Force Four purchases format rights to U.K. health series

Executive producer John Richie tells Playback about taking on development of the ambitious factual venture, which aired first on BBC2 and involved 100 camera crews.

Vancouver’s Force Four Entertainment has purchased the format rights to an ambitious, groundbreaking U.K. program that held a magnifying glass to the continent’s health care system.

In a singular 24-hour period, BBC2′s Keeping The Nation Alive placed 100 camera crews in hospitals, clinics, operating rooms and air ambulances all over the country, generating an intense and intimate behind-the-scenes look into the lives of doctors, nurses, patients and their families.

The all-access series drew an average audience of 2 million viewers per episode when it aired on BBC2 earlier this year.

And Force Four Entertainment’s executive producer John Ritchie , in conjunction with ITV Studios Global Entertainment, is hoping to adapt the format, invented by UK production company The Garden, and develop the program for Canadian audiences under the banner Keeping Canada Alive.

Once he secures a broadcaster, Ritchie intends to hire 100 camera crews of his own and blanket the country for 24 hours in order to present eight to 10 episodes of the TV series.

“We’d been working with ITV Studios out of London on a show called The Audience, which we are producing for W Network, and the London-based creator of that show, The Garden, told us about Keeping Britain Alive and we got really excited — a factual reality show set in a hospital and taking it to a whole new level, across the country and shot in one 24-hour time period.”

Ritchie says Force Four was pitched the format at MIP in France.

“We thought that this was something that we could bring to Canada and that a broadcaster would get pretty excited about the idea of 100 camera crews in one day kind of depicting the entire health system,” Ritchie told Playback. “It’s such a hot topic in our country, and it is in Britain, as well.

“The series is really compelling because it’s life and death. We think showing viewers the drama and emotion that unfolds in this country over one day is a pretty compelling idea.”

Ritchie, whose shingle has produced The Bachelor Canada for Citytv and Border Security for Shaw, says he knows the format presents daunting production challenges.

“We have to get hospitals across the country and the entities that control them, to agree to give us access, and then we have to get patients and families to agree, and that’s a big undertaking.”

As far as estimated budget for the series, Ritchie says he hasn’t received a figure from the U.K., but allows that development costs should be “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, everything from just a research document to some test shooting and so forth.”

“We’re really open minded about that because it’s a big, big idea, so it’s all about proving the viability of it and that you can actually pull it off.”