The Reckoning: release date, cast, plot, trailer, and everything we know

The Reckoning on BBC1 sees Steve Coogan play Jimmy Savile in a drama that will delve into the life and crimes of the evil TV star.
The Reckoning on BBC1 sees Steve Coogan play Jimmy Savile in a drama that will delve into the life and crimes of the evil TV star. (Image credit: BBC)

The Reckoning on BBC One sees Steve Coogan play predatory sex offender Jimmy Savile — all episodes are available now on BBC iPlayer.

The drama traces Jimmy Savile’s life, from his working-class early years in the dance halls of northern England to his presenting career with the BBC where he became one of TV’s biggest stars, hosting hit shows in the 1970s such as Top Of The Pops and Jim’ll Fix It. It also will look at how Savile's prolific sexual abuse of children was kept under wraps until after his death in 2011. 

"I think this is a story that has to be told," explains The Reckoning writer and executive producer Jeff Pope. "We must understand why a man like Jimmy Savile seemed to remain immune for so long to proper scrutiny and criminal investigation.

The number one challenge, and I remember having many sleepless nights, was finding the balance. What haunted us was that, in making this series, a lot of people out there are going to be reminded of horrible events in their life and that we were going to be responsible for that. We had to find a way in the shoot and in the edit of letting the audience know what had happened, but not turning it into something that was gratuitous or triggering for victims."

The team behind The Reckoning have worked closely with many people whose lives were impacted by Savile to ensure their experiences are told and reflected with sensitivity and respect, and the drama will also draw on extensive, wide-ranging research and published accounts. It examines the impact his horrific crimes had on his victims, and the powerlessness many felt trying to raise the alarm.  Four survivors of Savile who have contributed to The Reckoning will also feature in the series, interviewed on camera to offer their further insight and to reflect on their experiences. 

Here's everything you need to know about The Reckoning.

Steve Coogan plays Jimmy Savile in The Reckoning on BBC1 which will delve into the life and crimes of the evil TV star.

Steve Coogan is chilling as serial predator Jimmy Savile. (Image credit: BBC)

The Reckoning release date

The Reckoning is a four-part drama that begins on BBC One on Monday, October 9 at 9 pm with the second episode the following night Tuesday, October 10 at 9pm. The final two episodes then will air on Monday, October 16 and Tuesday, October 17 both at 9pm. The Reckoning is a big part of the BBC's Autumn TV season

All episodes are available now to watch on BBC iPlayer.

We have no news either on a worldwide or US release date of if The Reckoning will arrive on a streaming service such as Netflix or Prime Video. We'll update on all as soon as we know more.

Is there a trailer for The Reckoning?

Yes a trailer for The Reckoning shows what a tough watch this is likely to be as it reveals how Savile got away with his evil predatory actions and manipulated everyone around him. Take a look below...

The Reckoning plot — what is shown in the drama

The Reckoning is a four-part series showing the life of evil Jimmy Savile, who was one of the UK’s most influential TV celebrities. After his death, however, Savile has become one of the most reviled figures of modern history following revelations of extensive and horrific abuse. Evil predator Savile used his involvement in multiple organisations, such as the BBC, hospitals, prisons, and charities, to legitimise himself, forging friendships in showbiz, politics, journalism, the Catholic Church and even the Royal family to bolster his position and avoid serious investigation.

So this series explores how Savile used his celebrity and powerful connections to conceal his crimes and exploit institutional failings, hiding in plain sight. It will therefore show and give a greater understanding of how Savile evaded justice. The drama aims to highlight the importance of confronting the horrors of the past and talking openly about abuse.

"It’s an enormous and important story,’ says executive producer Jeff Pope, whose credits include The Moorside and Appropriate Adult. "This man was abusing and assaulting hundreds of people, essentially in front of our eyes. That leads to some very simple questions, which we wanted to explore in this series. Why and how did he get away with it? And how can we make sure it doesn’t happen again?"

Savile manipulated many healthcare professionals.

Savile manipulated many healthcare professionals including Beryl and Charles Hullighan (Siobhan Finneran, Mark Lewis Jones) who worked at Leeds Royal Infirmary. (Image credit: BBC)

The Reckoning cast — Steve Coogan on playing Jimmy Savile

Steve Coogan has been cast as vile predator Jimmy Savile in The Reckoning. He reveals: "To play Jimmy Savile was not a decision I took lightly. Neil McKay has written an intelligent script tackling sensitively a horrific story which — however harrowing — needs to be told. I've worked with Jeff before quite closely on a number of projects such as Philomena and Stan and Ollie, and when I looked at the scripts and discussed with him and Neil and found out about the survivors' involvement it was clear this was being done properly. I've played a few real people in my time, some good and some not, although Savile is certainly the worst. The big question is why are you doing it? That's the question you have to answer, and that's the question the script has to answer. If it does then you're on the right track, and here it was clear from the script and my conversations with Neil and Jeff that this was being done in an ethical, responsible way. On balance, I think it is better to make this drama than not to make it. Drama can capture things in a more nuanced, detailed way that is more illuminating than a straight forward documentary, of which there have been many. We've seen the power that a well-made, factual drama can have. I knew this wasn't without risk. Nothing that's interesting to watch is ever without some kind of risk and this had more risks than anything else I've done, but knowing that I had the best people with me I thought it was worth it. I feel this series is a really strong piece of work and that all the people involved in it - survivors, cast and crew - should be proud with the job that's been done. 

"The involvement of survivors was part of that original conversation I had about becoming involved myself. Neil had already spoken to many of them and we knew some were going to be included on screen to give their accounts and to literally give them a voice. Although even without them on screen I think the series does that, because the depictions of what happens are based on their testimony. It's crucial that when making a drama like this you walk side-by-side with the people whose experiences you are depicting. That's the grown-up and responsible way to do this. Having the participation and endorsement of so many was absolutely crucial to the process, and everyone has made sure this was handled sensitively. That's why it's taken a long time for the series to get to screen - you can't just chuck it out there, you've got to do it properly, and be fastidious and diligent. To not do that would be a dereliction of our duty. 

"I've played a number of real people and in some ways I didn't treat him any differently. I feel an overwhelming sense of revulsion about Jimmy Savile and the way he operated, but I put my personal revulsion to one side to play him convincingly because the risk with not doing that is him coming across as a sort of pantomime villain, which would lack credibility and therefore not do this justice. It had to be grounded and believable. In terms of performance, I like to take physical things - the way someone dresses, the way they talk, and the way they move - and assimilate all that to try and find who they are and use that as a way to get inside their skin. But I'm not a method actor - I can switch it on and off like a switch so I certainly didn't each my lunch as him on set. When we stopped filming I immediately snapped out of it. And that was particularly important here because on a number of occasions I was working with younger cast members - often women in their late teens or early twenties - playing the role of people even younger, the people Savile preyed on. It was really important that everyone felt at ease and comfortable. Even though scenes of the abuse are implied rather than shown we worked with an Intimacy Co-ordinator, Jenefer Odell. Jenefer was really helpful and made me feel at ease because not only can there be anxiety for the women who are playing these roles, it's not very nice for me either. It's hard to be light-hearted on set when you're making something so serious, but I always made a point of meeting the actors who were playing Savile's victims before I started the costume and make-up process to transform into him. Just to say essentially "Hello I'm Steve", and have a normal conversation with them, and make it clear that we're actors doing a job, albeit one with huge responsibility. To represent scenes of assault and the abuse of power in these situations is a potentially traumatic thing to do, so you have to be careful and you have to have everyone feel relaxed enough for it to be credible. Then once you've been transformed and you're acting you feel like you're in a safe space with someone, they don't feel like they can't be vulnerable, and you can all do justice to what we're depicting.

"I didn't want to be just doing an impersonation. That's the main thing. An inherent problem of impersonating someone accurately is that it can strangely make people laugh - and of course you don't want to do that here, because it would trivialise this. There's always that danger if you're trying to be accurate. To avoid that, I committed to playing the person underneath. The front Savile adopted was incredibly theatrical – he often put on ‘an antic disposition’ - which lends itself unhelpfully to comedy. I had to be really mindful of that and think about it in different ways to inhabit it credibly and not undermine the fact of what a terrible person he was."

Steve Coogan is well known for his comedy roles including comedy travelogue The Trip and fictional TV presenter Alan Partridge, most recently seen in This Is Alan Partridge. He's also starred in some hard-hitting drama series and movies, such as Stephen on ITV and Philomena (2013), alongside Dame Judi Dench.

Steve Coogan as horrible sex predator Jimmy Savile.

Steve Coogan as horrible sex predator Jimmy Savile. (Image credit: BBC)

The Reckoning star Steve Coogan (centre) as DCI Clive Driscoll in ITV's Stephen.

The Reckoning star Steve Coogan (centre) as DCI Clive Driscoll in ITV's Stephen. (Image credit: ITV)

Who else is starring in The Reckoning

The Reckoning also stars Gemma Jones (Marvellous, Gentleman Jack), as Savile's mother Agnes, who died in 1972, and Robert Emms is the late DJ Ray Teret who was convicted of rape.

Siobhan Finneran (Happy Valley, Time) and Mark Lewis Jones (OutlanderChernobyl) play Beryl and Charles Hullighan who were workers at Leeds Royal Infirmary. 

Cameron Ashplant plays Luke Blakefield, Seeta Indrani is Sunita, Sandra James-Young is playing Irene, while Alex Frost as Constable. 

Mark Stanley (Happy Valley, White House Farm) also stars and we will add information to the cast as we learn more. 

Four Savile survivors are also bravely interviewed on camera about their experiences. ‘In his interview Kevin, who was assaulted as a young boy, said, ‘Savile groomed a nation.’ He summed up so much in one line,’ says Jeff Pope. ‘The ‘lovely’ man off the telly is the last person many thought was a danger to their children. We can't ever allow anything like this to happen again.’

Gemma Jones playing Savile's mother Agnes.

Gemma Jones playing Savile's mother Agnes. (Image credit: BBC)

Siobhan Finneran and Mark Lewis Jones as Beryl and Charles Hullighan.

Siobhan Finneran and Mark Lewis Jones as Beryl and Charles Hullighan.  (Image credit: BBC)

Behind the scenes on The Reckoning, locations and filming news

Filming of The Reckoning began from early October 2021 on location in and around Greater Manchester, starting in Bolton. There, scenes take place in Le Mans Crescent, alongside the former Bolton Magistrates Court building behind the town hall. The paved area has become well known for being a filming location in other hit TV dramas such as Peaky Blinders and It's A Sin

In November 2021, Steve Coogan was filming with a blond wig and maroon tracksuit on the beach at Rhos-on-Sea in North Wales. Film trucks and catering trailers had parked up at Llandudno's West Shore Beach café which was the unit base for location filming of The Reckoning.

The Reckoning real story — who was Jimmy Savile?

Jimmy Savile rose to fame in the 1960s and in the 1970s was a popular radio DJ and TV presenter, who regularly hosted Top of the Pops and had his own long-running children’s teatime show Jim’ll Fix It, where he arranged for children’s wishes to come true. He was also known for his fundraising and support for charities and hospitals. He'd also been a professional wrestler but hardly won any of his bouts.

Why is Jimmy Savile so reviled?

The Reckoning will be a controversial watch, no matter what, as Jimmy Savile is so reviled. He's now considered to be one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders after hundreds of sexual abuse allegations were made against him after his death. It’s thought he used his fame and his involvement with the BBC, hospitals and charities to legitimize himself and his evil deeds. He was never prosecuted or jailed as he died in 2011 — before most of the allegations came out in late 2012.

In BBC1's The Reckoning, evil Jimmy Savile will be played by Steve Coogan.

In BBC1's 'The Reckoning', sexual predator Jimmy Savile (above) will be played by Steve Coogan. (Image credit: rinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo)

The BBC's justification for telling Jimmy Savile's story in The Reckoning

The Reckoning team is working closely with many people whose lives were impacted by Savile and the drama series will also draw on extensive and wide-ranging research sources. "We don’t intend to sensationalize these crimes but to give voice to his victims," says controller of BBC Drama Piers Wenger."We’ll work with survivors to ensure their stories are told with sensitivity and respect."

At a later event showcasing BBC dramas, Piers Wenger said: "Our primary intention is to give a voice to the victims and tell stories with the utmost respect. Documentaries [on Savile] take you so far in showing the heinous and appalling nature of his crimes but I’ve yet to see one that shows how he was able to render his victims so powerless or hide in plain sight. I feel very confident this is a story that needs to be told and there is a public interest in it."

What other TV dramas is The Reckoning writer Jeff Pope famous for?

The Reckoning writer Jeff Pope produced the BAFTA-winning series Appropriate Adult, which starred Dominic West as Fred West, as well as The Moorside, the series that told the story of the community impacted by the disappearance of Shannon Matthews. He also wrote ITV dramas such as Cilla, Little Boy Blue and A Confession.

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.