Ben Stephenson announces new drama commissions at MIPTV

I want to make BBC Drama the hallmark of quality and the place where the best talent from all over the world can find a home to work and flourish."Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning
Date: 09.04.2013     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.56
Category: Drama
Speaking today at MIPTV, the BBC's Controller of Drama Commissioning, Ben Stephenson, gave a keynote speech where he championed the role of BBC Drama in the global market place and his ambition to strengthen its international reputation.

He said: "Quality and creative integrity are crucial to achieving international success. Co-production should be a means of achieving the scale of a writer's vision, not a creative compromise. The best dramas translate internationally because they are driven by an ambition that goes to the heart of the piece.

"I want to make BBC Drama the hallmark of quality and the place where the best talent from all over the world can find a home to work and flourish. Working with BBC Drama provides creative talent from all over the world the very best environment in which to flourish. It is so exciting that the world is opening up to British programming and wanting to invest in it."

He announced new dramas by Jimmy McGovern and Tony Jordan, both of which reflect the growing ambition of British television.

"Both of these new commissions are passion projects for Jimmy McGovern and Tony Jordan - and are projects only the BBC would make."

New Commissions

An original, epic serial from Jimmy McGovern and the award-winning team at RSJ Films is commissioned for BBC Two

Multi-award-winning Jimmy McGovern and the acclaimed team at RSJ Films go into pre-production with a continuing, eight-part drama serial, inspired by the events of the late 1780s when Britain deported its unwanted citizens to the very edge of the known world.

Jimmy McGovern says: “In 1787 when Britain banished its petty thieves, whores, orphans and highwaymen – to Sydney Cove, a place so hot and barren and hostile that very few people had ever set foot there. It was an audacious social experiment, unparalled before or since. Yet these rejects from Britain, accompanied by soldiers, officers, a vicar and a doctor, survived against all the odds, in spite of famine, drought, escapes, hangings and floggings, the colony thrived. This is their story.”

This fictional account of human courage and endeavour, love, loss and terrible choices begins several months after the First Fleet has arrived. It is told through the eyes of three convicts: James Freeman, Tommy Barrett and Elizabeth Quinn. Their passionate friendship is a rollercoaster of survival set between the deadly, bush and the infinite blue of the mighty Pacific Ocean. Talks are currently underway with co-producers and distributors. A title and casting will be announced in the coming months.

For more information contact: cathiedavey@blueyonder.co.uk

The Great War for BBC One

The epic series, set during the First World War, is told through the eyes of two very ordinary young men who enlist in a war they expect will be over within months. As the conflict unfolds, so do the boys stories, as they grow up amid the horror of war, and find love.

The 5x30 drama, produced by Red Planet Pictures through BBC Cymru Wales Drama, has been written by Tony Jordan (Hustle, Life On Mars, The Nativity) and will be executive produced by Tony and Bethan Jones at the BBC. The series is set to air on BBC One as part of the BBC's programming around the centenary of the First World War throughout Armistice Week next year, in the 100th anniversary year of the start of one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century.

Tony Jordan said: “The First World War is undoubtedly one of the most catastrophic events of modern history with a devastating impact on human life across the world. Often, the sheer magnitude of suffering during this time makes it hard for audiences to understand the very personal pain that was inflicted on countless families and young men.

"The Great War follows two young men as they struggle to adapt to life on the front line and fight to survive the terrifying events of war. The story looks at all aspects of the war – from the families left behind to the strategic decisions by generals that led to unimaginable bloodshed and the men fighting in the trenches – no one is unaffected by this global war.”

This moving, powerful drama will be told in five chronological parts with each half hour one of the five years of the war and, although centred primarily around the Western Front, it will take in all the major events of the Great War including Gallipoli, the Battle of the Somme, Ypres and the entry of America into the conflict.

Exclusive BBC One casting news

Also at MIPTV today, Ben Stephenson announced some exclusive casting news. Kris Marshall is set to join the cast of hit BBC One drama series, Death In Paradise.

Kris is to join the cast as the latest lead detective, in the new series. Series three will also see the departure of DI Richard Poole, played by Ben Miller (Primeval, Armstrong & Miller). However, details of how and when Miller will depart remain tightly under wraps.

Kris Marshall said: "I am thrilled to be joining Death In Paradise and finding out a bit more about what makes Humphrey tick. Six months filming on a tropical island with an amazing cast and glorious sunshine? What isn't there to love! I might even get myself a parrot!"

Following two hugely successful series, Miller leaves the show on a high, with an average of almost eight million viewers tuning in.

Ben Miller said: “I have absolutely loved my time on Death In Paradise and am sad to be leaving such a successful show, however DI Poole has made no secret of his struggle with the Caribbean heat, so I felt now was a good time to put him out of his misery! I know Kris will do a superb job and I’m delighted to be handing over the detective baton to him.”

CI2/MO