Long-delayed drama starring Steve Coogan will air after extensive back-and-forths within BBC over its content
Actor Steve Coogan filming for the TV drama about Jimmy Savile. Photograph: Welsh Snapper/Alamy
Steve Coogan’s television drama about the paedophile Jimmy Savile will finally air this year, amid deep concerns within the BBC over the reaction to the programme.
The Reckoning was filmed at the end of 2021 but the editing process is still not finished, with extensive back-and-forths within the BBC over its content. While some of Savile’s victims were involved in the making of the programme, others have publicly criticised the decision to make the show at all.
A report in the Sun claimed BBC executives were particularly concerned about putting the show on air before the coronation of King Charles III in May. The drama is expected to touch on the relationship between the monarch and Savile, who was in contact with Charles over several decades and sent the royals letters with suggestions on how to handle the media.
There is no suggestion Charles knew of the claims against Savile, who ingratiated himself with many leading members of the British establishment through his charity work.
A BBC spokesperson did not comment on the claim that the royal connection is holding up production but pointed to a previous statement that Prince Charles and Princess Diana have tiny parts in the series, appearing only briefly at the opening of a hospital and in non-speaking roles. The BBC said: “We are currently in post-production for transmission later this year. An exact date will be announced in due course.”
Fictional dramas about real events can be legally and morally tricky, especially when the incidents took place relatively recently and many of those involved are still alive. While it is not unusual to have an extensive editing process after filming of a drama series has finished, it is unusual for this to take several years.
Savile was once one of the most famous entertainers in Britain but after his death in 2011 he was exposed as a serial paedophile. The fallout from the scandal led to the departure of the then BBC director general, and criminal charges against multiple other veteran television stars.
Interest in his crimes has continued to grow, with an entire new audience learning about them – and how they were covered up – in last year’s hit Netflix documentary Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story.
The producer Jeff Pope first floated the idea of a drama about Savile in 2014 and it has taken almost a decade to get the show on screen. The project was formally confirmed in late 2020, with ITV’s production arm making the show for the BBC. It was written by Neil McKay, whose previous work includes Four Lives, about the murderer Stephen Port.
When Steve Coogan was announced as playing the disgraced paedophile, he said: “To play Jimmy Savile was not a decision I took lightly. Neil McKay has written an intelligent script tackling sensitively an horrific story which – however harrowing – needs to be told.”
The BBC has previously said that the production worked closely with people whose lives were affected by Savile to ensure their stories were told with “sensitivity and respect”, and said the drama would “draw on extensive and wide-ranging research sources”.