With the news that Jane Tranter, the BBC’s head of Fiction, is leaving her role we take a look at the career of the woman that turned around the fortunes of BBC Drama and made it a force to be reckoned with.
When Jane Tranter took over responsibility for drama at the BBC in 2000 the department wasn’t exactly healthy. Although Holby City, launched a year earlier, had proved to be popular BBC Drama was suffering at the hands of a bullish ITV, riding high of a wave of success and good advertising revenues. Under Mal Young the department had churned out dud after dud but Jane Tranter turned around the fortunes of the drama and gave BBC Drama shows such as Rome, Cranford, Jane Eyre, Spooks, Five Days and Hustle to name but a few. Here we take a look at the career of the lady behind such hits.
Jane Tranters career began in 1985 as a secretary in the BBC Radio Department. Just a year later she had worked her way over to television and was working as an assistant floor manager on EastEnders, which had only just launched. During the late 80’s she also worked on the popular drama series Bergerac starring John Nettles as a police detective on the Island of Jersey. Progressing as an assistant floor manager to script editor, Tranter worked on the fourth series of Casualty in 1990.
After working on such drama’s Tranter moved over to the BBC Films and Singles department and developed projects such as Alive and Kicking and The Hour of the Pig but left the corporation in 1995. Upon leaving the BBC Tranter crossed over to Carlton Television, which had just merged with Central Television [the midlands franchise of ITV] and was the executive producer on Wilderness and short lived London soap, London Bridge. Carlton was the ITV franchise holder for London weekdays, replacing Thames in 1992. With the success of other soaps, such as EastEnders and Coronation Street, it’s no surprise Carlton seeked to launch their own successful soap and so in 1995 the launched their own London based soap, London Bridge.
London Bridge originally started out as a late-night drama in 1995, running for 26 episodes. It focused on restaurant, called SE1, and the immediate local area. After the initial 26 instalments the series returned later in the year the format had changed to a twice weekly soap, which starred – amongst others – Simone Lahbib, Miranda Jones and Sunetra Sarker. As London Bridge was mainly shown in the Carlton London area the soap didn’t get big ratings and was dropped in 1998.
Tranter returned to the BBC in 1997 as an executive producer, working once again in the films and single drama’s department. She later was made Head of Drama Serials and was responsible for the development of dramas such as Wives and Daughters, Babyfather and Crime and Punishment, all of which were well received by critics and audiences alike. At the turn of the century Tranter was made Controller of Drama Commissioning and stayed in the role until 2006, when she became responsible for BBC Fiction, taking on responsibility for comedies, film and drama. But as head of drama commissioning Tranter was responsible for the HBO/BBC co-production Rome which ran for two seasons and proved ratings hit both sides of the Atlantic. The series was filmed in the Cinecitta studios in Italy, on the outskirts of Rome, and notable British actors such as Lindsay Duncan and Ciaran Hinds were cast in the series. Other drama’s that Tranter was responsible for include the latest twist on the tales of Robin Hood and Merlin, Spooks, Criminal Justice, Five Days, Jane Eyre, New Tricks and Bleak House – all of which have met with critical and ratings acclaim and have truly put BBC Drama on the map.
At a time when ITV have struggled to produce good quality drama’s the BBC have surged ahead producing quality drama after quality drama. Doubtless that’s because of Jane Tranter’s excellent career in television working her way up the ranks and building up a wealth of experience along the way having worked on such shows as Bergerac, Casualty, EastEnders and London Bridge.