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Jimmy McGovern (born 1949) is a BAFTA award-winning English television scriptwriter from Liverpool. He received two Edgar Awards for Cracker, and critical praise for The Lakes, The Street, and The Accused, which won a 2011 International Emmy for best drama series. His docudrama, Hillsborough, was also well received.
McGovern was one of nine children and grew up in a poor household. He had a stammer until the age of eight. He attended a Jesuit secondary school, St Francis Xavier's College in Liverpool, where beatings were common. Feeling that the teachers did not recognise his talent, he left as soon as he could.
He taught for a time in a secondary comprehensive school, where he organised the end of school play.
In 1982, McGovern started his TV career working on Channel 4's soap opera Brookside. He tackled many social issues in the course of the series, especially unemployment – which was at a postwar high at the time.
In 1993, McGovern created the drama serial Cracker, about the work of a fictional criminal psychologist played by Robbie Coltrane. Made by Granada Television and screened on ITV, the series was a critical and popular success, lasting until 1995. Cracker also aired in the United States, on the Arts and Entertainment cable network. McGovern's writing earned him two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America.
In 1997 he created The Lakes, a drama that shared Brookside's realist setting and reused themes from Cracker such as gambling addiction. In 2006 he created the BBC One drama, The Street; its third and final season aired in 2009.
He also wrote the script for the 1996 television docudrama Hillsborough, based on the events of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans at an FA Cup semi-final. Among the cast of this critically acclaimed drama was Christopher Eccleston, who also starred in Cracker, along with former Brookside actor Ricky Tomlinson.
McGovern has described cinema scriptwriters as being treated like hacks and forced to crank out countless drafts by successive producers. McGovern has openly criticised dramas such as Footballer's Wives, lamenting the lack of quality, believable storytelling in the early 2000s. He also believes that television directors are underrated. He says: “I have worked twice with David Blair [on The Lakes and The Street], and I can tell you that he is the best there is. He can make a good project great... Why David hasn’t won the acclaim he deserves is a mystery to me.”
McGovern has also completed a musical stage show called King Cotton, exploring links between the transatlantic slave trade and industrialisation in North West England, as part of the Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008. King Cotton premiered at The Lowry in September 2007 before moving to the Liverpool Empire.
His new series, Accused started filming in May 2010. It follows a similar format to The Street but with a crime component. Scripts are written by McGovern, Danny Brocklehurst, Alice Nutter and two new writers. It is produced by Sita Williams.
Series two will feature scripts from McGovern, Danny Brocklehurst and Shaun Duggan, with actors Sean Bean, Sheridan Smith, Anna Maxwell Martin, Robert Sheehan and Stephen Graham starring in the four single films. The second series of Accused aired on 14 August 2012 on BBC One.
In 2012, McGovern together with local Indigenous Australian writers from Sydney, developed the Australian television drama series Redfern Now. The six-part series follows a similar format to Accused, telling the stories of six inner-city households in one street whose lives are changed by a seemingly insignificant incident. It tells powerful contemporary stories about Indigenous Australians in the Sydney suburb of Redfern. The series debuted on 1 November 2012, was produced by Blackfella Films, and has already been commissioned for a second series.
|Hearts and Minds||1995||Channel 4|
|The Lakes||1997–1999||BBC One|
|Hillsborough||1996||ITV1||Dramatised reconstruction of the events of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster|
|Dockers||1999||Channel 4||Dramatisation of the 1995–98 Liverpool Dockers' Strike|
|Sunday||2002||Channel 4||Based on the events of Bloody Sunday|
|Gunpowder, Treason & Plot||2004||BBC One||Dramatisation of the lives of Mary, Queen of Scots and James I of England|
|The Street||2006–2009||BBC One|
|Common||2014||BBC One||90-minute film for BBC One, set in the North West of England and based on the UK’s controversial Joint Enterprise Law.|
- "Christopher Eccleston says Jimmy McGovern’s Hillsborough is most important work he's ever done – News – Liverpool FC". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2013-01-02.
- "Seeing the director’s point of view". Financial Times. 2006-08-27.
- "Industry Support – Indigenous Programs". Screen Australia. 2010-10-25. Retrieved 2013-01-02.
- "Renewed: Redfern Now". TV Tonight. 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2013-01-02.
- Jimmy McGovern at the Internet Movie Database
- In Conversation with Jimmy McGovern, BAFTA webcast
- Jimmy McGovern biography at the British Film Institute's Screenonline