BBC reveals new commissions at the Edinburgh Festival

BBC channel controllers have announced a number of new programmes at the Edinburgh International TV festival.

Below, Ariel outlines the shows. All programme names are workings titles.



Judi Dench Dame Judi Dench will star in a new BBC drama
  • Roald Dahl's Esio Trot - Dame Judi Dench and Dustin Hoffman will star in a one-off film based on Roald Dahl's children's book, adapted by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer. Made by Endor Productions, produced by Hilary Bevan Jones and directed by Dearbhla Walsh
  • Ordinary Lies - Six-part drama focusing on people in a car showroom, written by Danny Brocklehurst and executive produced by Nicola Shindler (Red Productions)


  • Talk to the Animals - Zoologist Lucy Cooke explores animal communication in a two-part series, produced by Boundless



Idris Elba Idris Elba will find out about the history of car racing
  • Idris Elba - King of Speed - 2x60 where Luther actor Idris Elba charts the origins of the car racing scene
  • Napoleon - Historian Andrew Roberts presents a three-part series on the emperor of France, who once conquered Egypt and much of Europe
  • Ian Hislop's Olden Days - The Power of the Past in Britain - The journalist explores Brits' obsession with the past in a three-part documentary
  • Countdown to the Rains - Kate Humble and Simon King discover about wildlife on the Luangwa River in Zambia, with footage from 100 cameras
  • Cats - Three-part series will reveal and visualize the world of cats, with help from the Royal Veterinary College, following the success of the Horizon special Secret Life Of Cats
  • Grow, Make, Eat: The Great Allotment Challenge - Fern Britton presents a contest involving nine pairs of gardeners cultivating allotments in a walled garden in Oxfordshire


  • BBC Two celebrates 50 years of comedy on the channel with a two-hour archive special, alongside contributions from comedy legends


  • 37 Days - Ian McDiarmid, Sinead Cusack, and Kenneth Cranham star in a drama about the weeks before the outbreak of World War I, from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to the declaration of war between Britain and Germany. Written by Mark Hayhurst and produced by Hardy Pictures

BBC Two/BBC Four collaborations

Eighteenth Century season

  • Messiah at The Foundling Hospital (BBC Two) - Amanda Vickery presents a one-hour drama documentary re-creating the Foundling Hospital premiere of Handel's Messiah in 1750 and shows how it helped save the lives of 25,000 people
  • Eighteenth Century Music (BBC Four) - Radio 3 presenter Suzy Klein explores how the cultural and political context of Britain was reflected in the music of the 1700s, including the creation of the anthems God Save The King and Rule Britannia
Janice Hadlow BBC Two controller Janice Hadlow said she relished taking charge of BBC Four
  • Hanoverians: The First Georges (BBC Four) - 2014 marks the 300th anniversary of the Hanoverian succession to the British throne. The BBC and Royal Collection Trust will collaborate for a three-part series from Dr Lucy Worsley and an exhibition at The Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace. Radio 3 will also provide programming

Cloud Lab

  • Cloud Lab (BBC Two) - An ambitious experiment where British scientists will fly across the US in the world's largest airship - the Skyship 600 - in a month-long expedition, exploring ecosystems, weather and the creation of clouds
  • An Ocean of Air (BBC Four) - Chemist Gabrielle Walker finds out about three people who could be credited with the title of "true discoverer of oxygen"

BBC Three

Greg James Greg James will co-host a celebrity chat show


  • Siblings - 6x30 comedy about the world's worst brother and sister. Written by Keith Akushie, produced by Phil Gilbert and executive produced by Simon Wilson (Bwark Productions)
  • Seann Walsh's Late Night Comedy Spectacular - Seann Walsh presents a one-off special from the Edinburgh Fringe, including Tom Rosenthal and Aisling Bea. Directed by Richard Valentine, produced by Alex Moody and executive produced by Saurabh Kakkar (BBC)
  • Staying In with Greg & Russell - Greg James and Russell Kane host an eight-part chat show in front of a studio audience. Executive produced by Dan Baldwin and Neil McCallum (Talkback)
  • Jack Whitehall's Backchat - Another chat show but this time Jack Whitehall will host with his dad, and former theatrical agent, Michael. Series produced by Suzi Aplin, executive produced by Ben Cavey and Andy Brereton (Tiger Aspect)

Bad Education, Cuckoo, Some Girls, Badults and Bluestone 42 will also return.

Factual Entertainment

  • Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents: Thailand - Six-part spin-off from the primetime show
  • Snow, Sex and Suspicious Parents - The series has also made a three-part wintry special where parents spy on their children on their skiing holidays. Both series are executive produced by Jo Scarratt (RDF Television) and Elliot Reed (BBC)


  • Old Before My Time - Cherry Healey presents a three-part series exploring the health implications of bingeing on alcohol, food and drugs. Executive produced by Claire Faragher (Silver River) and Sam Bickley (BBC)
  • Sex, Money, Beauty: The Secrets of South America - Billie J D Porter visits Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela for three films exploring society and culture on the continent. Executive produced by Lucy Hetherington and Gian Quaglieni (BBC)
  • Prostitution: What's the Harm? - Porter will also present a one-off documentary about young people's attitudes and experiences concerning prostitution in the UK. Executive produced by Sam Collyns (BBC)

Justice Season

  • Life and Death Row - Three-part series about capital punishment in the US, focusing on crime, trial and execution. Produced and directed by Ben Anthony and Graeme McAulay, and executive produced by Colin Barr and Clare Sillery (BBC)
  • Stacey Dooley on Teen Domestic Violence - One-off documentary about domestic abuse among young Britons. Made by Mentorn Productions
  • Dead Behind Bars - Single documentary about young offenders who have taken their own lives while in custody. Made by Lambent Productions
  • My Man - One-off factual drama about the murder of a 21-year-old woman by her boyfriend. produced by Pier Wilkie, directed by Bruce Goodison and executive produced by Darren Kemp (BBC)

BBC Four

Helen Castor Helen Castor also presented BBC Four's She-Wolves


  • The Lost World of Rapa Nui - Dr Jago Cooper presents a new history of the most isolated habitable piece of land in the world, also known as Easter Island
  • The Private Lives of Medieval Britain - Historian Helen Castor explores how people in the Middle Ages dealt with births, marriages and death
  • Art of Australia - Former art curator Edmund Capon presents a three-part series on the history of Australian art
  • Art of China - Andrew Graham-Dixon hosts a three-part documentary on Chinese art from 1,700 BC to the present day


  • Rock Ratatouille - Three-part spoof music documentary fronted by experimental rock musician Brian Pern, played and co-written by Fast Show star Simon Day. Also written by Rhys Thomas from Radio 4 comedy Down the Line


  • Amber - Four-part Irish drama following the disappearance of a 14-year-old girl, starring Eva Birthistle

More on This Story

Edinburgh television festival


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