Show of the week: The Escape Artist

David Tennant has carved out a reputation as one of the UK’s leading character actors. Having come to the public’s attention as the tenth Doctor Who, he recently starred in breakout drama hit Broadchurch, which is now being remade in the US for Fox with Tennant reprising his role as a troubled lead detective.

His latest role sees him play Will Burton, a brilliant criminal defence lawyer who becomes personally involved in a serial killer drama after he gets a suspect accused of an horrific murder acquitted on a technicality. The ensuing thriller affects Burton and his on screen wife, who is played by Ashley Jensen (Extras).

The series, The Escape Artist, is mid-way through its three-part run one in a 9pm slot on BBC One in the UK.

The show is made by Endor, the UK production company run by Hilary Bevan Jones and which was bought by Red Arrow last year. It was created and written by David Wolstencroft, the creators of glossy spy drama Spooks.

Wolstencroft says the spark for him writing the series was a brush with justice, or injustice, he had himself a few years ago during a civil lawsuit. “I’m not an aficionado of legal drama, but wanted to do a piece about the law and wanted to capture those feelings.”

The British writer, who is based in LA and currently working on English-language period drama Versailles for Canal+, says the show has format potential despite being rooted in the British system of justice. “Every legal system has its loopholes and flaws and the story is relatable and translatable, [and] there is already interest in the format.”

Endor’s Bevan Jones says she had wanted to work with Wolstencraft for some time. “He has a wonderful dexterity and you can’t predict what will happen next. This is a delicate mix of surprise, tension and humour.”

Red Arrow International is selling the show outside the US where Sonar Entertainment has rights.

Red Arrow International managing director Jen Richter says that, having launched the show at MIPCOM, buyers in Scandinavia and the Benelux were the first priorities and accordingly it has been picked up by Norway’s TV2 and Sweden’s TV4. “We’re also talking to German broadcasters,” Richter adds. “UK drama has not been so widespread in Germany, but it is starting to emerge and the pubcasters in particular are open to British drama.”

Red Arrow is shopping a 3x60mins and 2x90mins version of the show, which is highly serialised. The story plays out so that there are cliffhangers at the end of each hour or each 90-minute installment with the latter format expected to be more popular internationally.

Richter notes it is edgy, but not too much so to prevent sales: “It is dark, but not in a literal way. There’s lots of daylight and it’s not raining all the time like, for example, a recent serial killer show set in Seattle [the US version of The Killing].”


The show: The Escape Artist

The producer: Endor Productions

The distributor: Red Arrow International, Sonar Entertainment (US)

The broadcasters: BBC One (UK), TV2 (Norway), TV4 (Sweden)

Concept: Serialised thriller from the creator of Spooks and starring David Tennant