The name Jed Mercurio may not immediately seem familiar but, if you’re a fan of TV medical or police drama, the chances are you’ve seen and enjoyed much of his work.
The creator of Sky1’s brand new medical drama ‘Critical’ – depicting the first fateful hour of a patient’s time in the operating theatre – Jed is also the pen behind such hits as ‘Cardiac Arrest’, ‘Bodies’ and, most recently, two seasons of police internal affairs TV thriller ‘Line of Duty’, which became BBC2’s most popular ever drama when it debuted in 2012.
Jed’s recent success sits on a wave of celebration of television’s golden age, or its most recent one, at least, with non-linear distributors such as Netflix and Amazon, satellite channels like Sky and a host of streaming services all adding their content to the traditional BBC-ITV rivalry that British viewers lived with for so many years.
This month on HuffPostUK, we’ll be looking at this TV REVOLUTION, hearing from writers, actors, producers and TV bosses about what it all means, what’s been the biggest change of all, the challenges it presents and if there’s one TV show above all others that kickstarted the change…
“This is all fantastic news for a writer,” explains Jed Mercurio. “The technology has improved so much now, that TV can achieve things that used to be too expensive to do, and had to remain the province of films.”
But now the expanding market has fuelled everyone’s ambition. With someone like Sky commissioning ‘Critical’, the BBC answers it with an increased drama budget as well.”
Is there still a snobbery – at least in the UK, where we experience the quality of Netflix and HBO secondhand - that respects traditional network TV stations over the non-linear channels?
“I think most of us would feel that the traditional broadcasters are the first port of call,” explains Jed. “Primarily because of old, forged relationships with commissioners that still exist.
“And the volume of commissioning means the odds of getting something on a non-linear platform are far lower, although that’s slowly changing.
“But it doesn’t mean every show finds a natural home there,” he goes on. “Look at ‘Critical’… developing it on the newer platform at Sky meant it could be less cautious in its approach, technically ambitious.”
For somebody as established as Jed, this means a whole load of opportunities, and some long hours writing to satisfy the demand, something he’s not fazed by.
“It’s put me in a very fortunate position,” says Jed, who is also preparing a third series of ‘Line of Duty’ for broadcast next year. “There’ve been periods in my career when I couldn’t get anything made, so this is very energising and stimulating.”
Finally, something we’re asking everyone, what TV show, if any, proved the tipping point that stopped TV being the cinema’s poor relation and made it ok to talk about telly once again?
So far we’ve had talk of David Lynch’s singular ‘Twin Peaks’, the relentless ‘24’ and the highly evolved narrative of ‘The Sopranos’, but Jed Mercurio thinks it’s all been a lot more organic…
“Certain commissioners have stayed in their posts for a number of years,” is how he sees it. “And they’ve been able to chalk up a few successes, which means they can back their own judgments, form relationships with writers. This in turn means we’re less micromanaged. More and more, we’re left to get on with it, and we have only to answer to our imaginations.”
'Critical' continues on Sky1 tonight. Watch the trailer below...