Speaking to the Broadcasting Press Guild yesterday, BBC Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore revealed a range of new content, while calling for more escapist drama, against a backdrop of continuing budget cuts at the BBC.
“We get a lot of thrillers,” says Moore, about BBC Director of Drama Lindsay Salt’s in-tray. “We don’t get enough stories coming from a different angle….Something a bit more escapist would be good.”
Referring to “a change of tone,” Moore pointed to recently released romantic comedy feature film Rye Lane, filmed in South London and made by DJ Films and Turnover Films, in partnership with the BFI and BBC Film, which is headed up by Eva Yates.
With Steven Knight’s new adaptation of Great Expectations taking a dark approach to the Dickens’ masterpiece, Moore revealed that the BBC’s drama pipeline includes TV’s first ever adaptation of William Golding’s survival-of-the-fittest novel Lord of the Flies, with screenplay by Jack Thorne. She also announced a further adaptation of Liz Jensen novel, The Rapture, which blends wit with danger and surfaces issues around climate change. While Two Cities TV has been recommissioned for Belfast drama Blue Lights.
Talking about BBC and NBCU hit format Traitors, produced by Studio Lambert and based on a Dutch format, Moore said it was “putting a spring in everyone’s step.” Formats seem flavour of the moment, with the reboot of both Gladiators and Survivor coming soon on the BBC and Traitors being followed by another BBC/ NBCU co-commission, with Belgian format Destination X.
In line with the recently published BBC annual plan, which showed an annual reduction of 1,000 hours in content commissions, Moore warned, “no area is immune from cuts.” But she under-scored that the BBC is still the number one broadcaster in the UK in terms of market share and has the power to unite the country, citing next month’s Eurovision and Coronation coverage.
Alongside the announcement of new drama yesterday, the BBC also unveiled a 72 Films box-set on Shakespeare, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the First Folio, and the next Brian Cox vehicle – Professor Brian Cox – Solar System (w/t) – from BBC Studios Science Unit. It has also revealed two upcoming hour-long specials: Tommy Goes to Hollywood (w/t), made by BBC Studios Documentary Unit with actor Tommy Jessop, who has Downs Syndrome and his brother; Hamza’s Birds of Prey, with Strictly Come Dancing winner Hamza Yassin, is made by Silverback Films.
BBC Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore says: “The new commissions that I’m announcing today are quintessentially BBC, I believe they are shows that only we would make. We’re at our best when we follow passions, when we tell stories that haven’t been told before – and we have an immensely powerful story to tell.
“But we are facing very real and tough financial challenges. It’s important to understand the context we are operating in. The BBC is not unique in this, but we are managing the financial challenges while adapting for the future so all licence fee payers get value from us whilst adjusting to an ever increasing on demand world.
“What’s impressive is that we’ve been performing extraordinarily well at the same time. There’s more competition for screen time, more choice for audiences and more money being spent on programming than ever before. But we are still delivering at scale and succeeding. We are the number one video platform in the UK. We are the number one broadcaster with the highest market share, outperforming Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ combined. iPlayer is unparalleled in the breadth of genres it offers, we are a public service broadcaster fit for the digital age.
“This May we will do what the BBC does best, bring the nation together on a scale never seen before to celebrate The Coronation and then the world’s biggest and most iconic music event – The Eurovision Song Contest. These events weren’t in our plan for 2023, we didn’t know they would be happening. But we are incredibly proud to be bringing them to a global audience, they highlight the unique role that the BBC plays in the lives of people across the UK.”
Professor Brian Cox – Solar System (w/t)
After The Planets and Universe, Professor Brian Cox explores the amazing events unfolding in the planets and moons of the Solar System.
In this 5 x 60 series from BBC Studios Science Unit for BBC Two and iPlayer, Professor Cox will take viewers on five journeys through our solar system to reveal the incredible events that are happening out there, right now, as revealed by our very latest space missions. We’ll explore the volcano covered surface of Venus – whether any of its one million volcanoes are active has been an enduring mystery, but where we’ve recently seen at least one volcano the size of Mount Everest erupting. We’ll fly with NASA’s Juno probe past eruptions bursting hundreds of kilometres into space from Jupiter’s tiny moon Io. We’ll see ice crystals falling on Mars and red frost on the mountain tops of Pluto.
Professor Cox will help us understand these bizarre natural spectacles by visiting the places on Earth that shed light on the underlying physics and planetary geology. For example, in Alaska he travels to the frozen Denali mountains to understand via ‘comparative planetology’ how a similar vista of peaks, valleys and glaciers is able to exist right at the remote frozen edge of the solar system on Pluto. At temperatures of -240 degrees Celsius – this discovery from the New Horizons spacecraft is defying everything we once thought was possible. He will also join active missions that include NASA’s first ever attempt to bring back a pristine sample from an ancient asteroid, which could tell us much about the solar system’s origin.
Professor Brian Cox says: “We are living through a golden age of exploration. As we speak, there are spacecraft in orbit around or on the surface of five of the eight planets in our solar system, and there are a host of new missions close to launch or en-route to their targets. The latest, the European Space Agency’s “Juice” spacecraft, was launched towards Jupiter last week. As new data cascades in, we are building an ever more accurate picture of our solar system. Rovers on Mars are exploring ancient lake beds, two new missions to Jupiter’s ice moons aim to probe their oceans for life, and the New Horizons spacecraft has forced us to contemplate biology beneath the frigid nitrogen glaciers of Pluto.
“Are we alone in the Universe? Maybe the answer will be found in our cosmic backyard. The exploration of the solar system is therefore about much more than the exploration of space – out there – beyond Earth. It is allowing us to paint a picture of our place in the Universe, and that picture is getting more detailed and more accurate with every bit of data returned in real time from our fleet of explorers scattered from the Sun to the edge of interstellar space.”
Solar System (w/t), a 5×60’ series for BBC Two and iPlayer, is made by BBC Studios Science Unit. It was commissioned by Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual and the Executive Producers are Gideon Bradshaw and Andrew Cohen. The Commissioning Editor is Tom Coveney and the Series Producers are Suzy Boyles and Alice Jones. It will air next year.
Tommy Goes to Hollywood (w/t)
This 1×60 observational documentary from the BBC Studios Documentary Unit, for BBC Two and iPlayer follows actor Tommy Jessop as he sets out to create and pitch his own superhero movie in Hollywood.
Jessop was born with Down Syndrome. An actor and activist, he has always dreamed of being a leading man, and after starring in BBC One’s police drama Line of Duty, it felt as if anything was possible. However, further top roles have failed to materialise. He wants to play a hero so, inspired by the advice of his agent, he decides to take matters into his own hands.
Accompanied by his brother, filmmaker Will Jessop, this film follows Jessop as he embarks on an epic creative journey to develop his own movie starring a superhero called Roger (named after his teddy bear). Roger’s adventures are based on Jessop’s own experiences of being a person who has Down Syndrome. But the process pushes him and Will to confront different challenges, and as their film idea develops so too does their relationship and understanding of each other.
If Jessop wants to get his movie off the ground, he must enlist some high-profile co-stars, learn the skills it takes to be an action movie hero and develop a killer pitch – all before jumping on a plane to Hollywood. Will their trip to Tinseltown deliver on Tommy’s dreams?
Co-authored by Tommy and Will Jessop, this is their first film together since 2014’s Emmy-nominated Growing Up Down’s for BBC3. This is as much a personal film about two brothers, as it is an epic real life superhero flick as Jessop chases his Hollywood ending.
Tommy Jessop says: “Making this documentary really has been an amazing adventure and a once-in-a-lifetime dream come true. It truly has been wicked having a camera and being able to tell my own story for the first time. Some of my personal highlights might include going to Hollywood with my brother Will, meeting A-list actors, pitching my own movie called Roger the Superhero, and having Tom Cruise cake. I give it 10 out of 10, and I do hope you will enjoy watching it.”
Tommy Goes to Hollywood (w/t) is a BBC Studios Documentary Unit production for BBC Two. It is co-created by Tommy Jessop and Will Jessop. The Executive Producer for The BBC Studios Documentary Unit is Will Lorimer. It was commissioned for the BBC by Clare Sillery and the Commissioning Editors for the BBC are Emma Loach and Fran Baker.
Hamza’s Birds of Prey
In 2022, Hamza Yassin was crowned winner of Strictly Come Dancing. In this on-hour film for BBC One and iPlayer, from Silverback Films, he will return to his first passion – Britain’s birds of prey.
Beginning on the remote Ardnamurchan Peninsula in the Scottish Highlands and travelling the UK, Yassin will try and film his “top 10”, including his personal favourite the golden eagle, as he is joined by camera operator and presenter Simon King.
Hamza Yassin says: “All my life I have had a passion for birds of prey, so this documentary film is a dream come true for me. It’s an opportunity to share more of the joy I experienced on Wild Isles whilst I film my top ten of Britain’s birds of prey.”
Hamza’s Birds of Prey, a 1×60’ for BBC One and iPlayer, is made by Silverback Films. It was commissioned by Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual and the Executive Producer is Alastair Fothergill. The Commissioning Editor is Sreya Biswas.
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