Danny Cohen announces host of new commissions for BBC One

It’s a huge privilege to run Britain’s most-watched channel, and I’m greatly enjoying my time at BBC One. There’s always plenty to do though and my focus in the coming months is on consolidating BBC One’s position as the home of the biggest and best programmes..."Danny Cohen, Controller, BBC One
Date: 24.08.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.03
Category: BBC One
Speaking today at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Controller Danny Cohen talks about BBC One, why it matters, and the channel’s plans for the future, including a host of new commissions.

Danny Cohen says: “It’s a huge privilege to run Britain’s most-watched channel, and I’m greatly enjoying my time at BBC One. There’s always plenty to do though and my focus in the coming months is on consolidating BBC One’s position as the home of the biggest and best programmes - whilst at the same time continuing to develop the channel as a place where we take experimental risks and develop new talent.

"The new programme commissions I am announcing today across Comedy, Drama, Factual and Entertainment underline this creative strategy - with its aim to combine the biggest programmes with the kind of commitment to risk and new talent not normally associated with mainstream channels."

2012 has already been a huge year for BBC One. Extraordinary major events have seen the channel bring the nation together for its biggest moments. The Olympics and Diamond Jubilee helped draw massive audiences and put BBC One right at the heart of the action.

It’s also been a year of record breaking hits, Call The Midwife and The Voice UK are the biggest new drama and entertainment series (respectively) on BBC One in over a decade (since records began in 2001), both with new series to look forward to in 2013.

Alongside these major hits, Danny Cohen has been working to foster a spirit of risk and experimental creativity on BBC One through projects including the week of improvised drama, True Love; the prime-time public service season on ageing When I’m 65, and next week the start of BBC One’s first Asian sitcom, Citizen Khan.

Danny Cohen adds: “The raft of exciting new programmes I’m announcing today are at the heart of what I believe BBC One stands for: combining the biggest names and the most ambitious programmes with a major new commitment to creative risk and innovation. New comedies written by Britain’s biggest names sit alongside an exciting new Drama Talent Scheme for emerging writers and directors.”

“Two masters of British comedy have created brand new sit-coms especially for BBC One, namely Ben Elton with Slings And Arrows and David Walliams with Autumn Leaves (w/t). Comedy is incredibly important to BBC One and it’s been brilliant to see such great talent being so passionate about working on the nation’s favourite channel.”

Ben Elton says: "All my happiest television memories concern BBC comedy and in particular BBC sit-coms. It's an honour and a privilege to get the chance to be a part of that tradition again and I'm as excited today as I was when the Young Ones was commissioned 30 years ago.”

David Walliams says: “I am delighted to be back at the BBC, writing and acting in a new sit-com. My co-writers, the Dawson Brothers are brilliant. I met them when they wrote sketches for 'The One Ronnie', and I have loved collaborating with them. The read-through of the first episode attracted a stellar cast, and I hope the series will too.”

BBC One is also committed to delivering an ambitious range of popular and original British drama, and announces today two new distinctive drama series. The Crimson Field and Quirke are major new dramas from exceptional writing talent that reflect the scale and quality of the channel’s output. Both are In-House BBC Drama productions.

The Crimson Field is a new series written by Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations) which tells the story of the First World War’s frontline medics, focusing on the British nurses and volunteers working in France to save the lives of injured and traumatised soldiers.

Quirke is a new series adapted by screenwriters Andrew Davies and Conor McPherson which will bring John Banville’s acclaimed novels to the screen, starring Gabriel Byrne in the title role. Quirke is the chief pathologist in the Dublin City Morgue – a charismatic loner whose job takes him into unexpected places as he uncovers the secrets of sudden death in 1950s Dublin.

Alongside these pieces, Danny Cohen also today announces a major new Drama Talent Scheme for emerging writers and directors. The aim of the scheme is to develop the next generation of star writers and directors, through a strip of original mid-week pieces that will broadcast on BBC One. Each production will be mentored by a current master of the genre, and will be ambitiously cast. This fresh approach to storytelling will bring entirely new voices to the screen in a bold and entertaining drama event.

In Entertainment, a new live Saturday night game show has been ordered, where contestants from all walks of life will battle it out to become The Brightest Briton (w/t).

Finally, Seasons is BBC One’s new Natural History commission – a definitive portrait of our country’s dynamic and spectacular nature over the course of one year. The series will reveal why Britain’s climate is unique on Earth, and why our relationship with its wildlife is so enduring and special.

Danny Cohen concludes: “We’ve got an exciting Autumn on BBC One to look forward to, with a star-studded new series of Strictly, a massive injection of Original British Drama and landmark factual series from Andrew Marr and Michael Palin. And I hope the new commissions I’ve announced today for 2013 express the range and creative ambition of BBC One. There are great opportunities here for big names, a real commitment to new talent and opportunities, and top quality programmes.”

Full details on all the new commissions can be found below -

COMEDY

Autumn Leaves (w/t), 6 x 30 mins, a BBC In-House Comedy production in association with David Walliams

A brand new sitcom for BBC One created by and starring David Walliams and written by Walliams with The Dawson Brothers. The series is set in an urban secondary school and is a comedy about a dysfunctional staff room, unrequited love and interactive white boards. Walliams plays a chemistry teacher who’s hopelessly in love with the school’s new French teacher, who in turn is being chased by a lothario gym teacher. It’s as if Grange Hill has met Remains Of The Day. Executive produced by Mark Freeland and commissioned by Cheryl Taylor, Controller, BBC Comedy Commissioning and Danny Cohen.

Slings And Arrows, 6x30 mins, written by Ben Elton, made by Phil McIntyre Television

Few Council Officers take their commitment to the health and safety of the public more seriously than Gerald B Meakin, played by David Haig. A man dedicated to the minimization of risk, even where no actual risk exists. If only Gerald were able to control his own life with the same benevolent despotism with which he regulates other peoples'. Sadly he can't. A recent divorcee and new single Dad, Gerald B Meakin's personal life is just one long struggle against the petty irritations and inconvenience which bedevil all our lives. Those 21st century slings and arrows of outrageous fortune against which Gerald's lengthy rule book is no defence at all. Lucy Ansbro and Gregor Sharp executive produce for the BBC; the series was commissioned by Cheryl Taylor, Controller, BBC Comedy Commissioning and Danny Cohen.

DRAMA

A major new drama talent strand, made by Working Title Television.

Distinctive and original drama from writers and directors entirely new to television, brought together for a unique returnable drama event that will play over five nights. Each series takes an inciting incident - a crime for example - and from this starting point, five different stories are told, in five distinctive and original voices. Each series will be guided by a master of the genre; exceptional authors who will mentor the new talent involved. This fresh approach to storytelling will bring entirely new voices to screen in a bold and entertaining drama event. Executive produced by Juliette Howell from Working Title TV and Lucy Richer at the BBC. Commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning and Danny Cohen.

Quirke, 3 x 90 mins, adapted by screenwriters Andrew Davies and Conor McPherson, a co-production between BBC Drama Production with Element Pictures and Tyrone Productions

Based on the books by Benjamin Black (pseudonym of award-winning Irish writer John Banville), Quirke is a new series starring Gabriel Byrne in the title role. Quirke is the chief pathologist in the Dublin City Morgue – a charismatic loner whose job takes him into unexpected places as he uncovers the secrets of sudden death in 1950s Dublin. It’s a rich and smouldering world along whose smoky streets and damp alleys Quirke goes from bars that glimmer with peat fires and whiskey to elegant Dublin houses brimming with sexual tension. It’s a time full of mystery, secrets and intrigue.

The three feature length episodes each take their stories from different books in the series, ‘Christine Falls’ and ‘The Silver Swan’ by Andrew Davies and ‘Elegy for April’ by Conor McPherson. Executive produced by Jessica Pope for the BBC, Joan Egan for Tyrone Productions and Ed Guiney for Element Pictures. Commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller Drama Commissioning and Danny Cohen.

The Crimson Field, 6 x 60 mins, written by Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations, Oliver Twist), made by BBC Drama Production.

Tells the story of the First World War’s frontline medics - their love affairs, professional triumphs, personal tragedies, fears and hopes as they fight for the future. In a British base hospital near the front, a team of doctors, nurses and VADs are working together to heal the bodies and souls of the men in their care. This hospital on the coast of France is a frontier between two worlds: between the trenches and the home front, between the old rules, regulations, hierarchies, class distinctions and a new way of thinking. Commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning and Danny Cohen.

ENTERTAINMENT

The Brightest Briton (w/t), 4 x 75 and 2 x 60, made by RDF Television.

New Saturday night game-show that will scour the country to find the most intelligent person in Britain. Contestants from all walks of life will battle it out to become The Brightest Briton.

With intelligence tests and show stopping games, brain power will be tested rather than general knowledge and the competitors will encounter a foreboding barrage of mental tests to prove they have what it takes to be Britain’s brightest. (four weeks of heats, a semi-final and a final)

Executive producer for RDF Television is Peter Usher and Mirella Breda for the BBC. Commissioned by Mark Linsey, BBC’s Controller of Entertainment and Danny Cohen.

NATURAL HISTORY

Seasons, 4 x 60 mins, made by the BBC Natural History Unit, co-produced by the BBC and The Open University

This is the definitive portrait of the spectacular and dynamic nature of our country over the course of one year. Revealing why Britain’s climate is unique on our planet and why our relationship with its wildlife is so enduring and special. Time-lapse photography will set the scene for a constantly changing landscape, minute-by-minute, day-by-day, month-by-month; from a waterfall freezing solid to an entire hillside of heather bursting with colour. Such techniques will also show a new and intriguing visual perspective on how the people of Britain are entwined with the natural fabric of the country and its seasonal rhythms; from rows of pumpkins growing for Halloween, to the religious mowing of 20 million garden lawns.

Throughout the series, iconic landmarks and locations will be used to symbolize different parts of the country; churches, cricket pitches, bridges and follies will also act as enduring connections between mankind and our ever-changing country. Seasonal change will be visualized in ways that haven’t been seen before – animated ‘chlorophyll maps’ will show how seasonal change sweeps across the country, enabling us to pin-point the exact place where the first green shoots start to grow in spring and where the last leaf falls in autumn. We apply some of the most visually stunning filming techniques to charismatic and iconic British animals. From super slow motion shots of an otter breaking through the surface of the water with a fish in its mouth to a birds-eye view of giant sharks feeding just off the coast of Devon.

Executive producer is Mike Gunton and series producer is James Brickell. Commissioned by Kim Shillinglaw’s, BBC Commissioning Editor, Science and Natural History and Danny Cohen.

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