Following BBC Drama's tremendous start to the year, it is clear audiences are looking for even greater ambition and high quality. So I want to continue to expand our range even further and reaffirm my commitment to commission the very best drama in the UK.Charlotte Moore, Acting Director of BBC Television
Date: 26.05.2016 Last updated: 27.05.2016 at 15.43
BBC Drama brings together the best talent on- and off-screen, and delivers something for everyone. We are committed to continuing this with new, original, and ambitious drama as we today announce three new commissions for BBC One and BBC Two, alongside the return of BBC One series The A Word and BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders.
BBC One will bring to life the acclaimed David Nicholls’ novel Us with a multi-part adaptation by Nick Payne. Produced by Drama Republic, Us tells the story of Douglas and Connie Peterson, a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. When they go on a family grand tour of European cities, Douglas sees it as a last bid to win back the love of his wife, and repair his troubled relationship with his son.
BBC One will also tell the heart-warming story of Dame Barbara Windsor, the Cockney kid with a dazzling smile and talent to match. Single drama Babs will be written by Tony Jordan and air next year as she approaches her 80th birthday. The drama will be produced by BBC Studios in association with Red Planet Pictures.
BBC Two will bring to screen Sathnam Sanghera’s critically acclaimed memoir of love, secrets and lies - The Boy With The Topknot, produced by Parti Productions and Kudos. Set in Wolverhampton, the series will tell the humorous, touching and emotional story of a second-generation Indian growing up in Britain and how he juggles his family, love life and career.
BBC One has also confirmed a second series of Peter Bowker’s The A Word, the story of the Hughes family which has Joe, a boy with autism, at its heart, while BBC Two has ordered a further two series of Steven Knight’s 1920s Birmingham-based series Peaky Blinders.
Charlotte Moore, Acting Director of Television, says: “Following BBC Drama's tremendous start to the year, it is clear audiences are looking for even greater ambition and high quality. So I want to continue to expand our range even further and reaffirm my commitment to commission the very best drama in the UK.
"Today I'm announcing a mix of contemporary, provocative pieces and surprising stories, with three new titles and two returning series. On BBC One, Us is an adaptation of David Nicholls' bestseller about a modern marriage on the rocks. And Tony Jordan pens a touching single drama on the life of one of the nation’s best-loved actresses, Dame Barbara Windsor, who only last week bid an emotional farewell to EastEnders. On BBC Two, Sathnam Sanghera's memoir The Boy With The Topknot will bring to life his personal story of a second generation Indian growing up in Wolverhampton. Two of our best writers, Peter Bowker and Steven Knight, have been recommissioned. Family drama The A-Word will return, challenging perceptions of living with autism, and we've commissioned two more series of the mesmerising Peaky Blinders for BBC Two."
BBC Drama has achieved record ratings in 2016 for both BBC One and BBC Two. Call The Midwife was this year’s most-watched drama episode in the UK, with overnight figures of 9.2 million on BBC One, and Line Of Duty series three was the highest-rating BBC Two drama series ever (since current measuring system began in 2002), with a series consolidated average of 5.1m.
All dramas have been commissioned by Lucy Richer, Acting Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, and Charlotte Moore, Acting Director of Television, apart from Babs, which was commissioned by Charlotte and Polly Hill, Former Acting Controller of Drama.
BBC One will be bringing David Nicholls' acclaimed novel Us to the screen in a multi-part adaptation by Nick Payne, produced by Drama Republic.
The bestselling book tells the story of Douglas and Connie Petersen, a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. When they go on a family grand tour of European cities, Douglas sees it as a last bid to win back the love of his wife, and repair his troubled relationship with his son. Reflecting David Nicholls' signature mix of humour and heartbreak, Us will bring the Petersens' poignant and often hilarious story to life, and take the audience with them on their once-in-a-lifetime trip across Europe.
David Nicholls says: "I couldn't be happier that Us has found a home with the BBC. Nick Payne has written a wonderful script that's both funny and touching, and I can't wait to see Douglas's misadventures come to life."
Roanna Benn and Greg Brenman, Drama Republic Executive Producers, add: “Drama Republic is hugely passionate about the work of both David Nicholls and Nick Payne, and so we are over the moon to be making Us for the BBC. Us tells a universal story of a marriage in crisis, but from a uniquely brilliant perspective: minutely observed, deeply moving, very funny and full of surprises.”
Us will be Executive Produced by Roanna Benn and Greg Brenman for Drama Republic, Elizabeth Kilgarriff for BBC One and David Nicholls.
1 x 90’
Set in the 1990s and written by Tony Jordan, Babs will tell the heart-warming story of Barbara Windsor, the Cockney kid with a dazzling smile and talent to match. Preparing to perform in the theatre that evening, Babs takes us on a journey of all the people and events that have shaped her career: her lonely childhood and complicated relationship with her father, her doomed marriage to Ronnie Knight, capturing the attention of Joan Littlewood and becoming the blonde bombshell in the Carry On films. Babs, ever the consummate professional, never lets her fans down whatever her personal anguish, and steps on the stage to rapturous applause. The story is full of heart and heartbreak - with a touch of sauciness thrown in.
Dame Barbara Windsor says: "Although it's been spoken about in the past to do my life story, it wasn't until two years ago, when I was approached by the brilliant writer Tony Jordan and the BBC, that I knew this was the right time, and undoubtedly the only person I felt knew me well enough to tell my story. Tony knows the real me and what makes me tick, and I was particularly taken by the way he wants to tell my tale, which is not in the way people will expect it to be. Tony certainly has captured the moments of my life that have made me who I am today. I am honoured and excited that Tony and the BBC have commissioned this."
Tony Jordan says: "The opportunity to tell the story of the amazing Dame Barbara Windsor was too good an opportunity to miss. I think people will be surprised that there’s a lot more to her than just the Carry On Films and EastEnders. She was starring in movies and was a huge star of the theatre long before any of those things came along.
"In the Sixties, she was nominated for a BAFTA for her work in the film Sparrows Can’t Sing, and a Tony award after appearing on Broadway in the US.
"There’s a reason that, as a nation, we’ve all taken Barbara to our hearts. I think it is because she’s always been one of us, never forgetting where she came from. That unbelievably rare combination of someone in the business with the highest level of professionalism, but without any of the airs and graces to go with it.
"She’s a national treasure and one of the most remarkable women I’ve met. I only hope this film will do her justice.”
Babs will be produced by BBC Studios in association with Red Planet Pictures for BBC One. The drama will be executive produced by Lorraine Newman and Hilary Salmon for the BBC, and Tony Jordan for Red Planet Pictures.
The A Word (Series 2)
6 x 60’
The A Word, written by BAFTA-winning Peter Bowker, set in the spectacular setting of the Lakes, is the heartfelt family drama which has Joe, a boy with autism, at its heart.
Writer Peter Bowker says: "I am delighted that the show has resonated with a wide audience and am thrilled to have the opportunity to take the family and Joe further along their journey. Also delighted to be rifling through my musical history and calling it work.
"If the first series was about diagnosis and denial then the second series is about the journey that is undertaken when you ‘go public’ about the fact that your child is different. This series is both about being the family with a child that is different in a small community, as well as being a part of the wider ‘autism community’ and all that this entails.”
The A Word is a Fifty Fathoms and Keshet UK co-production for BBC One. It is executive produced by Patrick Spence, Peter Bowker, Jenny Frayn and Marcus Wilson for Fifty Fathoms, and by Sara Johnson Avi Nir and Keren Margalit for Keshet International. Lucy Richer is the executive producer for BBC One.
The Boy with the Topknot
1 x 90’
The Boy With The Topknot will be based on the critically acclaimed memoirs of journalist Sathnam Sanghera. Born to Punjabi parents in the West Midlands, the book is his account of his childhood in 1980s Wolverhampton, and facing up to a bunch of painful family secrets and truths in his twenties - not least that his father and sister had suffered from schizophrenia - and that he was going to defy expectations of an arranged marriage.
It is a humorous, touching and emotional story of a second-generation Indian growing up in Britain and how he juggles his family, love life and career.
Sathnam Sanghera says: "I'm delighted that The Boy With The Topknot is being adapted for screen. Delighted and of course a little trepidatious. The latter because the book is obviously a personal exposition of my childhood and family, and delighted because it’s a story I want people to know about and understand. I feel absolutely confident that the BBC and Parti along with Kudos will handle the themes explored in the book with great warmth and sensitivity, and because ultimately, my family’s story is one of hope.”
Diederick Santer, Kudos Executive Producer says: “Mick Ford's glorious script digs deep into Sathnam's memoir, and I can't wait to bring his very special story to the BBC audience.”
Producer Nisha Parti says: “I am so thrilled that the BBC have commissioned this drama. Growing up, I never had the opportunity to watch these kinds of stories being told on TV and have worked hard with the BBC and Kudos to bring that story to life for the screen. Very much looking forward to producing my first film for the BBC on a project that I feel so passionately about.”
The Boy With The Topknot will be adapted by Mick Ford and produced by Kudos and Parti Productions for BBC Two. The executive producers are Diederick Santer for Kudos, Lucy Richer for the BBC, and Nisha Parti for Parti Productions.
Peaky Blinders (Series 4 and 5)
6 x 6’ (both series)
BBC Two has ordered two more series (series four and five) of the epic 1920s Birmingham-based gangster show Peaky Blinders, created and written by Steven Knight. The series is produced by Caryn Mandabach Productions and Tiger Aspect Drama, and stars Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory and Paul Anderson.
Caryn Mandabach, Executive Producer, Caren Mandabach Productions says: “It’s a fantastic vote of confidence in the show and Steven Knight’s writing that the BBC has ordered two more series following the first episode overnight figures. We’re both proud of, and grateful for, the BBC’s continued support of the show.”
Will Gould, Executive Producer, Tiger Aspect Drama, says: “Peaky has become a global hit. Steve’s uncompromising vision resonates with audiences the world over, and what an absolute privilege it is that we get to make more.”
Creator Steven Knight, who will continue to write all episodes of the series, says: "I am genuinely thrilled at the response to the third series of the show. The prospect of writing series four and five is truly exciting. This is a real passion project for me, and I look forward to telling more stories of the Shelby family."
Cillian Murphy says:“Tommy Shelby is one of the most intense, challenging characters I’ve had the opportunity to play. I’m particularly grateful that Steven’s original, dynamic writing and the long form series allow me to explore Tommy in depth. I very much look forward to Tommy’s evolution over the next two chapters.”
Peaky Blinders is a Caryn Mandabach Productions and Tiger Aspect Drama production for BBC Two, executive produced by writer/creator Steven Knight, Caryn Mandabach, Will Gould, Jamie Glazebrook, Frith Tiplady, Cillian Murphy and, for the BBC, Matthew Read.