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Jimmy McGovern

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Jimmy McGovern
James Stanley McGovern

September 1949 (age 74)
Liverpool, England
  • Screenwriter
  • producer
Years active1982–present

James Stanley McGovern (born September 1949) is an English screenwriter and producer. He is best known for creating the drama series Cracker (1993–1995), for which he received two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. He also received recognition for creating drama series such as Hillsborough, The Lakes, The Street, and Accused, among others. On 8 December 2021, McGovern was conferred the Freedom of Liverpool in recognition of his life's work.

Early life[edit]

McGovern was born in Liverpool in September 1949, the son of working-class parents Jane (née Warner) and William McGovern.[1] He was the fifth of nine children. He suffered from a stammer, for which he received no therapy and which affects him still.[2] Brought up a Catholic, he attended St Francis Xavier's College which moved to the Woolton suburb of Liverpool in 1961.



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 post-war high at the time. In 1993, he 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 series aired in 2009.

McGovern also wrote the script for the television docudrama Hillsborough (1996), based on the events of the stadium disaster in 1989, which claimed the lives of 97 Liverpool fans at an FA Cup semi-final. Among the cast of this drama was Christopher Eccleston, who also featured in Cracker, along with former Brookside actor Ricky Tomlinson. Eccleston later said it was the most important work he'd ever done.[3] Newspapers cited Hillsborough as a factor in a new inquiry set up in 1997.[4]

In 2009, McGovern was the executive producer on the BBC One miniseries Moving On.[5] His series Accused aired from 2010 to 2012 on BBC One. It followed a similar format to The Street but with a crime component. The series' writers included McGovern, Danny Brocklehurst, Alice Nutter and Shaun Duggan. It was produced by Sita Williams.[citation needed]

In 2012, McGovern and local Indigenous Australian writers from Sydney developed the Australian television drama series Redfern Now, set among the Indigenous Australians of the Sydney suburb of Redfern. 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.[6] The series debuted on 1 November 2012, was produced by Blackfella Films and has been commissioned for a second series.[7]

In June 2021, McGovern's series Time, starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham, aired on BBC One. The series was directed by Lewis Arnold.[8] It won the BAFTA for best miniseries in 2022.


McGovern wrote the screenplay for the 1994 drama, Priest.[9]


McGovern wrote the book for the musical stage show King Cotton, which explores links between the Atlantic 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.

Views on writing[edit]

McGovern has described cinema scriptwriters as being treated poorly and required to produce an abundance of drafts by successive producers. McGovern has openly criticised dramas such as Footballers' Wives lamenting the lack of quality, believable storytelling in the early 2000s.[10] He 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".[11]


Programme Date Channel Notes
Brookside 1982–1989 Channel 4 Writer of several episodes
Coronation Street 1990 ITV Episode #1.3115 (writer)
Screenplay BBC Two Series 5, episode 11: "Needle" (writer)
Traitors TV film. Dramatisation of the Gunpowder Plot (later revisited in Gunpowder, Treason & Plot) (writer)
El C.I.D. 1990–1991 ITV Writer of 3 episodes: "A Proper Copper", "Christmas Spirit" and "Piece of Cake"
The Play on One 1991 BBC One 1 episode: "Gas and Candles" (writer)
Cracker 1993–1996, 2006 ITV Creator, and writer of several episodes and 1 special (2006)
Priest 1994 - Film, starring Linus Roache (writer)
Hearts and Minds 1995 Channel 4 Writer of all 4 episodes
Go Now BBC One TV film, starring Robert Carlyle and Juliet Aubrey (co-writer)
Hillsborough 1996 ITV TV film. Dramatised reconstruction of the events of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster (writer)
Fitz 1997 ABC / ITV 5 episodes (original teleplay)
The Lakes 1997–1999 BBC One Creator, and writer of 10 episodes
Heart 1999 - Film, starring Saskia Reeves and Christopher Eccleston (writer)
Dockers Channel 4 TV film. Dramatisation of the Liverpool dockers' strike (1995–98) (co-writer)
Liam 2000 - Film, starring Ian Hart (writer)
Sunday 2002 Channel 4 TV film. Based on the events of Bloody Sunday (writer)
Gunpowder, Treason & Plot 2004 BBC One TV mini-series. Dramatisation of the lives of Mary, Queen of Scots and James I of England (writer)
The Street 2006–2009 Creator, and writer of 17 episodes
Moving On 2009–2021 Creator, and writer of several episodes
Accused 2010–2012 10 episodes (writer)
Common 2014 TV film, set in the north west of England and based on the UK's controversial joint enterprise law (writer)
Banished 2015 BBC Two TV mini-series. Creator, and writer of all 7 episodes
Defendant 2016 France 2 A French language remake of the British drama series Accused (creator)
Reg BBC One TV film. Fact-based drama about the campaign by Reg Keys to obtain answers after the death of his son in the Iraq War (co-writer)
Broken 2017 Writer/co-writer of all 6 episodes
Care 2018 TV film, starring Sheridan Smith. Co-written with Gillian Juckes.[12]
Anthony 2020 TV film
Time 2021– TV series, starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham. Writer of all 3 episodes.

Awards and honours[edit]


Year Nominated work Category Co-nominees Result Ref.
1994 Cracker Drama Series Gub Neal Nominated [14]
1995 Dennis Potter Award Won
1996 Go Now Single Drama Andrew Eaton, Paul Henry Powell, Michael Winterbottom Nominated
1997 Hillsborough Katy Jones, Charles McDougall, Nicola Shindler Won
1998 The Lakes Drama Serial David Blair, Charles Pattinson Nominated
2000 Dockers Single Drama Bill Anderson, Sally Hibbin Nominated
2007 The Street Drama Series David Blair, Ken Horn, Sita Williams Won
2008 Television Craft Nominated
2008 Drama John Chapman, Terry McDonough, Sita Williams Won
2010 David Blair, Roxy Spencer, Sita Williams Nominated
2013 Accused "(Tracie's Story)" Writer Drama Shaun Duggan Nominated
2013 Accused Mini Series Ashley Pearce, Roxy Spencer, Sita Williams Nominated
2015 Common Single Drama David Blair, Colin McKeown, Donna Molloy Nominated


  1. ^ "Cracker writer Jimmy McGovern says he could have been IRA soldier if born in Ireland". Mirror. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  2. ^ Rees, Jasper (24 August 1997). "Jimmy's As Deep As They Come". The Independent. Archived from the original on 8 June 2022. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  3. ^ "Christopher Eccleston says Jimmy McGovern's Hillsborough is most important work he's ever done". Liverpool Echo. 30 November 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  4. ^ "Hillsborough (1996)". Screenonline. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  5. ^ "BBC - Press Office - Moving On press pack: introduction".
  6. ^ "Industry Support – Indigenous Programs". Screen Australia. 25 October 2010. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  7. ^ "Renewed: Redfern Now". TV Tonight. 13 November 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  8. ^ Vassell, Nicole (4 June 2021). "Time release date: Cast, plot and trailer for new BBC One series". Radio Times. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  9. ^ Echo, Liverpool (2 March 2010). "Jimmy McGovern attends FACT Priest screening". liverpoolecho. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  10. ^ "BBC NEWS - Entertainment - Cracker writer attacks ITV drama". 10 March 2006.
  11. ^ "Seeing the director's point of view". Financial Times. 27 August 2006.
  12. ^ "BBC - Sheridan Smith, Alison Steadman and Sinead Keenan to star in Care, a new drama by Jimmy McGovern and Gillian Juckes for BBC One - Media Centre". www.bbc.co.uk.
  13. ^ "BBC, ITV and C4 recognised across the RTS Programme Awards". IBC. 23 March 2018.
  14. ^ "Jimmy McGovern BAFTA Awards Database".

External links[edit]