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24 September 2014
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BBC TWO's autumn examines the world we live in

This autumn, BBC TWO takes a tough, and sometimes brutally real look, at the modern world we are living in, with a £97 million season of programmes.

The Big Read is part of the BBC TWO autumn season

Says Jane Root, Controller of BBC TWO: "This season we'll be taking an insightful, intelligent and entertaining look at the world around us, from the stark reality of the role that guns and gang culture play in today's world in the Guns & Gangs season to Michael Portillo taking on the role of a single parent on a Merseyside estate in My Week In The Real World.

"This is life as it is now and we'll also be looking at the influences that have helped shape it, from the blood, sweat and human imagination of the Industrial Revolution in Seven Wonders Of The Industrial World to the driving forces behind some of our great artistic talents in Byron and Eroica."

BBC TWO also reveals that Clive Anderson will be presenting The Big Read, its campaign to find Britain's best-loved novel and to really get the nation enthused about reading.

Since the Top 100 list of Britain's best-loved books was announced in May, there has been a fantastic response from the public.

Book sales dramatically increased with Love In The Time Of Cholera, for example, selling ten times as many copies in May than the previous month.

All 4,200 libraries across the UK have signed up to The Big Read, and over 30,000 advice packs on how to set up a reading group and 12,000 teaching packs have been downloaded from The Big Read website, which has peaked at one million hits per week.

The Big Read enters its final chapter with a launch programme revealing the Top 21 best-loved books in alphabetical order, seven 90-minute documentaries each featuring three celebrity advocates championing their favourite books and a grand final programme in which Clive Anderson reveals the nation's best-loved book of all time.

The modern world

This autumn BBC TWO tries to better understand and reflect the world around us with some insightful documentaries about the harsh realities of the modern world.

The Guns & Gangs Season (working title) looks at the rise of gun violence in the UK today, its origins and the gang culture that surrounds it.

The world is awash with guns - 630 million in all - and they kill half a million people every year.

Programmes include Gun Traffic*, from the Correspondent team, in which David Akinsanya tracks the source of illicit guns and finds out how they get into illegal hands, starting with his own community in Britain which has seen an alarming rise in gun crime.

There's also Guns And Rap, which asks if there really is a link between guns and hip hop music, and Sons And Guns which follows two courageous women venturing into the dangerous world of street crime and gangs in Boston in order to better understand the rise of gang-related shootings in their home town of Manchester.

My Week In The Real World observes politicians living the life of an ordinary voter.

Michael Portillo - Being a Single MotherIn Michael Portillo - Being A Single Mother the MP takes seven days out from his Belgravia home to find out what life as a single parent is really like.

Left on his own with four children in a Merseyside terrace house, Michael is thrown into the frontline of parenting - cleaning, washing, ironing, supervising homework and imposing bedtime - while holding down two part-time jobs and on a budget of less than £80 for the week.


Other politicians to be featured in the series are Clare Short, Alan Duncan and Peter Kilfoyle.

Ethiopia: Eating Stones (working title), from the Correspondent team, ventures into our recent history and brings us bang up to date with the stark reality of life in modern Ethiopia.

Twenty years ago Michael's Buerk's shocking coverage of the famine in Ethiopia stirred Bob Geldof into organising Band Aid, which raised $130 million from the public and more than $1 billion from governments.

Today, Michael returns to Ethiopia to examine whether its people are better off now than they were two decades ago, but discovers an equally poignant picture.

There's a new theme on BBC TWO this autumn, which attempts to reflect the aspirations and dreams of our audience today - money, how to make it and keep it.

The Millionaire Mind (working title) provides an insight into what it takes to make a lot of money by getting under the skin of some self-made millionaires.

The millionaires are put through a series of tests created by some of the UK's top psychological profilers and the results reveal the remarkable characteristics that have helped them to be so successful.

In The Million Pound Property Experiment designer duo Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan embark on the biggest property experiment in television history, buying, renovating and selling seven properties - ranging in value from £100,000 to £1 million - to see if it is still possible to make money from property.

Taking a step into the past

Looking back at the past, Seven Wonders Of The Industrial World tells the story of how our modern world was forged, in rivets, grease and steam, in blood, sweat and human imagination.

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World

Using dramatic reconstruction, it brings to life the most brilliant pioneers of the industrial age and their remarkable stories, including Isambard Kingdom Brunel's extraordinary SS Great Eastern, which joined the two ends of the Empire, to Vicomte Ferdinand de Lesseps' Panama Canal that linked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans half a century later.

A complementary series, What the Industrial Revolution Did For Us, presented by architectural historian Dan Cruickshank, uncovers the scientific, technological and political changes of the 19th century that have transformed the lives of every man and woman in Britain.

Time Commanders is an innovative new approach to history - it attempts to overturn the past with the use of the latest technology.

In this exciting game of military strategy presented by Eddie Mair, wannabe warriors enter a virtual world and take on the greatest generals in history - from Julius Caesar to Napoleon.

In a specially designed studio, a team is faced with a map of the battlefield and the formidable enemy, through the use of amazingly realistic computer generated imagery.

Their task is to create a strategy that will change the course of history and their decisions are played out before them, while historians offer an insight into the military technology of the times, the tactics and political context.

BBC TWO also takes a new approach to performance arts this autumn when it recreates the drama of a private rehearsal of Ludwig Van Beethoven's Eroica in the palace of the composer's patron in Vienna.

Eroica culminates in a complete performance of the Symphony by the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique, conducted by John Elliot Gardiner, and is the first in modern times to replicate exactly the number of players and the venue experienced by the invited audience on that historic day in June 1804.

Through the use of drama, BBC TWO also gets under the skin of another great artist who has made his mark on our history - Byron.

Starring Jonny Lee Miller, this drama gives a unique insight into the charismatic, wildly rebellious but gifted poet, while exploring contemporary themes like the cult of celebrity and media manipulation.

Great entertainment

The autumn season wouldn't be complete without some great new entertainment shows on BBC TWO.

There's a double dose of Stephen Fry in two new shows.

He hosts a brand-new quiz show, called QI and short for "Quite Interesting".

In it, four contestants are asked incredibly difficult questions and points are awarded for the most interesting answers regardless of whether they are correct or not.

Stephen Fry in Absolute Power


Plus, Stephen Fry and John Bird star as Machiavellian spin-doctors, desperate to make the move from political communications into celebrity PR, in Absolute Power.



The Sack Race, an observational comedy, takes the sting out of getting the boot from a job by asking two "start-up" comics to attempt to do it on purpose - on their first day at work.

It involves careful strategy as the one who gets sacked the nearest to 3.00pm, be it before or after, wins.

And finally, we all know them - the Grumpy Old Men who do nothing but moan about food, fashion, football and anything that bothers them.

In an amusing new documentary series, the most witty - and middle-aged - social commentators of our time investigate aspects of people's lives that make them who they are.

Other highlights

Other highlights of the BBC TWO autumn season include:

• Theatre Royal, an observation documentary about one of Britain's many local theatres

• Arena on The Hedy Lamarr Story and Dylan Thomas

• For Valour - The Story Of The Victoria Cross (working title), explored by Jeremy Clarkson

• A Louis Theroux Special (working title) on the opening of one of America's biggest legal brothels

• Making Men Out Of Boys, which follows a radical new course which tries to help young black boys build their self-esteem

• With Friends Like These, a major series about Britain's relationship with France, Germany and the United States, presented by Michael Cockerell

• Wild Down Under, which features some of Australia's most amazing wildlife

• Pepys, a drama starring Steve Coogan as the charismatic creator of the King's Navy

• The Key, starring Dawn Steele and Ronni Ancona in an extraordinary family tale set against the epic struggle of the Scottish labour movement

• And Little Britain, the highly successful Radio 4 sketch show, shown on BBC THREE and now making its premiere on BBC TWO.

Notes to Editors

Gun Traffic is the correct title for the programme listed as Correspondent - Gun Law in the press pack.

Pictures available - for media use only - via the BBC Digital Picture Service's Specials Folder.

The BBC TWO autumn press pack is available below in PDF format, by genres or as a complete pack.

You may require Adobe Acrobat Software to read PDF files which can be obtained here.

Tip for users: when in the PDF files use the "Zoom In" tool to magnify the text.

BBC TWO autumn pack (1.41 MB)

Factual (589 KB)

Drama (212 KB)

Entertainment (198 KB)

BBC ONE puts history centre stage this autumn (29.07.03)

All the BBC's digital services are now available on Freeview, the new free-to-view digital terrestrial television service, as well as on satellite and cable.

Freeview offers the BBC's eight television channels, interactive services from BBCi, as well as 11 BBC radio networks.



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