Press Office

Tuesday 21 Jun 2011

BBC Two Summer & Autumn 2011

Diverse, stimulating and rewarding television on BBC Two

BBC Two reaches for the stars with an ambitious new season

A wide range of ambitious factual programmes, distinctive series and single dramas, and innovative new comedy offers stimulating, entertaining and rewarding television across all genres on BBC Two this summer and autumn 2011.

Highlights include:

Money and the mysteries of the business world; 10 years of war in Afghanistan; and the UK's mixed race culture – BBC Two provides fresh perspectives on contemporary society in a raft of bold and original programmes this summer and autumn.

As well as seasons on business, Afghanistan and mixed race, BBC Two highlights include:

• New drama, including The Hour, which is set behind the scenes of a topical news programme
• Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's new comedy, Life's Too Short
The Man Who Crossed Hitler, starring Ian Hart as Adolf Hitler
• Stephen Fry dissecting language in Fry's Planet Word
• And new talent, including Amanda Vickery and Lorraine Pascale, returning to the channel for fresh projects.

Says BBC Two Controller Janice Hadlow: "BBC Two has had a great start to the year, with some breakthrough hits in drama, comedy and factual. I've been delighted to see the channel win five RTS and five BAFTA Awards, right across the spectrum of programming, and I believe the channel is performing at its best with quality, distinctive and original output.

"Looking to the next six months, we have some exciting new drama and comedy, like the hotly anticipated The Hour and Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's Life's Too Short. There is a host of BBC Two talent adding their voice to the channel, like Amanda Vickery and Lorraine Pascale returning for a second time with new projects, through to some of our more established faces on the channel, like Gareth Malone, James May, Alice Roberts, Ben Macintyre and Sue Perkins. Our ambition continues in factual programming with big moments around subjects that matter, like Britain's economy and the mysteries of the business world, our involvement in Afghanistan, and our mixed race culture, as well as learning more about our history, science and the arts. BBC Two's intelligent approach to a range of subjects and the talent that provide its distinctive voice and tone are its strength and appeal. I hope these forthcoming programmes will round off a great year for BBC Two."

Modern Britain

With the global economy recovering from meltdown, BBC Two believes it has never been more important to understand money – both how it gets made and how it gets lost. This autumn the channel investigates the world of money with a series of programmes including: The Party's Over – How The West Lost The War Of Globalisation by BBC Business Editor Robert Peston, making sense of the past 30 years of the global economy and interviewing politicians, bankers and economists around the world; When Bankers Were Good by Ian Hislop, exploring attitudes to money and morality in the 19th century; Vanessa Engle's new documentary series Money, an intimate investigation into personal attitudes to money – a subject on most people's minds; Dragon Peter Jones gives viewers an access-all-areas pass into the fascinating world of high-end business in How We Made Our Millions; and BBC Two will show the Academy Award winning documentary Inside Job, which tries to find out what, and who, was responsible for the financial meltdown in 2008.

BBC Two's Mixed Race season provides a window into the varied lives of mixed-race people living in the UK and helps us understand what the increase in mixed-race people means for the way we live in Britain today. George Alagiah explores the remarkable and untold story of Britain's mixed-race community in a new three part series, Mixed Britannia, uncovering a tale of love, tragedy and triumph. An intimate and revealing drama tells the extraordinary life story of Dame Shirley Bassey and her difficult rise from poverty to international stardom. Documentary Mixed Race explores the historical and contemporary social, sexual and political attitudes to race mixing, while Twincredibles tells the surprising story of "two-tone" twins born with different skin colour and the effect this genetic phenomenon has had on the personal and professional lives of five sets of twins.


BBC Two has a distinct international feel this season as it looks at how we are affected by world events. To mark a decade of involvement in one of the world's most complex and dangerous regions, Afghanistan, BBC Two presents three unique films. John Ware presents the inside story of the past 10 years in Afghanistan, War Without End; Mark Urban tells the full story of Britain's brutal five-year war in Afghanistan, The Battle For Helmand; and Lyse Doucet explores The Unknown Country, a fascinating land of stunning natural beauty and a proud, independent people that is seldom seen on the news.

Following his journeys through Russia and Africa, Jonathan Dimbleby will be travelling to South America to report on dramatic changes in one of the world's least understood continents. On another continent, Justin Rowlatt and Anita Rani will be embarking on a motoring odyssey around India, one of the fastest growing economies on Earth which has had an explosion in car ownership. In The Arab Revolutions – How Facebook Changed The World, Mishal Husain visits the source of the so-called Arab Spring to meet the young people using cyber activism to ignite the Middle East revolutions.

There are also some powerful documentaries: 17 Days, which explores the unimaginable experience of the Chilean miners who spent 17 days cut off from the outside world before contact was established with them; and Baka – Voices From The Forest which sees film-maker Phil Agland returning to Cameroon to search for the Baka pygmy family that starred in his acclaimed documentary Baka – People Of The Rain Forest 25 years previously. Saira Khan also invites viewers to join her on an emotional and treacherous journey to adopt a baby girl from an orphanage in Karachi, Pakistan.

Ambitious Drama & Comedy

BBC Two has had a remarkable year for drama and comedy and this momentum continues into the summer and autumn with more original, strongly authored drama and innovative comedy.

The hotly anticipated The Hour launches on BBC Two later this summer, starring Romola Garai, Dominic West and Ben Whishaw. Written and created by BAFTA award-winning Abi Morgan, this thrilling six-part series takes viewers behind the scenes of the launch of a topical news programme in London 1956. In a remarkable coup for the channel, David Hare has written and directed his first film for over 20 years, Page Eight. Addresssing the special challenges of intelligence practice in the new century, the film stars Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon and Rachel Weisz. Sarah Waters' best-selling novel The Night Watch is also adapted for the channel by award-winning writer Paula Milne. Set against the turbulent backdrop of Forties London, it tells the stories of four young Londoners inextricably linked by their wartime experiences, starring Anna Maxwell, Claire Foy, Jodie Whittaker and Harry Treadaway.

Launching on the channel this autumn, Life's Too Short follows the day-to-day existence of dwarf actor Warwick Davis. Written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Life's Too Short is an observational comedy in which Warwick plays a fictional version of himself. BBC Two's award-winning comedy Rev, starring Tom Hollander as Reverend Adam Smallbone negotiating the moral maze of life within his East London parish, returns to the channel for a second series.

Ambition in Science, History & Exploration

Thought-provoking, intelligent and ambitious factual is the backbone of the channel. Landmark factual programmes this season include: Origins Of Us, presented by anatomist Alice Roberts, which will reveal how our body tells the story of human evolution; The Code, with Professor Marcus du Sautoy going in search of a mysterious code: the numbers, shapes and patterns that govern our world; Gene Secrets, in which director Adam Wishart sets out to discover if he has the same familial cancer gene that his mother inherited from her mother; and Reverse Missionary, which sees three young Christian missionaries from Malawi, India and Jamaica travel to different parts of Britain to reverse the paths taken by three 19th century British missionaries who exported Christianity around the world.

History continues its strong presence on the channel and this season a revealing one-off drama, The Man Who Crossed Hitler, will tell the true story of a Jewish lawyer who challenged Hitler – and paid with his life in Dachau concentration camp. Ian Hart plays Adolf Hitler and Ed Stoppard plays lawyer Hans Litten to bring this little-known story to life. Author and journalist Ben Macintyre returns to BBC Two to tell the gripping story of Eddie Chapman (known as Agent Zigzag), perhaps the most extraordinary spy in British history. In a special programme, Frost On Nixon, Joan Bakewell talks to Sir David Frost about his world famous interview with former US President Richard Nixon and the channel will show the original 1977 Watergate interview and the 2008 film Frost/Nixon. In a new series, Caroline Quentin, herself a serial home restorer, follows private owners of crumbling historic buildings as they save them from ruin and restore them into wonderful 21st century homes for Restoration Home. Archaeology series Digging For Britain and History Cold Case also return.

Setting off on his own journey of discovery, Frank Gardner goes in search of the origins of the cartoon character that inspired him to become an adventuring journalist, in Frank Gardner's Real Tintin Adventure. In a new three-part series, All Roads Lead Home, Stephen Mangan, Sue Perkins and Alison Steadman take on a new challenge – the art of natural navigation – while travelling through some of the UK's most stunning landscapes. Sue Perkins also partners with Charlie Boorman for Dangerous Roads, which sees pairs of well known BBC Two faces going on life-changing road trips to tackle some of the world's most infamous roads.

Arts, Music & Performance

In Fry's Planet Word, a major new arts series this autumn, Stephen Fry dissects language in all its guises with his inimitable mixture of learning, love of lexicon and humour. The channel continues its prominent role in Books On The BBC 2011 with a new programme presented by Amanda Vickery, The Prime Of Miss Jane Austen. To mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's first novel Sense And Sensibility, Amanda, one of the leading chroniclers of Georgian England, explores the ebb and flow of Austen's popularity and the hold her fiction has on people today. The new monthly Book Review Show also starts this summer, hosted by Kirsty Wark and Martha Kearney, and there will be a Culture Show special on Booker prize-winner Hilary Mantel.

There are three other major arts and music series: The Impressionists by Waldemar Januszczak, who reappraises Impressionist art and illuminates the less familiar aspects of the movement; The Reel History Of Britain, a new series for BBC Two Daytime, in which Melvyn Bragg looks at how life in Britain used to be, through the film collections of the British Film Institute and regional film archives; and BBC Two explores the process of songwriting with songwriter, producer and musician Guy Chambers, who collaborates with a different artist each week for Secrets Of The Pop Song.

Two Arena documentaries will focus on author William Golding and bring viewers the first ever documentary exploring the extraordinary life of Sir Jonathan Miller CBE. A feature-length documentary will follow the nail-biting, tension-filled week of competition for the World Irish Dancing Championships, held in Glasgow. Plus, BBC Two continues its extensive coverage of the BBC Proms and Glastonbury, and Jools Holland continues to provide a musical flavour to the schedule with his Later... programmes.

Factual Talent

Factual programmes on BBC Two are gloriously eclectic, with a range of tone and subjects, and the channel has a track record in growing new talent.

Following on from the success of Baking Made Easy, Lorraine Pascale spreads her culinary wings to share recipes and tips from all areas and corners of the world, in Home Cooking Made Easy. The Hairy Bikers are also back, but with their biggest challenge yet, as Simon King and Dave Myers explore the social issue of providing meals on wheels in Britain today. Gareth Malone is back for the fourth series of The Choir, with his most ambitious and emotional challenge to date, working with the partners and children of those in the armed services from the Chivenor barracks in Devon. James May returns for a second series of James May's Man Lab, which sees him embark on a mission to help modern man relearn some vital skills that are in danger of being lost for ever. Sophie Dahl returns with a new programme on Mrs Beeton, one of the most famous food writers in British cooking. The popular Great British Bake Off returns for a second series, which sees 12 of the country's best bakers competing for the title of Britain's best amateur baker, judged by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, with hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. Plus, the double Michelin- starred chef Michel Roux whips up some special masterclasses for viewers, in Michel Roux Jr Classics, to accompany the new series of Masterchef The Professionals.

Entertainment Talent

BBC Two has some of the best entertainment talent on television, with their trademark intelligence, authority and wit. This autumn BBC Two is pleased to welcome back QI, the world's most challenging quiz, for its 10th series. Rob Brydon is back for a second series of The Rob Brydon Show after a sensational year that's earned him two BAFTA nominations and a British Comedy Award. Frank Skinner also returns for a third series of his critically acclaimed topical comedy show. Ruth Jones returns for the third of her seasonal chat shows, this time Ruth Jones' Summer Holiday. There's also more of the Dragons, with a new series of Dragons' Den and an additional series on How To Win. And of course, the channel would not be complete without Top Gear.

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