Maverick’s medical mastery

UK-based factual prodco Maverick Television is responsible for hit series such as Embarrassing Bodies and How To Look Good Naked which continue to draw in audiences and attract contributors who are willing to talk about (and show) their bodies on television. Creative director Alexandra Fraser spoke with realscreen about the keys to making good medical programming and the new areas they are taking their existing brands into.
December 2, 2009

Maverick Television has carved out a niche for itself in the areas of medical programming and body image with hit programs such as Embarrassing Bodies, Bizarre ER, 10 Years Younger and How to Look Good Naked. An element of the prodco’s success in this area is down to the trust its experts have instilled in audiences (people come out in droves to see Naked‘s host Gok Wan in person when they hold live events and viewers often say they’d love to have the doctors from Embarrassing Bodies as their own). But the real key to the success of their programs, says creative director Alexandra Fraser, is that the programs make a promise at the beginning and then deliver again and again.

‘People come to us knowing that we are going to change their lives for the better,’ says Fraser, who points to Bodies and Naked and how they make people who were previously unhappy with their bodies able to live with themselves again. ‘That makes it a compelling watch because the viewer thinks, ‘You’ve made this promise and it looks like a big promise to me. Now come on, deliver on that.”

The fact that it does deliver on its promises is part of what has seen Bodies receive a third season commission from C4 for spring 2010 as well as special episodes of Naked for C4 in the New Year. The three special episodes will focus on women with disabilities who are looking to feel better about their bodies.

‘Previously a lot of shows about health on British television were quite didactic. What we set out to do was make shows that would appeal to a viewer that might not normally come to a show that might educate them about their health.’ The prodco’s track record in the medical genre has also led to the commission of a 12-part documentary series for ITV1 which will take place in the largest children’s hospital in Europe, Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Aside from building on its reputation as a health producer, Maverick is also trying to stake its claim as a top cross-platform company. ‘A lot of companies come up with a TV idea and they think as an afterthought of what might be the online offering, but we don’t,’ says Fraser. ‘We know that the audience wants to consume ideas across a whole number of platforms so we know that different media can do different jobs. We don’t just do websites that are repeating the information you got from the program, we look to our online to do different tasks and to reward [audiences] in a different way.’

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.