Michael Grade believes he "saved" 'Blackadder'.

Blackadder star Rowan Atkinson

Blackadder star Rowan Atkinson

The 76-year-old executive wasn't impressed by the historical comedy series - which starred Rowan Atkinson in the title role - when he was made head of BBC1 in 1984 and believes the changes he forced creators Richard Curtis and Ben Elton to make stopped it from being canned.

He said: "They were all running around the hillsides in Wales trying to shoot a Hollywood comedy on a BBC minuscule budget. I made them come into the studio and do it with an audience. And the rest is history. I saved them from themselves."

Also in Michael's firing line when he took on the job was 'Doctor Who' because he "hated" the sci-fi series and thought it was "garbage", so had it shelved for 18 months.

He told the Evening Standard newspaper: "I hated 'Doctor Who'. I said to the producer, 'Do you go to the cinema much? Have you seen 'Star Wars' or 'ET'?' He said yes. I said, 'I've got news for you so has our audience. What we were serving up as science fiction was garbage'."

Michael returned to the network as chairman in 2004 after Gavyn Davies was forced to resign in the wake of the Hutton Report and he recalled how the broadcaster was in "complete meltdown" at the star of his three-year return stint.

He recalled: "I was hired after the death of Dr Kelly and the place was in complete meltdown. It needed steadying.

"We were trying to get the new charter from the Blair government and we were getting advice. I remember saying in a meeting, 'The problem with this bloody place is everyone thinks they own it,' and my head of the secretariat leans over and says, 'Chairman they do'."

This isn't the first time the executive has slammed 'Doctor Who' as he previously admitted he had Colin Baker dropped from the lead role when it returned in 1986 because he thought the actor's performance was "absolutely God-awful".

The show was eventually axed in 1989 by his successor, Jonathan Powell, and Michael expressed some admiration for the rebooted show, which returned in 2005.

He said in 2012: "The show still leaves me cold, but I admire it, which I never did before."