disclaimer that Fish is a fictional character and any similarity between the show and actual events was entirely coincidental. In the series Fish was exonerated from all blame, promoted to Minister of Meteorology, and eventually knighted. Sadly, in real life, the forecaster responsible for the Big Wind of 1987 was the victim of character assassination and eventually had to emigrate to Paraguay to avoid the rotten tomatoes being pelted at him daily.
So realistic has the show been, sometimes, albeit rarely, even predicting weather that actually occurs in real life (which is pure coincidence since the show is recorded in blocks of 8 several months in advance), that some people actually believe that Michael Fish is a real person and write to him. He even has his own fan club. Sir Norman Wisdom is alleged to have said that he relinquished the role for fear of being typecast before finding superstardom by falling over in a very dramatic and highly amusing manner, mainly to Albanian audiences. Bruce Forsyth, the second comic actor to play Fish, also went on to fame and fortune by marrying a former Miss World. John Kettley, the comedian who most younger fans associate with the role, has been immortalised in verse, having a top selling hit with “John Kettley is a weatherman, and so, is Michael Fish”. Of course, in real life Kettley never was a meteorologist, having started his career in music hall, before performing a regular stand-up act every Friday at the Bagshot Minahs Institute, an ornithological society in Surrey, England, where he was talent spotted for the top rated show after Bruce Forsyth had put in a wage demand for two pounds and ten shillings an episode, way beyond the BBC’s means.
edit End of an Era
In 2004 the BBC wanted to freshen up the show and introduce younger characters as well as beefing up the roles of other current characters. Michael Fish was therefore written out but not killed off, leaving open the prospect of a return in the future. In the final show featuring Fish, the character saves the world by causing a mini Ice Age to engulf France and becomes UN Secretary General. Kettley has apparently publicly stated that he does not intend to reprise the role and instead intends to concentrate on the World Lambada Championships until he wins it.