When Jessica Raine joined the cast of Jed Mercurio’s smash-hit police drama Line of Duty for its second season, fans thought they were being introduced to an integral new member of beloved anti-corruption unit AC-12. Instead, her character DC Trotman hadn’t even made it through a single episode before she was unceremoniously bundled out of a hospital window – another surprise onscreen death added to the merciless Mercurio’s ever-lengthening rap sheet.
Fancy yourself ruthless enough to dream up a twist that shocking? If so, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Mercurio has turned teacher and is sharing the hard-won secrets of his 25-year career in a new online “Writing Drama for Television” course from BBC Maestro. For £80, you’ll get your hands on a 115-page PDF of course notes and access to 28 video lessons stretching over a total of seven hours. It’s a similar format to the screenwriting course taught by The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin for rival e-learning platform MasterClass, although presumably with much less time dedicated to crafting the perfect walk-and-talk.
Mercurio’s shows – which also include the political thriller Bodyguard and medical drama Bodies – have won him millions of fans, even as critics have grumbled about his breathlessly twisting scripts stretching credulity. The gruff Lancashire bard has become something of a divisive figure, but the pertinent question is whether he can really teach you how to write a riveting top-flight drama in less time than it takes to watch Peter Jackson’s Beatles documentary Get Back. I dug out my notebook, hit record on my annoyingly whiny DIR, and settled in to find out.