Coming of age on the eve of war, Scots born Forman was distracted from his studies at Pembroke College, Cambridge by the approaching conflict. He graduated from the officer cadet training unit at Dunbar, and was swiftly promoted to the rank of major where he saw action in North Africa and Italy. He was wounded at Monte Cassino in 1944, and as a result lost the lower part of his left leg.
But lessons learned on the battlefield were distilled into the new Army Manual, which conveyed some of the theories he had refined with his friend and mentor Lionel Wigram. In 1947 Forman became Chief Production Officer at the Central Office of Information Films. He later served as director of the British Film Institute (1949-54), returning later as its chairman (1971-73).
In the 1950s he was recruited by Cecil and Sidney Bernstein for their television franchise Granada, which went on air for the first time in May 1956. After a shaky start during which the company flirted with financial disaster on more than one occasion the quality of the programme making, under the stewardship of the Bernsteins and Forman, marked the company out as a creative force. From groundbreaking – and enduringly popular – series such as Coronation Street (1960 – ) to more serious fare including What The Papers Say (1956) and World In Action (1963-98) Granada was soon proving to be one of the most influential of independent television companies.
Over time Forman served as a managing director of the company and chairman. He was recognised as one of its guiding lights during a period widely acknowledged as the Golden Age of British Television, with two of the programmes he personally helped bring to the screen – Brideshead Revisited (1981) and The Jewel In The Crown (1984) – serving to underline this judgement.