DQ asks some of the people who make TV around the world which writers are crafting the most compelling scripts and complex characters in today’s drama series.
As showrunner on Showtime’s The Loudest Voice, Metcalf brought to television the story of Roger Ailes (played by an unrecognisable Russell Crowe), the man who moulded Fox News into a force that irrevocably changed the conversation around government and an influential figure in the rise of the modern Republican Party.
He has also written for shows such as UnReal, Kingdom, Mindhunter and Sharp Objects.
Moritz Polter, executive producer for international series at Germany’s Bavaria Fiction, notes: “He captures the TV mayhem at Fox News and the beating against the then president, and by doing so also puts a mirror in front of us to show how the press is handling current presidential affairs. The show is very topical, fast-paced and ‘loud,’ but then when we are with the characters, it is also brutally honest and painfully true.”
A screenwriter for almost 20 years, Armstrong (pictured, left, with Succession’s Kieran Culkin) has been responsible for some of the best British comedy in the last two decades, with credits including Peep Show, The Thick of It and Fresh Meat.
He’s also behind one of the standout instalments of Charlie Brooker’s sci-fi anthology Black Mirror – the memorable The Entire History of You, which imagines a world where people can replay their memories – and now combines family drama, caustic humour and Shakespearian themes in Succession, HBO’s series about Logan Roy and his four children all vying to succeed him at the top of his media empire.
“Jesse Armstrong has pulled off the much-underestimated trick of writing a second season of Succession that’s even better than the first,” The Lighthouse exec Hilary Salmon says. “Everyone is talking about the new season, which has remained surprising as well as being about something deeply recognisable – the machismo of father/son relationships.”
Walter Presents curator Walter Iuzzolino champions the show’s “superbly drawn characters and a plot that keeps you guessing – it’s absolutely wonderful,” while Entertainment One’s Polly Williams says Succession’s predominantly British writing team has assembled scripts that “manage to construct artful stories, take creative risks, make you laugh out loud and continually surprise you and leave you guessing.”
Channel 4 and Hulu six-part comedy-drama The Bisexual marked the American writer, director, producer and actor’s first television project behind the camera, bringing to the small screen a deeply personal perspective on bisexuality and the prejudices, shame and misconceptions around it. Akhavan was previously known for work including feature films Appropriate Behaviour and The Miseducation of Cameron Post.
Annie Weismann, executive producer of Fox drama Almost Family, says: “I really love The Bisexual. It’s about an American living in London, it’s funny and dark, really fresh and good. That’s something I’ve just discovered and am really enjoying in terms of inspiring female voices right now.
“It’s fun to see a truly multicultural show – you don’t see a lot of that. So that’s something I really dig. It has inspired me because Desiree feels like such a distinctive, unapologetic, comedic voice with something to say.”