Tag Archives: British Television

Executive Producer Ed Egan talks reviving his childhood favorite “Catchphrase”

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Ed Egan

Ed Egan has been a television addict all his life. Ever since he can remember, he has loved watching television, and knew from an early age that he would work in the industry. Now, he is an executive producer working on some of the world’s biggest game shows. He is not only an industry leader in Britain, but internationally as well.

Ever since he began working in the industry, Egan has had ideas for new formats and ways to tweak current ones. Starting from the bottom, he worked his way up to executive producer and showrunner, now being able to create the shows that he has always wanted. His work on ABC’s hit 500 Questions was then recreated in Germany and the United Kingdom after its success in the United States, and he developed the concept for ITV’s 1000 Heartbeats, which went on a very successful run for the network. He started Tipping Point at its inception, which now has hundreds of episodes, and his newest series, Genius Junior starring Neil Patrick Harris, premieres this Spring on NBC.

Despite this success, however, the British native says the highlight of his career came when he revived the classic game show Catchphrase. The original was a childhood favorite and was one of the shows that gave birth to his love of television. Being able to bring it back to air, and film it in his hometown where the show first began, was a special moment for this seasoned executive producer.

“I had been a massive fan of this show when it was on TV when I was young, and so I jumped at the chance to bring it back to our screens so that people could watch it again, or discover it for the first time. The show is perfect. It is the ultimate play-along show, which I love, as people can’t help but try to shout answers out when they are watching. It is a game show that anyone can play and is suitable for the whole family which is quite rare these days. It appeals to people from 8 to 80,” he said.

In the original series, two contestants, one male and one female, would have to identify the familiar phrase represented by a piece of animation accompanied by background music. The show’s mascot, a golden robot called “Mr. Chips”, appears in many of the animations. In the revived version of the show, the same format remains, but there are three contestants and there is no particular attention paid to gender.

Egan’s thorough understanding of the original format was essential to bringing the show back and making it a success. He knew just what was important for the new version to be a hit again. He was able to bring on board some of the best game show producers and production staff in the country, and together they knew the right type of contestants to cast and the right level to set the gameplay at. Not only did he update the format, but he got a younger generation interested in the show, applying to be contestants and also watching each week. The casting producer of the show, Helen Finnimore, was extremely impressed with his talents when they worked together.

“I have known Ed Egan for many years as both a television production professional and a friend. Without doubt, he is one of the most respected executive television producers in the industry. Prior to being head-hunted to relocate and work in the United States, Ed had worked on many internationally recognised programmes here in the United Kingdom and has maintained his position at the forefront of the entertainment business through these incredible accomplishments,” said Finnimore. “I had the pleasure of working closely with Ed on the Catchphrase revival series here in the UK in 2013 and again in 2014. Ed is a rare talent, one of the few executive producers I have met who truly understands the British and American audiences. He’s fantastic to work alongside, maintains a level of professionalism throughout and moreover, has an unparalleled ability to develop and adapt new and exciting formats. This unique flair has become his trademark in the industry both sides of the pond.”

When STV was looking to revive the hit show, they approached Egan knowing of his reputation as a tremendous showrunner. At their first meeting, they offered him the job. Egan wanted to keep as many parts of the original format as possible, but he knew the necessity of updating the show to bring in a newer and more modern audience. The show is very graphics heavy, so he knew that one of his main roles was developing the new look for the animations, as the technology had moved on so much since the original series. Egan wanted to keep up with what people were used to seeing in the modern era of apps. To do all this, he put together a team that not only worked together well but formed a strong bond.

“I loved the fact that the team who I put together all became great friends, and it was a real pleasure to work on. It is a fun format and we had great fun making it. I became good friends with our host Stephen Mulhern, who is the nicest and most professional host a producer could hope to work with,” Egan said.

The relationship Egan forged with his host meant that they were able to be very open and honest with each other, which Egan says is essential to get the best performance from on-screen talent. It also helped calm his nerves about reviving a cherished show for so many people, but once the show aired, his worries immediately evaporated.

“I was nervous about bringing this show back as it had been such as huge show back in the 80s and 90s and I wanted people to like our new, updated and modernised version. I was so pleased that it did so well on its return and I’m very proud that it’s still doing well today,” he said.

The revival began airing in 2013 and Egan produced its first three seasons. The show is now on its sixth season, and since Egan brought it back, it has been the top-rated Saturday night show on ITV. His production and development work with Catchphrase and ITV, as well as such well-known production companies as BBC, Endemol, RDF Television, STV Productions and Warner Horizon in the United States, confirms his reputation as one of the industries go-to executive producers and a highly sought-after talent. He’s achieved a level of prominence rivalled by few in the industry and continues to build upon his achievements.  

Be sure to check out the revival of Catchphrase to see how Egan modernized a classic.

 

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Behind the Scenes of 24 Hours in A&E with James Ralph

When you think about your favorite television show, what comes to mind? Is it your favorite actor’s Emmy-worthy performance? Or is it perhaps set in a part of the world that you’ve been itching to explore for all of your life. Is it funny, or is it sad? Is it dramatic, or is it scary? No matter what comes to mind, each component that makes it the show you love and cherish is rooted in an editor’s ability to tie every element together seamlessly before your eyes. Without the help of a skilled editor, storylines would falter and viewers would lose interest. Films and television shows that dominate the industry require a seasoned editor, one with a keen ability to captivate an audience and ensure that only the best quality content makes a final cut. They require an editor like James Ralph.

Ralph’s versatility as an editor makes him difficult to define, but a mere glance at his work will tell you that his talents are profound. His ability to transform his skill set to meet the demands of the project before him allow him to ease into new premises, scripts, and storylines flawlessly. He brings a certain authenticity and creative edge to his work that makes him instrumental to every job he accepts and over a twenty-year career he has accepted many. His unique editorial style can be understood through a variety of different projects he has worked on, from British favorites like X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK, to hit reality television shows like Love Island and First Dates. He differentiates himself as an editor through his natural ability to transition between different genres without weakness. According to Ralph, he doesn’t have one specific style or technique that characterizes him, which makes him all the more suitable to work on a diverse array of projects.

“I wouldn’t say that I have a definite style as my work spans multiple genres. I think my work is always smooth in that you can watch it without ever being aware that there are edits – unless I’ve placed them there deliberately. Editorially, I am thoughtful, intelligent, visually creative, and musically dynamic, all of which are crucial to any story you’re trying to tell. I think that there is a certain energy in everything I do,” tells Ralph.

Over the last three years, Ralph has worked on a number of series for the well-known British television show, 24 Hours in A&E. 24 Hours in A&E is a medical documentary set in a busy hospital in London, England. The unique docuseries offers an inside look at one of Britain’s busiest Accident & Emergency departments. For the show, cameras roll for 24-hours straight over the span of a 28-day period.

With a reputation as unparalleled as Ralph’s, it is not uncommon for a production company to solicit his talents. When 24 Hours in A&E’s production company, The Garden, were looking for an editor to flavor their series with the perfect amount of suspense and truth, they demanded that Ralph come on board. In fact, the show’s Executive Producer, Spencer Kelly, had worked with Ralph in the past and knew he was the perfect fit for the job. For Ralph, the opportunity was too great to turn down and knowing The Garden’s respected reputation in the factual and documentary making world, he was eager to accept.

Despite Kelly’s experience working with Ralph, he never ceases to be amazed by the quality of Ralph’s editing skills. Ralph is a rarity in his field and production companies are extremely fortunate when they come across talent as remarkable as his.

“I have worked with James on prime-time series for BBC 1 and for the last three seasons of 24 Hours in A E. Throughout each, he has brought a unique combination of consistency and editorial clarity. His work is beautifully crafted and his editing delivers compelling, thoughtful and entertaining television,” states Kelly. He also points out that Ralph’s “good humor and hardworking, collaborative attitude make him a pleasure to work with. Most importantly, he is quick at what he does so he can quickly sift through material and implement changes to meet pressured deadlines.”

As an editor, speed is crucial; however, the true art of editing shows in an editor’s ability to produce content quickly without sacrificing quality. Ralph is well-versed in this skill and it makes him a true asset to the teams he works on. For 24 Hours in A&E, this skill is paramount to the show’s success. Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, it is important for Ralph to be able to accurately portray each situation with every aspect of authenticity and human nature possible. The show’s audience become privy to very intimate parts of people’s lives, ranging from birth to death and everything in between and as a result, Ralph has to thoroughly explore all of the footage, identifying any stories or themes that can be developed into an episode. On the surface, the show is about medicine but in reality, it is about people and the often fascinating stories of their lives. It is a challenge unlike any of Ralph’s other projects.

“It can be very challenging when you’re faced with the reality that people sometimes die or appear on the show with appalling injuries. As an editor, I have to work with this footage and find ways to tell these people’s stories without glorifying or reveling in the gruesomeness of the situations. It’s all about being sensitive and respectful to the people on the show and to your audience as you tell each story and ensure that you do them justice,” notes Ralph.

From an editing standpoint, 24 Hours in A&E was a thrilling job. With full creative reign, Ralph was trusted to make his own decisions in terms of which stories he followed and developed. He thrives in an autonomous environment, allowing his unrestricted creativity to reach the surface. He loves the responsibility that comes with being able to showcase such raw, human stories. There are moments of humor, as well as moments of grief. It can be touching, but also devastating. The show is characterized by a wide spectrum of emotions and Ralph gets to choose how he wishes to present each and every one. He has been instrumental to the show’s success and is without a doubt one of the main reasons that his viewers absorb the show in the way that they do.

“I take a great deal of pride knowing that the show is so popular, not only with the public but also amongst my colleagues. The fact that it is repeatedly commissioned, as well as on repeat across many of Channel 4’s subsidiary channels, is a tribute to the hard work and dedication that goes into making it. It’s one of those shows that a lot of my friends in the industry always say, “I wish I worked on that,” concludes Ralph, and he is proud that he does.