Wall to Wall
Start talking genealogy at a party and you’ll clear the room quickly – unless Alex Graham is there. The CEO of Wall to Wall, the London-based prodco responsible for the hit BBC television series Who Do You Think You Are? says it’s not dry at all. ‘It’s about love and death and family,’ he says. When the BBC approached Graham about doing a series on genealogy, he knew people were already interested in their own family trees. ‘It’s addictive on the Internet,’ he says. The problem was how to make someone else’s interesting – and do it on television. Getting viewers interested in the personal heritage of strangers did not seem like an easy task. So the Wall to Wall crew decided to use A-list celebrities. And, when on 12 out of 16 shows those celebrities cry on television, you have a hit with staying power – it’s in its third season.
The approach to developing the series was typical of Wall to Wall, which has cooked up several shows about subjects that should make audiences reach for the remote. Pioneer life? The lost archives of George Orwell? Wall to Wall finds all of it fascinating, and finds ways to spread their enthusiasm to audiences. ‘We’ve always been interested in ways in which you connect the present and the past,’ says Graham. ‘How can you make the past real?’ Thus, a modern-day family lives as people did a century ago in 1900 House, another of Wall to Wall’s TV series hits.
But it’s not only enthusiasm that has made the company’s name; it also is willing to experiment. When doing research for a series on George Orwell, Wall to Wall found there was not a scrap of audio or film footage of him. ‘We thought, he’s like [Woody Allen's] Zelig, or Forrest Gump. He was everywhere but no one filmed him.’ Wall to Wall was undeterred, and invented Orwell’s lost archives in George Orwell: A Life In Pictures, which won an international Emmy for Best Arts Program in 2004. ‘I’m not a purist,’ says Graham. ‘I think television is there to be played with.’
Recent titles: 1900 House, Body Story
Hours this year: 70
Upcoming includes: Texas Ranch House (PBS), HG Wells: War with the World (BBC2), The History of Photography (BBC2, BBC4), The Underworld History of… (National Geographic US)