When producer-director Amy Flanagan approached her about allowing a TV crew to film a documentary series in the bustling halls of King's College in London, Briony Sloper, the head of trauma and ER at the facility, at first was hesitant.
"It was a massive risk, because this kind of documentary has never been done before in an emergency room setting," Sloper says. "But (there was a) real opportunity to raise the profile of my department and the amazing work and professionalism of the staff. ... I think the other big reason was about public education, to get some very good messaging out there about what is and isn't appropriate for an emergency room, but also for people to recognize that while you might be in a waiting room with a splinter for a couple of hours, the staff is actually really busy dealing with lifesaving events. And I said yes."
The engrossing result is "24 Hours in the ER," a 14-part BBC America reality series culled from roughly 4,200 hours of footage filmed in late 2010. Focusing on both nail-bitingly dramatic situations as well as an array of colorful characters, the series opens with two back-to-back episodes premiering Tuesday, Sept. 27, that include the gripping case of a 33-year-old Greek student who was dragged under a bus while crossing a busy South London intersection and a 78-year-old husband and father who took an accidental dive headfirst off a ladder while painting his daughter's house.
"We actually looked at a lot of American medical dramas when we were conceiving the show," Flanagan explains, "a lot of 'ER' and 'Grey's Anatomy,' and we wanted to make it very characterful, so we cast not just nurses and doctors but also porters and, of course, patients.
"So you might have an interview with two little old ladies who had a very minor injury, but they are just fantastic characters talking about something completely unrelated to what they're in for."