Jimmy McGovern

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James Stanley "Jimmy" McGovern (born September 1949 in Liverpool, Lancashire[1]) is an English screenwriter and producer. He created the television series Cracker (1993-1995), a popular and critical success in the UK, for which he received two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. He has also received recognition for The Lakes, The Street and Accused, among others.

Early life[edit]

McGovern was one of nine children born to working class Liverpool born parents, William McGovern and Jane Warner.[2] He had a stammer until the age of eight. He attended a Jesuit secondary school, St Francis Xavier's College in Liverpool. He taught for a time in a secondary comprehensive school, where he organised the end-of-school play. He has four grandchildren.

Television writing career[edit]

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 season aired in 2009.

McGovern 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.[3]

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 together with 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.[4] The series debuted on 1 November 2012, was produced by Blackfella Films, and has already been commissioned for a second series.[5]

Film writing[edit]

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


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


In 2009, McGovern was the executive producer on the BBC One miniseries Moving On.[6]


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 Footballers' Wives,[7] lamenting the lack of quality, believable storytelling in the early 2000s.

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."[8]

Awards and honours[edit]


As writer

Programme Date Channel Notes
Brookside 1982 Channel 4
Cracker 1993–2006 ITV1
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
Accused 2010–2012 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.
Banished 2015 BBC Two


  1. ^ 'Merseyside' did not exist prior to 1st April 1974. 'Lancashire' is correct
  2. ^ "Cracker writer Jimmy McGovern says he could have been IRA soldier if born in Ireland". Mirror. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  3. ^ "Christopher Eccleston says Jimmy McGovern's Hillsborough is most important work he's ever done". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  4. ^ "Industry Support – Indigenous Programs". Screen Australia. 2010-10-25. Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  5. ^ "Renewed: Redfern Now". TV Tonight. 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  6. ^ "BBC - Press Office - Moving On press pack: introduction". 
  7. ^ "BBC NEWS - Entertainment - Cracker writer attacks ITV drama". 
  8. ^ "Seeing the director's point of view". Financial Times. 2006-08-27. 

External links[edit]