Today I’m announcing two examples of this new collaborative approach, a major season looking at the art and music of the 18th century and an exciting science moment taking us closer to the Earth’s atmosphere, as well as a number of other new commissions which demonstrate the confidence and range of both channels.”Janice Hadlow
Date: 22.08.2013 Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.50
BBC Two and BBC Four Controller Janice Hadlow today announces a wealth of new commissions encompassing a landmark factual drama about the countdown to the First World War; a major new season about the 18th century across both channels; and new series fronted by Ian Hislop, Lucy Worsley, Kate Humble and Fern Britton.
Janice Hadlow says: “This has been another fantastic year for BBC Two, winning Broadcast Channel of the Year and MGEITF Channel of the Year. The quality and range of our content has been reflected by BBC Two winning more BAFTAs than any other channel, as well as eight prestigious RTS Programme Awards.
"We’ve seen a number of stand-out hits from Factual, including Secret Life Of Cats (watched by over 5m), Great British Sewing Bee (over 3m for the final episode), Last Days Of Anne Boleyn (3.71m) and Inside Claridges (series average of 4.3m) and acclaimed dramas such as The Fall, the channel’s highest rating drama series in over 10 years.
"BBC Two remains ahead of its main competitors in peak and audience appreciation remains as high as ever.
"On top of this, I’ve relished the challenge of taking on BBC Four and my ambition is to find ways to increase collaboration between the channels whilst ensuring that BBC Four retains its unique and distinctive voice.
"Today I’m announcing two examples of this new collaborative approach, a major season looking at the art and music of the 18th century and an exciting science moment taking us closer to the Earth’s atmosphere, as well as a number of other new commissions which demonstrate the confidence and range of both channels.”
All titles are working titles.
With a stellar cast, including Ian McDiarmid, Sinead Cusack, Tim Pigott-Smith, Bill Paterson and Kenneth Cranham, this landmark factual drama from Hardy Pictures reveals the complex behind-closed-doors story of the outbreak of the First World War.
Covering the final weeks before the outbreak of war, 37 Days follows the rapidly changing crisis through the eyes of the principal players, during a hot summer, from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914, to the declaration of war between Britain and Germany on 4 August.
The drama serial will overturn orthodox assumptions about the war’s inevitability. Such a disaster did not happen by chance, and nor was it a foregone conclusion. It took considerable effort and terrific ingenuity, as well as staggering bad luck, to destroy a system that had kept the general peace in Europe for the 99 years that followed the Battle of Waterloo and the fall of Napoleon.
Writer Mark Hayhurst comes fresh from the success of Hitler On Trial for BBC Two, which starred Ed Stoppard and Ian Hart. He has previously written award-winning docu-dramas for major broadcasters, such as Robespierre And The French Revolution, Last Days Of The Raj, The Somme and The Year London Blew Up.
Idris Elba: King Of Speed
Idris Elba (Luther) takes pole position as he lines up to take the drive of his life in a revelatory, adrenaline-fuelled 2x60-min documentary.
Charting the colourful origins and secret history of the car racing scene, he travels far and wide in search of the real story.
Countdown To The Rains
Presented by Kate Humble and Simon King, Countdown To The Rains reveals a month of extraordinary wildlife activity along the Luangwa River in Zambia as the dry season comes to an end and the rains come.
Throughout the series, 100 cameras, rigged at strategic points on site will ensure not a moment of action is missed. With the help of three specialist wildlife teams and animal behaviour scientists, Kate and Simon will explore and analyse this amazing footage, from the final feasting days of the predators and the amazing strategies displayed by the animals as they try to survive the final days of drought, through to the rapid greening of grass and dispersal of herds as the rains finally arrive.
Ian Hislop’s Olden Days - The Power Of The Past In Britain
In a new three-part series, Ian Hislop explores perhaps the most distinctive, peculiar and deep-seated trait of the British – our obsession with the past – the olden days. In three films, Ian reveals how and why, throughout our history, we have continually plundered the past to make sense of and shape the present.
Grow, Make, Eat: The Great Allotment Challenge
Presented by Fern Britton, and building on the tradition of the annual horticultural show with its competitions for jams, chutneys, fruits, vegetables and flowers, this new series celebrates Britain’s love for gardening - and a good competition.
In a beautiful walled garden in Oxfordshire, nine pairs of passionate gardeners will test their green fingers and horticultural know-how. Over four months, the gardeners will have meticulously planned, planted and nurtured their allotments as they attempt to harvest a crop of prized vegetables and fruits. Now they’re ready to face the experts and be put through their paces in a series of challenges. Only one team can be crowned the Winners of Grow, Make, Eat: The Great Allotment Challenge 2014.
Following the success of the Horizon series, Secret Life Of Cats, with over 5m viewers, BBC Two takes us even closer to this fascinating and often misunderstood species. Through collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College, this three-part series draws upon bespoke technology used to study animals in the wild, from state of the art GPS trackers to X-ray machines, to reveal and visualize the world of cats in a way that simply hasn't been possible until now.
Napoleon Bonaparte of France once controlled an Empire of over 40 million people and the largest ever army in the History of Mankind. Since he was defeated by the British at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon has been maligned as a sadistic and vain despot, a tyrannical dictator on a par with Hitler or Stalin.
In this three-part series, the first authoritative biography of Napoleon ever on British television, historian and biographer Andrew Roberts presents the epic story of one of the most influential figures in world history and overturns this prejudice.
In a global journey, Andrew visits key locations that figured in Napoleon's career - the remote island of St Helena in the Atlantic Ocean, distant battlefields in Central Europe and Russia and grand chateaux in France - celebrates the merits of the benevolent dictator, and reveals how Bonaparte, supported by his wife Josephine, secured the French Revolution, transformed a nation in to a global super-power and through political, military and social innovation laid the foundations of the modern state.
BBC Two celebrates 50 years of ground-breaking comedy on the channel with a two-hour archive special accompanied by a number of treats from some of the channel’s best-loved comedy legends.
BBC Two / BBC Four
Eighteenth Century season
Eighteenth Century Music on BBC Four, presented by Suzy Klein, broadcaster and Radio 3 In Tune presenter, will chart the social, cultural and political context of Britain and how this was reflected in the powerful music of this era. The series will begin by exploring English music’s increased credibility with the fashionable upper classes in the 1700s along with the rise of the fashionable ‘English Oratorio’. It will go on to examine the emergence of mass popularity of music in the mid-1700s and will shed light on the impact of war and revolution on national identity which marked the creation of the anthems, God Save The King and Rule Britannia.
Messiah At The Foundling Hospital, BBC Two
More than 250 years since it was composed, Handel’s Messiah remains one of the most popular choral pieces in western music, performed thousands times every year across the world by amateurs and professionals alike. It contains a melody – the Hallelujah Chorus – as instantly recognisable as any pop song or ringtone. And yet few people know the heart-rending story of how this much-loved work first came to public attention.
Presented by Amanda Vickery, this one-hour drama documentary re-creates the Foundling Hospital premiere of Messiah in 1750 and tells the story of how Handel’s masterpiece heralded a golden age of philanthropy, helping save the lives of 25,000 people, and changing music forever.
Hanoverians: The First Georges, BBC Four
2014 marks the 300th anniversary of the Hanoverian succession to the British throne. To mark the occasion, the BBC and Royal Collection Trust are embarking on a unique partnership - encompassing a three-part series presented by Dr Lucy Worsley and an exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, curated by Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures.
Hanoverians: The First Georges will present the revealing and surprising story of Britain in the reigns of George I and George II (1714-60) – the age of the ‘German Georges’. In 1714, Britain imported a new German royal family from Hanover, headed by Georg Ludwig (aka George I) - an uncharismatic, middle-aged man with a limited grasp of English. Lucy Worsley explores how this unlikely new dynasty secured the throne – and how they kept it.
BBC Radio 3 to provide complementary programming.
Also continuing both channels’ relationship with BBC radio, the season will feature complementary programming on BBC Radio 3 including live music and events about 18th Century Music.
A team of scientists will be taking to the skies in the world’s largest airship – the Skyship 600 - for BBC Two’s ambitious atmospheric experiment – Cloud Lab. Flying from coast to coast, across the USA, in a month-long expedition, the team of British scientists will scrutinise insect life, the relationship between trees and the air we breathe as well as predicting where a hurricane is likely to hit the land.
The team, which includes entomologists, weather specialists and professional explorers is also hoping to shed light on the creation of clouds and the relationship between diverse ecosystems and weather.
Cloud Lab will be accompanied by a number of films on BBC Four, including An Ocean Of Air which sets out to show who rightly deserves the title of ‘the true discoverer of oxygen’. Using reconstructions, archive and experiments, chemist Gabrielle Walker will trace the remarkable and personal journeys of three leading contenders before making her choice as to who deserves the accolade.
The Lost World Of Rapa Nui
Dr Jago Cooper presents a new history of one of the world’s most enigmatic, and controversial civilisations - from birth to death. Exploring new archaeological evidence about Rapa Nui, the most isolated habitable piece of land in the world, also known as Easter Island, he shows the civilisation which flourished there was ingenious, advanced, and expertly attuned to its difficult environment.
The Private Lives Of Medieval Britain
Historian and author Helen Castor, presenter of the popular series She-Wolves, explores how the people of the Middle Ages handled the most fundamental moments of transition in life: birth, marriage and death. In doing so she reveals how people in the medieval world thought and what they believed in.
For the people of the Middle Ages the teachings of the Catholic Church shaped thoughts and beliefs across the whole of Western Europe. But by the end of the Middle Ages the Church would find itself in the grip of momentous change and the way of medieval of birth, marriage and death would never be quite the same again.
Art Of Australia
Edmund Capon - former director and chief curator of the Art Gallery of New South Wales – explores the story of Australian art through the country’s rich cultural traditions stretching back 30,000 years. Across three themed episodes, The Art Of Australia looks at how art, history and identity are entwined - with artists playing a key role in shaping attitudes, defining values and creating a common culture in this young, post-colonial nation.
Art Of China
Andrew Graham-Dixon discovers an extraordinarily rich heritage of art and culture in China. As China’s economy and political influence grows, Chinese art is increasingly making itself felt across the world - but remains little understood in the West. This three part series combines an appreciation of Chinese art from 1,700 BC to the present day with a physical journey of discovery around China.
Travelling by train, canal boat and bicycle, Andrew will take viewers to see extraordinary bronze sculptures more than 3,000 years old, beautiful Buddhist inspired frescoes from the 7th century AD and wonderful landscape paintings – including those by an Emperor of China himself. He will complete the journey by looking at China’s vibrant contemporary arts scene.
Rock Ratatouille is a new-three part spoof music documentary fronted by award-winning art rocker Brian Pern, featuring a host of cameos from the world of music and unseen footage. Pern has remained at the vanguard of experimental rock and although he is no longer bothering the charts, he is well respected amongst his peers and has the freedom of the city of Antwerp.
Brian Pern is played by Fast Show star Simon Day. The series is written by Simon and fellow Down The Line collaborator Rhys Thomas, who won a Rose d’Or for his critically acclaimed 2012 documentary ‘Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender’ and a BAFTA nomination in the Breakthough Talent Category.
An ambitious and powerful new drama acquisition from Ireland, Amber is an emotional journey filled with psychological insight and unexpected twists, following the disappearance of a 14-year-old girl.
Amber examines the twists and turns of the teenager’s disappearance from several different perspectives and stars Eva Birthistle (Waking The Dead, Wake Wood), David Murray (Zonad, Raw), Lauryn Canny, Levi O’Sullivan and Justine Mitchell.
Amber is written by Rob Cawley and Gary Duggan. It is executive produced by Jane Gogan and David Crean and produced and created by Rob Cawley and Paul Duane (Secret Diary Of A Call Girl).
The four-part drama is made by Screenworks Production and is distributed by Content Television.