Alex Graham's TV Diary

Alex Graham's TV Diary

By Alex Graham,
Thursday, 17th November 2016
Alex Graham with John Hardie (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)
Alex Graham with former RTS Chair John Hardie (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)
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Alex Graham returns to his roots as he listens to a pitch from a sports journalist and lunches with Steve Hewlett

A quick trip to our cottage in the Sussex Downs. Denis Healey lived in the next-door village until he died last year. The local historical society is selling some of his books to raise funds. I go looking for a gem and am not disappointed.

Between battered indigo covers, a turgid official history of the Russian Revolution dating from 1938, the era of Stalin’s purges. On the flyleaf, in faded fountain pen, I come across the signature of the future Chancellor with the inscription, “Balliol 1939”. He may have repudiated his early politics but I’m intrigued that he kept the book for more than 70 years.

Of course, when I stepped down from Wall to Wall this is what my future was meant to be like: country walks and poring over second-hand books. I certainly didn’t expect to be writing the TV Diary again!


To BBC Worldwide with my new business partner, Michael Jackson. Michael and I have known each other for 30 years, but we’ve never run a business together until now.

Worldwide has taken a stake in our company – Two Cities Television. We’re here to listen to a fascinating presentation about the latest trends in global TV drama: from Scandi noir to New Zealand slacker comedies. Least Euphemistic Title award easily won by Canada’s euthanasia drama Mary Kills People.


To Glasgow to celebrate the opening of the National Library of Scotland’s new Moving Image Archive. I’ve given some of my ill-gotten gains from selling Wall to Wall to help fund this amazing new digital facility.

You could not have come up with a cause closer to my heart. Born into a house with no books, the local library made me the person I am. And, of course, without dedicated archivists, a show such as Who Do You Think You Are? would never have existed.


After a brief encounter with an old Glasgow friend, I’m back on a train to Sheffield at 7:00am. I don’t mind the early start as I have the pleasant duty of reviewing Liz McIntyre’s first year as director of Sheffield Doc/Fest. I can’t believe it’s been a year! Oh, and if you’re wondering, she passed – with flying colours.


Cup of coffee with Kevin Mitchell, The Guardian’s tennis and boxing correspondent, to discuss a drama idea for Two Cities. We quickly get the idea out of the way and then spend two hours talking about the unexpected similarities between these two gladiatorial sports.


To the London Film Festival to see William Oldroyd’s remarkable feature debut, Lady Macbeth. One of several shocking scenes in the film involves the shooting of a horse. The scene gets its power from the fact that there’s no edit. The gun goes off and the horse drops dead.

Fortunately, the director is on hand at the end of the film to explain how it was done. “We were lucky enough to find the only horse in Britain that is able to fall over on command.”


Dim sum with Steve Hewlett. I’ve known Steve even longer than I’ve known Michael. We worked together in the early buccaneering days of Channel 4, when rules were there to be broken, and for many years on the Board of Sheffield Doc/Fest.

Earlier this year, Steve discovered he had cancer. It’s been a very tough time for him but, characteristically, he has brought his forensic intelligence to the experience. His interviews with Eddie Mair on Radio 4’s PM have had a powerful impact.

He also hasn’t lost his pugnacious good humour. We laugh and joke our way through a carafe of wine, discussing everything from Brexit to Bake Off.


Lunch with Kath Viner, the first woman editor of The Guardian in its 195-year history. I don’t yet know Kath well but I suspect we’re about to become very close. After serving for four years as a trustee, I have just become Chair of the Scott Trust – the ultimate owner of The Guardian and The Observer. Its remit is to preserve Guardian journalism in ­perpetuity.

The great CP Scott, whose legacy we protect, said the editor and business manager of a paper should march hand in hand, with the first always just an inch or two in advance.

I’m not sure how much holding hands Kath and CEO David Pemsel do. But, when it comes to getting to grips with The Guardian’s future, so far at least, they seem perfectly in step.

Alex Graham is Joint CEO of Two Cities Television.