For every famous actor, there are a host of writers, directors, producers and crew working tirelessly to put together what we see on screen. Some are household names, others are less well known, but the Radio Times TV 100 aims to celebrate those who are instrumental in entertaining television viewers day in, day out.
Here are 20 behind-the-scenes creatives who play a vital role in the production of British television:
1. Heidi Thomas (place on the list: 16)
Last year Heidi Thomas got confirmation that her drama, Call the Midwife, will remain on screens until at least 2020. That’s three commissioned series and more job security than most TV writers could ever hope for. But the BBC’s vote of confidence is a reflection of the connection Thomas has fostered with her Midwife audience. The fact that the drama attracts upwards of 10 million despite two of its leads, Jessica Raine and Miranda Hart, no longer appearing is testament to her skilful storytelling. But not content with running one of the biggest dramas on television, she’s recently doubled her workload with a new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women starring Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury – due to air on BBC1 next year.
2. Sally Wainwright (place on the list: 23)
Sally Wainwright is a master of the everyday. If that sounds like an insult, it’s not – the creator of Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax adds a veil of authenticity and relatability to her dramas thanks to her ability to turn even the most common-place conversations into TV gold. The two series have brought her a total of three Baftas, including the prestigious Best Drama Series prize for Happy Valley earlier this year, and the BBC gave her a primetime slot last Christmas for her Brontë sisters biopic, To Walk Invisible. Fans of Sarah Lancashire’s cop show may be baying for more, but they’ll have to wait – Wainwright has put series three on hold to write Gentleman Jack, a BBC and HBO co-production telling the true story of Anne Lister (played by her Scott & Bailey star Suranne Jones).
3. Steven Moffat (place on the list: 24)
Right now Steven Moffat is still the showrunner of two of the biggest dramas on British television. 2017 began with a long-awaited fourth series of Sherlock, reuniting Benedict Cumberbatch’s eponymous detective with Martin Freeman’s John Watson. Fast-forward to April and Moffat had masterminded a final series of Doctor Who starring Peter Capaldi with new companion Pearl Mackie. Christmas will mark the end of his tenure on Who with a new series of Sherlock still up in the air (to the dismay of its scores of fans) but Moffat is already setting his sights on his next project: an adaptation of Dracula for the BBC with his Sherlock co-creator, Mark Gatiss. No doubt he will continue creating Britain’s biggest TV shows for years to come.
4. Iain MacLeod (place on the list: 30)
Iain MacLeod’s time as Emmerdale producer has seen the soap go from strength to strength with a string of award wins, including the show’s first Bafta in 16 years. His storylines – most notably the exit of John Middleton’s Ashley Thomas – have been hailed for taking Edinburgh to new heights. MacLeod has played with the genre in a way that hasn’t been tried before, most notably a point of view episode featuring Ashley which highlighted a day in the life of someone suffering with dementia. Add to that the soap’s week of interlinked episodes which culminated in a massive car crash – a stunt that would have been the envy of many 9pm primetime dramas.
5. Chris Chibnall (place on the list: 33)
Steven Moffat is a tough act to follow but Chris Chibnall might just be the man to take Doctor Who into a new era. A childhood fan of the sci-fi series, Chibnall has already written six episodes since its 2007 revival and seems to possess an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Who. As of Christmas Day he will become the new custodian of one of the BBC’s most bankable series and his first act will be to introduce the first female Doctor played by Jodie Whittaker, who tops the Radio Times TV 100. Chibnall and Whittaker have history, teaming up for his Bafta-winning crime drama Broadchurch which bowed out earlier this year with an acclaimed final series. Fans will be waiting with bated breath to see what adventures he has planned for the Tardis and its new occupants.
6. Kate Oates (place on the list: 35)
Ever since taking charge of Coronation Street, Kate Oates has put women front and centre with high-profile storylines, from Bethany’s grooming to Michelle’s baby loss plot line. Under her stewardship, the show has become a national talking point again, both for the public and the press, even landing on the Radio Times cover earlier this summer. And there is plenty in the pipeline to excite us: for the first time Coronation Street is switching to a regular six episodes-a-week pattern, plus Oates is overseeing the expansion of the exterior lot in Salford. And Christmas promises an extra special present in the return of cobbles favourite Carla Connor.
7. Richard Cowles (place on the list: 40)
As Creative Director of Entertainment at ITV Studios, Richard Cowles is responsible for some of the most successful formats on television. He co-created I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! which, 16 series in, remains one of the most-watched shows on television, and was behind the 2013 relaunch of Saturday Night Takeaway. But his runaway hit this year has been Love Island. The dating reality show, first revived in 2015, took on a life of its own this summer, inspiring water-cooler conversations up and down the country and riveting fans with its perfect alchemy of casting, editing and narration. With a winter spin-off already in the works, Cowles will be looking to recreate that magic formula.
8. Simon Dickson and Lorraine Charker-Phillips (place on the list: 44)
“Worth the licence fee alone,” hailed one viewer after watching BBC1’s Hospital. The observational documentary returned this summer, shining a light once again on the government cuts challenging the future of the NHS. Except this time cameras captured something unprecedented, recording inside St Mary’s Hospital in the wake of the Westminster Bridge terrorist attacks earlier this year – footage that featured both the victims and the suspect. The executive producers behind Hospital are Simon Dickson, Creative Director of Label1 – the production company who make the series – and Lorraine Charker-Phillips, his co-founder who works as Head of Programmes. Both bring decades of experience to their acclaimed documentary which will return for a third series set outside London for the first time.
9. Harry and Jack Williams (place on the list: 45)
Few writers can boast having not one, but two TV dramas broadcasting at the same time. Brothers Harry and Jack Williams are the brains behind both ITV’s Liar and BBC’s Rellik (which are currently airing against one another on Mondays at 9pm). That would be enough for most, but the two series come ten short months after the return of The Missing spooked viewers on a weekly basis. As crime writers go there are few as prolific, and what the Williams siblings bring in volume, they also deliver in quality. And their expertise don’t stop at dark thrillers; the pair also served as executive producers on Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s breakout hit, Fleabag.
10. Guy Freeman (place on the list: 52)
The tragic events at Manchester Arena last May, which saw a suicide bomber kill 22 people attending an Ariana Grande concert, inspired One Love Manchester – a star-studded gig played at the city’s Old Trafford grounds and attended by thousands of survivors, headlined by Grande herself. The production became the most-watched TV programme of the year so far and the man who helped turn it around in just a week was Guy Freeman. As executive producer, he pulled together a crew and director with just a few days’ notice and delivered seamless coverage to millions of viewers at home. A remarkable and unprecedented feat.
11. Damien Timmer (place on the list: 53)
Damien Timmer’s name is synonymous with high quality period dramas. His production company, Mammoth Screen, is behind two of the biggest on TV – Poldark and Victoria. The two went head-to-head last autumn, pulling in millions of viewers every Sunday night, but this year Poldark jumped the gun, delighting audiences with its third series in June while Victoria has triumphantly returned to screens just in time for autumn. Mammoth is also responsible for our annual festive dose of Agatha Christie, producing last year’s The Witness for the Prosecution and adapting a new three-parter – Ordeal By Innocence – for screens this Christmas.
12. Oliver Kent (place on the list: 63)
It’s been quite the year for Casualty. The long-running drama marked its 30th anniversary over the past year, kicking off with a feature-length instalment last September before celebrating with July’s unique one-shot episode, filmed on a single camera. Oliver Kent served as the show’s executive producer until December, before his promotion to BBC Studios’ Head of Continuing drama – a role in which he continues to oversee Casualty, as well as EastEnders, Holby City, Doctors and River City. Casualty’s big year was richly rewarded at the National Television Awards in January when the show beat the likes of Game of Thrones, Happy Valley and The Night Manager to the viewer-voted Best Drama prize.
13. Jed Mercurio (place on the list: 66)
What is the biggest drama on the BBC? Many would say Line of Duty. The fast-paced thriller moved from BBC2 to BBC1 in 2017, a switch that reflects years of growing ratings and a highly complex plot following anti-corruption unit AC-12 as they bring bent coppers to justice. The man behind it all? Jed Mercurio, who weaved his multi-strand series into one big web earlier this year. With two more series commissioned by the BBC, viewers still have much to come from Ted Hastings and his crack team. But they’ll have to wait for it. The in-demand Mercurio is currently working on new six-part drama The Bodyguard before moving Line of Duty towards its final act.
14. Mike Gunton (place on the list: 71)
As Creative Director of the BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit, Mike Gunton is no stranger to wildlife documentaries. But with Planet Earth II, the executive producer created something truly remarkable. The documentary series – which aired last autumn – featured extraordinary footage from the animal kingdom, none more so than the snake vs iguana chase that provided the climax of the first episode. The scenes went on to claim two Bafta awards – including the viewer-voted TV moment of the year – and captured a global audience, racking up millions of views online. Planet Earth II will go down in history as among Attenborough’s finest.
15. Jack Thorne (place on the list: 75)
Jack Thorne had enjoyed plenty of success prior to this year – from The Fades to Glue to Take My Baby – but his collaboration with JK Rowling on the Cursed Child play (which has won every award going) kicked off a purple patch in the writer’s career. Last autumn saw the broadcast of National Treasure – Channel 4’s brave drama chronicling a famous comedian (played by Robbie Coltrane) on trial for sexual offences. Since then, Thorne has gone on to pen an episode of the broadcaster’s Philip K. Dick anthology series, as well as adapting the John Boyega-starring Woyzeck for the Old Vic, and is due to script La La Land director Damian Chazelle’s new musical series for Netflix. And that’s not to mention his brief stint re-writing Star Wars: Episode IX before The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams was hired to return to the franchise. How Thorne has time to fit this all in is anyone’s guess.
16. David Benioff and DB Weiss (place on the list: 82)
The two writers behind Game of Thrones need little explanation. The pair have penned the majority of the show’s seven seasons and are instrumental to its global success as the fight for the Iron Throne reaches its climax and the White Walkers look set to sweep Westeros. With just one more series to go (expected in 2019) Benioff and Weiss have an eye on the future with the commission of Confederate – a new HBO series imagining an America where the Southern states have seceded from the Union and slavery is still legal. The premise has drawn early criticism but one thing’s guaranteed – whatever these two decide to do next, viewers will pay attention.
17. Louise Rainbow (place on the list: 87)
Last year’s Strictly Come Dancing was remarkable for reasons other than Ed Balls’ gobsmacking Gangnam Style. The format’s 14th series was its strongest yet, attracting an average of over 11 million viewers each week with more than 13 million tuning in to see Ore Oduba lift the coveted Glitterball. Executive producer Louise Rainbow has worked on the show since 2013, and where once there was a protracted tussle between Strictly and X Factor for Saturday night ratings dominance, 2016 saw the BBC dance contest ease to victory – thanks in large part to the participation of former Chancellor Balls who won over the voting public with his game attitude and atrocious dancing.
18. Jeff Pope (place on the list: 90)
Real-life dramas have flooded the schedules in the past year and few make them better than Jeff Pope. His CV includes the award-winning Mrs Biggs, Cilla and Philomena, and in 2017 he added two more high profile credits – BBC’s The Moorside, starring Sheridan Smith, and ITV’s Little Boy Blue featuring Stephen Graham. Both were based on true stories; The Moorside was written by Pope and inspired by the abduction of teenager Shannon Matthews while Little Boy Blue charted the 2007 fatal shooting of schoolboy Rhys Jones with Pope executive producing. Each series struck a note with audiences, shining a light on shocking crimes yet lingering on unexpected characters. Pope will look to hit the same high notes with his next project – a four-part retelling of the Hatton Gardens heist starring Timothy Spall.
And finally, some on-screen stars whose behind-the-scenes work deserves special mention…
Charlie Brooker (place on the list: 13)
You can’t really call Charlie Brooker behind-the-scenes talent – the writer and broadcaster is one of the faces of British satire and fans flocked to see him at this year’s Radio Times festival. In the past year he has been more prolific than ever, winning his first ever Bafta in May for his 2016 Wipe, beating another of his creations – Cunk on Shakespeare – in the same category. Brooker may not appear on screen but his name is, of course, also synonymous with his (now global) hit, Black Mirror – the dystopic anthology series that Netflix swiped from its original home on Channel 4. Under the guardianship of the streaming service, the drama has just won two Emmy awards and boasts the likes of Bryce Dallas Howard, James Norton, Benedict Wong, Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw among its cast. More episodes are expected later this year.
Daisy Mae and Charlie Cooper (place on the list: 49)
Hot on the heels of Phoebe Waller-Bridge – whose BBC3 series won fans around the world – come siblings Daisy May and Charlie Cooper, the writers of This Country. The mockumentary delighted audiences when it aired on the BBC’s online channel earlier this year with its sharply-observed take on their upbringing in the Cotswolds – a version of the twee county that doesn’t make it onto the front cover of Country Living magazine. The pair play cousins Kerry and Kurtan who take viewers on a tour of their village Northleach, via such events as the community’s annual scarecrow making competition to the new tattoo business of local ‘hardwoman’ Mandy. With a second series already commissioned, the next year is looking bright for this talented twosome.
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