Channel 5 has announced a slate of upcoming programming across genres for 2020 including new documentaries with access, a slate of history shows, new natural history and heartland factual series. 

Channel 5’s factual commissioner Guy Davies will be speaking at The Televisual Factual Festival next week.

Inside Extinction Rebellion (WT) (1 x 60’) from Keo Films commissioned by Guy Davies has access to Extinction Rebellion – the public, yet underground mass environmental nationwide movement which uses creativity and people power to raise awareness of environmental issues. The film will follow XR over one month as they attempt to stage the largest climate change protests yet. This programme will follow characters around the country. This documentary seeks to put viewers in the thick of this people’s campaign. Executive producer is Will Anderson for Keo Films.


Michael Portillo returns to Channel 5 in Empire with Michael Portillo (4 x 60’) from Transparent Television commissioned by Guy Davies.   A century ago Britain dominated a quarter of the planet, ruling over a staggering 400 million people, with an empire that stretched across five continents – the largest the world has ever seen. In this new four-part series, Michael Portillo travels across the corners of the empire to tell the story of Empire largely through the legacy of the often hidden, extraordinary buildings that reveal their own unique part of this history. Empire with Michael Portillo is executive produced by Jazz Gowans and Ruairi Fallon for Transparent Television.


Trident 1 x 60’ from Artlab Films commissioned by Lucy Willis. After a year negotiating, Channel 5 has gained access to one of Britain’s top secret Trident nuclear submarines as it prepares to go on patrol as the British deterrent. Presenter Rob Bell and the team spent nearly a week living underwater, sleeping next to British nuclear missiles and exploring the alien underwater environment. We’ll reveal some incredible secrets and fascinating tales of what it’s like to live and work with the deadliest weapon mankind has ever created. Executive producer is Mark Tattersall.


New history programming includes Anne Boleyn: Queen for 1,000 Days (3 x 60’) made by Lion Television and commissioned by Lucy Willis. This series charts the arrest, trial and execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536 and how it played out in the Tudor age. Examining the final days of Anne Boleyn, the series steers audiences through the events of the key days, hour by hour, examining the evidence to reveal what actually happened. Exec Produced by Bill Locke for Lion Television.


Monarchy 10 x 90’ from Voltage TV Productions Ltd & Motion Content Group, commissioned by Lucy Willis. This landmark ten part of 90 minute films will look at some of the greatest monarchs in British history. Each episode will be fronted by a different presenter who has a proven connection to, or interest in, the monarch in question. The well-known advocate will visit key locations relevant to the monarch and evaluate their importance and place in British history by looking at important moments in their reigns. They will meet historians and specialists who will reveal key information, contextualise events as well as key documents and objects. Amanda Lyon is executive producer. 


Also commissioned by Lucy Willis is The Ganges with Anita Rani (4 x 60’) from Rare Television. In this expansive series, Anita Rani travels the land of her grandparents to explore its history as seen from the banks of this regal waterway. Rani reveals how the Ganges has been instrumental in the rise and fall of history’s greatest empires. A history programme combined with travelogue Anita, who is fluent in Punjabi, undertakes her epic voyage along the river’s course, revelling in the country’s extraordinary diversity, meeting historians and archaeologists along the way as well as cast of characters whose lives are uniquely interconnected with the river. Executive producers are Rory Wheeler and Owen Rodd for Rare Television.


Natural History is tackled by Channel 5 in The Atlantic (4 x 60’) co-produced by Tigress and Motion Content Group, and commissioned by Lucy Willis. This series explores the breath-taking story of Europe’s Atlantic, from the deep water, to the shallow coast and the land that run along its fringes.  Its vastness and brutality help shape climate, carve the land and influence wildlife.  Whether the Atlantic brings stormy seas or nutrient rich waters, its presence is felt as it dominates everything from the massive whales that feed on the tiny nutrients to the fish that feed seals, otters and eagles. Filmed over four seasons, this captivating series documents its savagery and majesty. Executive producers are Duncan Chard and Emily Dalton for Tigress and Melanie Darlaston for Motion Content Group.


Another dive into the natural world is a 4 x 60’ documentary series from ITN Productions, A Year in the Forest, commissioned by Guy Davies. The series takes audiences inside England’s most vast and varied forest, Kielder Forest, Northumberland as it changes throughout the seasons painting a portrait of its landscape, nature and spectacular wildlife. This enchanted forest is like no other, pockets of woodland shelter some of the rarest creatures in Britain, including half of Britain’s red squirrels, roe deer, pipistrelle bats, otters and ospreys. The people who live here are fascinating too, with unique rural lifestyles and roles to play. The series uses innovative filming techniques to capture the magnificence of the forest. Macro and time-lapse natural history techniques unveil the beauty right down to the forest floor. Executive producers are Will Smith and Andy Dunn for ITN Productions.


Elephant Hospital (2 x 60’) from Maverick television and Motion Content group and commissioned by Daniel Pearl takes a trip to Thailand’s largest hospital devoted solely to treating elephants, with 4,000 captive in Thailand, this unique hospital is like the NHS for elephants. Throughout the series audiences see the day to day workings of a hospital treating supersized patients. From deadly viruses to treating cuts and parasites. The facility also teaches baby elephants new commands and even turns elephant poo into fertiliser. Executive producer is Simon Knight for Maverick Television and is Executive Produced by Melanie Darlaston for Motion Content Group.


Celebrating those seeking a new life and new adventures, My New Greek Life is a 4 x 60’ from RDF and Krempelwood and commissioned by Denise Seneviratne. This aspirational, observational documentary series follows Brits from all walks of life as they chase their dreams, pack up for good and move to Greece as they embark on their dream life. Whether it be love, a change of career, or a chance to leave the UK rat race, everyone has a story to tell. My New Greek Life is Executive Produced by Jo Scarratt-Jones at RDF West, a Banijay Group Company.


For Channel 5 heartland, Rich Holiday Poor Holiday (4 x 60’) has been commissioned from Emporium Productions, co-produced with Hat Trick by Guy Davies. Following the success of Rich House Poor House, this series is about to treat British families to a whole new adventure as we take them on holiday. In this new series we give two families, one from the top 10% of the income spectrum and the other from the bottom 10%, the chance to swap the holiday they would normally take for one they would never consider. It might be beyond their means or completely outside their comfort zone but is how the other half holiday really all we believe it is and could we all rethink what makes a family holiday special? Are expensive holidays really the answer to bringing a family together? Do you need to spend a fortune to have a great time with those you love the most? Executive producers are David Emerson and Emma Read for Emporium Productions. 


Returning to Channel 5, Alex Polizzi puts herself under scrutiny in Alex Polizzi’s Hotel (2 x 60) Twofour, commissioned by Lucy Willis. Alex Polizzi has spent the last ten years travelling the country to critique, tackle and fix some of Britain’s worst hotels.  Her straight-talking approach, critical eye and passion for business have helped many failing hoteliers turn their fortunes around. But what would happen if the hotel in question was her own?  What would Alex do with her own money, her own ideas and her own pressure to turn a hotel in to a successful brand? For the first time in ten years, Alex is about to embark on a brand new hotel venture of her own and has allowed cameras in to follow every step in this new observational documentary series. Working alongside her mother Olga Polizzi, Alex has bought The Star: a historic, Grade II-listed building located deep in the Sussex Downs. Their plan: to gut and remodel this stunning building, turning 37 bedrooms into just 28 in a bid to give guests more space, more luxury. Executive producer is Dan Adamson, managing director at Twofour.


The shows announced today are a part of wide-ranging slate of new programmes for 2020.  A raft of dramas have previously been announced including All Creatures Great and Small, The Deceived, Penance, Susan Hill’s Ghost Hand, Blood 2 and Agatha & the Curse of Ishtar. Confirmed history programmes include A Thousand Years of Slavery, Tony Robinson’s History of Britain, Bettany Hughes: In the Footsteps of Odysseus, Tutankhamun with Dan Snow and several other shows in the genre.  Documentaries set to air next year including new 90’ pieces Miscarriage and Bereavement (w/t), police documentaries Inside the Nick and Police: Sixty Minutes 360, returning series Warship: Life at Sea and Critical Condition, and new lifestyle series Long Weekenders with Greg Wallace and Holidaying with Jane McDonald.

Staff Reporter

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