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Sunday 21 Sep 2014

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Janice Hadlow announces ambitious new dramas for BBC Two

Two distinctive, intelligent and ambitious dramas reflecting the new strategy and investment for drama on BBC Two were announced by Janice Hadlow, Controller BBC Two, at the Broadcasting Press Guild lunch today (Tuesday 27 April).

A four-part adaptation of Michel Faber's international best selling novel, The Crimson Petal & The White, and the story of Morecambe and Wise and their relationship with Eric's mother, starring Victoria Wood, represent some of the best new dramas lined up for the channel over the next year.

In September 2009, Director of Vision, Jana Bennett, committed to extra investment for drama on the channel over the next three years and to making BBC Two the home of BBC Films – the film-making arm of the BBC.

This was to help Janice Hadlow and Ben Stephenson, Controller Drama Commissioning, re-establish BBC Two's reputation as the home of intelligent and ambitious drama. The BBC Strategic Review has also proposed extra funding for drama on BBC Two from 2012 to help ensure a more consistent presence on the channel.

Announcing today's new commissions, Janice Hadlow said:

"Strongly authored dramas, whether adaptation or original writing, are absolutely key to the creation of BBC Two's confident new voice and these two dramas are excellent examples of the new direction we are moving in.

"Crimson Petal & The White is an exciting combination of a 19th-century novel, written in the 21st century and adapted for screen by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon. It's a riveting tale of life in the world of Victorian prostitution – packed with detail and texture in a way that has never been attempted before.

"A drama about Morecambe and Wise's formative years, written by the brilliant Peter Bowker, and, of course, the recently announced Christopher And His Kind, with Matt Smith playing writer Christopher Isherwood, are the kind of impactful, ambitious and intelligent dramas I want at the heart of BBC Two.

"I can also announce that BBC Films will make BBC Two its permanent home from July with a special launch weekend, showcasing three of their films: The Damned United, Eastern Promises and Is Anybody There? I'm delighted that BBC Films will have a more permanent presence on the channel, so that audiences know where they can see these wonderful films for free after their theatrical release."

The Crimson Petal & The White

This four-part adaptation of Michel Faber's international best-selling novel is a major new bold and original serial drama for BBC Two from Origin Pictures.

Adapted by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon, directed by Marc Munden (The Devil's Whore, The Mark Of Cain), and executive produced for Origin Pictures by David Thompson, this is an evocative, sexually charged tale that takes us into a hidden world. In the words of the heroine Sugar: "If you dare enter this world, you had better tread carefully."

A tale of love, lust, desire and revenge, it reveals the true underbelly of Victorian underground life, in a way never seen before on screen.

This provocative and riveting emotional tale focuses on a young prostitute and a prominent businessman, who embark on a dangerous relationship with epic consequences. The drama will transport viewers into a world seething with vitality, sexuality, ambition and emotion.

An intimate psychological thriller which will lift the lid on the dark side of Victorian London.

Morecambe and Wise drama (title tbc)

From children's variety stars to national treasures, this drama is about the making of one of the best comedy double acts of our time – Morecambe and Wise.

Starring Victoria Wood as Morecambe's mother, it is written by Peter Bowker (Desperate Romantics, Occupation) and made by production company Blue Door Adventures and BBC Wales Drama Production.

A chance meeting between precocious child star Ernie Wiseman (Wise) and reluctant performer Eric Bartholomew (Morecambe) on the children's variety circuit saw the start of an unlikely friendship. Encouraged by his well-meaning but pushy mother Sadie ( played by Victoria Wood), because "You aren't good at anything else", Eric Morecambe became the funny man to Ernie Wise's "feed".

After a successful stint in children's variety, Eric and Ernie struggled to make their way in the world of mainstream entertainment. But a few dubious tours and an ill-advised television series, Running Wild, later, Morecambe and Wise learnt to trust their own instincts and just make people laugh – and laugh they did.

Christopher And His Kind
(Note: this was recently announced, but information as follows)

This 90-minute film chronicles the formative years of one of the 20th century's most celebrated writers, Christopher Isherwood, based on his 1976 memoir of the same name.

Isherwood is played by Matt Smith (Doctor Who), who escapes repressive English society and his suffocating relationship with his mother (Lindsay Duncan) for the decadent – and politically unstable – world of Thirties Berlin.

The drama is written by acclaimed playwright Kevin Elyot (My Night With Reg), directed by Geoffrey Sax (Tipping The Velvet) and produced by Celia Duval (Margot) for Mammoth Screen, with Michele Buck, Kevin Elyot and Damien Timmer as executive producers. With Eleanor Moran, BBC executive producer, through Piers Wenger, Head of Drama, BBC Wales.

The drama is being made with the assistance of Northern Ireland Screen.

BBC Films launch weekend

The Damned United tells the story of Brian Clough's legendary 44-day reign as manager of Leeds United, starring Michael Sheen as the eponymous Clough, Timothy Spall as Peter Taylor and Colm Meaney as arch-rival Don Revie; Is Anybody There?, Michael Caine's moving portrayal of retired magician Clarence, in a bitter-sweet tale of an unusual friendship; and, finally, David Cronenburg's highly acclaimed thriller Eastern Promises, a tale from the dark underworld of London's Russian mafia, starring Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts.

LD/MO/LG

Information for viewers

More content about these programmes will be published, as transmission approaches, on these pages:
www.bbc.co.uk/tv/comingup/the-crimson-petal-and-the-white and www.bbc.co.uk/tv/comingup/morecambe-and-wise-drama

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