It has been a quarter of a century since a little known sports reporter was given his own radio chat show by the BBC. Two radio series, five TV series, four specials, two books and one movie later, Alan Partridge has an unrivalled place in the comedy pantheon.
To celebrate Alan’s return to his rightful home at the BBC in 2018, this retrospective documentary will look back at his journey from broadcaster caricature to the award-winning study of complexity and pathos that he has become.
We will hear from the man behind the man himself, Steve Coogan, as well as the acclaimed team that created him 25 years ago. That cohort of writers and performers would become some of the most celebrated and distinctive comic voices of their generation: Armando Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan. Through interviews and a wealth of never before seen archive footage including improv sessions, rehearsals and unseen outtakes, a light will be shone on the genesis of the character.
This richly textured account of the craft involved in that early development and the ongoing story of how, through Coogan's virtuoso performance, Alan remains one of the most beloved comic creations of the last few decades.
The programme will also feature discussions with some of the best loved characters in Alan’s world; the likes of Felicity Montagu (Lynn), Simon Greenall (Michael), Sally Phillips (Sophie the receptionist), Phil Cornwell (Dave Clifton) and Tim Key (Sidekick Simon). And we'll hear from writers and directors, Neil and Rob Gibbons, who inherited the Partridge mantle and, alongside Coogan, have taken the character to new heights, finding in each incarnation different ways of exploring Alan while being faithful to the character's legacy.
Through all these voices, archive material, and iconic clips from the shows themselves, the show will explore Alan's unprecedented cultural influence, his impact on the comedy landscape, and how the most entertainingly contemptible man in fictional light entertainment has become permanently embedded in the national vernacular.
The League of Gentlemen Anniversary Specials
Much-loved comedy The League of Gentlemen returns to BBC Two this Christmas with three brand-new episodes to celebrate the group’s twentieth anniversary at the BBC.
Once again, the three performing members of the League - Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Mark Gatiss - will be playing a veritable host of bizarre and darkly comic characters inhabiting the fictional Northern town of Royston Vasey, in scripts written by themselves and co-creator Jeremy Dyson.
Royston Vasey is facing a threat more dire than anything it has faced before: dark rumours of boundary changes that could erase the town from the map forever. The fight to save Royston Vasey from administrative annihilation will come from unexpected and surprising directions, all of them local…
The League of Gentlemen's original radio series, On The Town With The League Of Gentlemen, won a silver Sony award 20 years ago this year. The first series of the ground-breaking TV series won a BAFTA award, a Royal Television Society Award, and the prestigious Rose D'Or in Montreux.
The League of Gentlemen is a BBC Studios Production for BBC Two.
Two Doors Down
The sitcom, set in the fictional Scottish suburban street of Latimer Cresent, will be giving Christmas its own special dose of neighbourly love.
At the heart of it all, as ever, will be put-upon couple Beth (Arabella Weir) and Eric (Alex Norton) hoping to have a quiet festive feast on their own.
But this Xmas bonus will see Cathy (Doon Mackichan) and Colin (Jonathan Watson) turn up, their trip to the French Alps having been thwarted by a cancelled flight.
Neighbour Christine (Elaine C Smith) piles in too with granddaughter Madison, after daughter Sophie is delayed in Paris by the same disruption.
While Beth and Eric’s son Ian (Jamie Quinn), over with new boyfriend Gordon (Kieran Hodgson) to drop off presents, admits their other plans have fallen through…and asks if they can stay on for dinner. With a meal for two now stretching to six, Christine and Cathy reveal their own particular take on the spirit of Christmas.
The Shakespeares are planning a lovely cosy Christmas with just the family up in Stratford. Until Kit manages to wangle himself an invitation to join them. And then so does Kate. And then so does Robert Green, who claims he has given up evil scheming and is ready to spread peace and goodwill to all mankind. But has he really suddenly gone all nice?
Meanwhile Will has been rehearsing his latest play ready for it to be performed before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (Emma Thompson) as part of her Christmas festivities. But will he make the right impression on the Queen? And does his play Eighth Night actually need a bit more work?
Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies
Morecambe and Wise are arguably the most popular and loved double acts ever to have been on television, but off it they built up quite an archive too - largely unseen until now - which reveals what Eric and Ernie were really like in the company of family and friends.
Both Eric and Ernie were avid home movie makers, chronicling their rise to fame and recording key moments in their private and family lives, at home and abroad.
Now for the first time, with access to Morecambe and Wise’s entire home movie collection, this documentary shows Eric and Ernie at work and at play, on tour and on holiday, from summer season in Blackpool to trying to make it in the USA, from their pre-television fame days to the height of their career.
Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies catches up with many of the people who appear in these highly personal films - including Eric Morecambe’s wife Joan, and children Gary, Gail and Steven and friends of Ernie and his wife Doreen.
There’s a reunion for two now seventy-something women who starred as children alongside Eric and Ernie on stage in panto in Sheffield in the early 1950s.
And there’s a trip from Canada for the sisters who spent some unforgettable childhood holidays with their neighbours, the Morecambes.
For everyone, emotional memories come flooding back with the chance to see footage they have never seen before.
This is Eric and Ernie as husbands, father and godfather, and the very best of friends - in remarkable footage which has lay unseen in their family homes for decades.
Sir Tom Jones and Beverley Knight will join forces to celebrate Christmas in style this year as they host and perform a feast of gospel music in a special programme for BBC Two and BBC One Wales, Gospel Christmas.
It’s an evening of uplifting Christmas gospel music marrying classic spiritual songs together with contemporary influences, plus a couple of unexpected delights. For those who believe in the spirit of Christmas, and for those who most certainly want to have their Christmas cheer with a little bit of soul, it’s a guaranteed night of joyous celebration for one and all.
Jools' Annual Hootenanny 2017
Join Jools and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra for his 25th Annual Hootenanny - the only New Year's party worth tuning into and revel in the company of a variety of musical acts from the ages to delight and enchant. Jools will be seeing off 2017 and welcoming 2018 in time-honoured style, accompanied by a host of stars and special guests from across the entertainment spectrum, offer their wisdom and predictions for what the next twelve months may hold.
New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna
BBC Two returns to the city of music for the traditional start to the New Year, live from Vienna. Petroc Trelawny is our host for this hugely popular concert of polkas, marches and waltzes composed by the Strauss family and their contemporaries. The Vienna Philharmonic will be under the baton of Riccardo Muti, whose close ties with the orchestra extend over several decades and who is conducting this glittering event for the fifth time. BBC Two will be broadcasting both parts of the concert live, ending with all the traditional favourites including By the Beautiful Blue Danube and the ever-popular Radetzky March.
Chimp Rehab (w/t)
In an hour-long film for BBC Two, animal lover Sue Perkins travels to America to meet a group of newly retired female chimpanzees at Chimp Haven, the US national chimpanzee sanctuary. After a recent change in US law, decades of medical testing on chimpanzees has been brought to an end and cameras follow as Jill, Whitney, Paula-Jean, Tessa, Martha and Ariah settle in to the sanctuary after an 800 mile journey from a laboratory in New Mexico to rural Louisiana.
Sue meets chimpanzee Jill, 24 years old, who has been used in hepatitis research all her life. In total Chimp Haven houses over 200 medical research chimps who have been retired from laboratories to live out their days in beautiful forested surroundings. In the wild, chimps live in mixed-sex troops but these six girls have never lived with a group of boys before. When Sue first meets them, Jill gives off a clear ‘warning bark’ to Sue to alert her to 45 year old boisterous alpha male Pierre in a nearby enclosure. Pierre is poised ready to spit a mouthful of water and show newcomers who is boss. The introductions are a tense time for both the sanctuary staff and the chimps. Using fixed rig cameras inside the enclosures, Chimp Rehab captures the moment the two groups come together to form their new chimp family. Will it all run smoothly? How will Jill get on when she starts her new life with the boys for the first time?
And after seeing undercover footage of conditions in one of the labs Jill once lived, Sue travels to meet a representative from the National Institutes of Health, the government agency responsible for federal chimpanzee testing. She wants to know if they think the medical advances to human health have been worth it, and how the US government defends the conditions in which the animals were kept.
Inside the Factory Christmas Special
In this Christmas Special Gregg Wallace, Cherry Healey and Ruth Goodman explore the fascinating factory processes and surprising history behind our favourite festive treats.
Gregg follows 24 hours of production at a cake factory in Oldham, near Manchester where, this year, they will make 2 million Christmas cakes. As he helps to mix dried fruit and spices, Gregg discovers the challenges of producing 480 perfect cakes every hour. He’ll also attempt to prepare some of the 300,000 handmade decorations made from 150,000 tonnes of icing sugar, with very messy results.
Meanwhile, Cherry is given special access to Britain’s largest marzipan factory that produces two thousand tonnes of almond paste every year, and visits one of our largest sprout farms where, during the two weeks before Christmas, they pick 190 million sprouts. She also travels to Somerset to discover how 100,000 bottles of brandy are distilled from cider apples and gets hot under the collar attempting to blow a glass Christmas bauble.
Ruth Goodman adds her own Christmas revelations by investigating how our early industrial heritage inspired Charles Dickens to write a Christmas Carol, and why we call Christmas tree lights ‘fairy lights’.
Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers
Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders’ onscreen counterparts - Absolutely Fabulous’ Patsy Stone and Edina Monsoon - were rarely seen without a glass of Champagne in their hand. And off camera, these long-time comedy collaborators and dear friends love nothing more than getting together to share a glass of something chilled and bubbly.
Now, in this glorious Christmas treat for BBC Two, the duo are reuniting on our screens, and heading across the channel to explore the beautiful Champagne region of North Eastern France to learn all about how their favourite tipple is made.
Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers will be an exploration of one of the finer things in life, but also an exploration of each other, as the much-loved stars dig deep, and uncover things they never knew about their partner in crime.
Touring this picturesque province, Joanna and Jennifer will be visiting boutique, family-run vineyards and joining seasonal workers to get stuck in with this year’s grape harvest, alongside learning the processes involved in taking Champagne from grape to glass.
As Joanna and Jennifer take in the sights and sips of France we’ll be privy to their intimate and hilarious conversations, listening in as the friends share anecdotes and never-before-heard stories from their lives.
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella
A celebrated adaptation of the classic ballet, Matthew Bourne’s production of Cinderella is a thrilling and evocative love story set in London during the Second World War, and forms part of the company’s 30th anniversary celebrations.
Matthew Bourne’s interpretation of the classic fairy tale has, at its heart, a true war-time romance. A chance meeting results in a magical night for Cinderella and her dashing young RAF pilot, together just long enough to fall in love before being parted by the horrors of the Blitz. Featuring sumptuous Olivier-award winning costumes and sets, Matthew Bourne’s vivid storytelling has never been more heart-stopping and touching, bringing the audience into the heart of Prokofiev’s magnificent score, and the sights and sounds of war-torn London.
Nigella’s Christmas Table
Nigella decamps to the countryside for her cosiest Christmas yet. Against a backdrop of crackling log fires and sparkling lights, Nigella shares her tips for relaxed entertaining, bringing new flavours to the festivities and the cosiness of familiar fare.
Inspired by the beauty of her surroundings, Nigella throws a party, serving platters of devilled eggs and a sparkling cocktail, and creates a feast of roast duck with orange, soy and ginger alongside garlic and parmesan mashed potato gratin and sour-sweet soused red cabbage with cranberries, made in advance to make life that little bit easier, as well as an exotic take on brussel sprouts. For dessert, there’s a glorious sticky toffee pudding made all the more delicious with an effortless, no-churn brandy salted caramel ice-cream.
For a simple fireside supper, Nigella rustles up a warmly-spiced Moroccan vegetable hotpot, with a dill and pine nut couscous, and chocolate pistachio meringue cookies for a sweet after-dinner treat.
Saturday Night Fever - The Ultimate Disco Movie
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of the block buster film Saturday Night Fever, BBC Two tells the epic story of how a small budget film with a quickly-assembled soundtrack became a mega-hit that changed popular culture forever. Bruno Tonioli, who was a young dancer in New York in 1977 when the film was released, recalls its global impact. In this programme, he returns to the city to meet the cast and crew behind it, and revisit the dance steps and sequences that set a generation alight and turned John Travolta into a star.
The story Bruno unearths is one of supreme success against a backdrop of unexpected setbacks. He unpacks the skill, athleticism and dedication of Travolta, whose incandescent performance prompted a disco dance craze. With unprecedented access to those involved and using rare archive footage, this programme retells the evolution of this ground-breaking film, from its origins in the work of a British journalist, to production challenges with mafia threats and guerrilla-style filming on the streets of Brooklyn.
The Real T. Rex with Chris Packham
Naturalist and T. Rex enthusiast Chris Packham embarks on a global journey to discover the astonishing truth behind the T. Rex, the animal that has endured centuries of scientific inaccuracy and Hollywood misrepresentation. Today, ground-breaking studies of dinosaur skin, teeth and musculature, combined with reconstructions of T. Rex’s incredible brain, are redefining this iconic dinosaur.
Was he lizard or bird? Was he brightly coloured or feathered? Was he a pea-brained scavenger or a sophisticated hunter?
Meeting international experts, Chris reveals ground-breaking insights into not just what T. Rex looked like but into its behaviour, exposing the real beast behind the myth. With both a new understanding of palaeontology and zoology, and trailblazing technology, Chris then attempts to create the most accurate CGI representation of the T. Rex ever produced.
Chris has unique access to ‘Tristan’, one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils in the world.
Chris travels to meet Dr. Greg Erikson, whose research with alligators is revealing the true power of T. Rex’s phenomenal bite. In Dino State Park in Texas, he walks in the footsteps of real and still visible dinosaur footprints, and with the help of biomechanics expert Prof. John Hutchinson and a virtual treadmill, they determine how the predator moved… and ran.
With the help of Dr. Larry Witmer, who uses CT scanning of T. Rex skulls, Chris reveals the predator’s awesome brain and exposes its secrets. Chris travels to Berlin to work with avian palaeontologist Prof. Julia Clarke to determine just how bird-like this creature would have looked and sounded, even producing the sound it may have made! And finally he explores the Canadian Badlands for clues that Canadian expert Dr. Phil Currie believes could blow apart the understanding of T. Rex’s social life…
The Reindeer Family and Me
This Christmas, wildlife cameraman, Gordon Buchanan is travelling to the frozen north, deep inside the Arctic Circle, to meet the ancient Sami people and the animals they hold so close; reindeer. Known as “the reindeer people”, the Sami were traditionally nomadic, relying on their precious animals to help them survive the Arctic’s harsh winters. Gordon will live with a Sami family in Finnish Lapland to experience their unique culture and to learn about their special bond with reindeer.
Gordon will work to earn the trust of his own reindeer companion before leaving behind his adopted family and setting off alone into this land of ice and snow. With only his reindeer to guide him, but armed with the knowledge of his hosts, Gordon wants to immerse himself in this frozen wilderness and attempt to witness the natural phenomenon the Sami most revere; the magical northern lights.
The Sweet Makers at Christmas
From candy canes and sugar mice to yule logs and chocolate coins, sweet treats are an integral part of our Christmas celebrations. Following the success of The Sweet Makers on BBC Two earlier this year, four modern confectioners will recreate the treats of Christmas past, and discover how their predecessors helped create many of the culinary festive traditions we enjoy today.
Chocolatier Paul A Young, bespoke cake decorator Cynthia Stroud, chocolatier Diana Short and sweet consultant Andy Baxendale will use original recipes and equipment to whip up the festive bestsellers of Christmases past. Guided by food historian Dr Annie Gray and social historian Emma Dabiri, they’ll uncover the mystery of what an earth a sugarplum is, before decorating a series of exquisite Twelfth Cakes, affordable only to Georgian’s wealthy elite. As they move into the Victorian era our confectioners encounter the gaping gulf between rich and poor and create treats for both - from Queen Victoria’s favoured Boar’s Head cake to jelly pistols and sugar mice accessible to children with just a few pennies to spend. Finally they’ll explore the wealth of chocolate novelties launched in the 1920s - including the predecessor of that modern Christmas favourite the Chocolate Orange - the Chocolate Apple.
World’s Weirdest Winter (w/t)
The natural world is full of the weird and the wonderful… but at wintertime - it just gets weirder. From snowboarding crows to seemingly suicidal penguins and snownados that come from nowhere, this Christmas serves up weird stories of the unexplained, unexpected and the unidentifiable from across the globe.
Using state of the art science, expert analysis and firsthand eyewitness accounts, we are going to examine the evidence, test the theories and unravel some of the strangest stories our planet has to offer.
Based in a remote hut for the winter, naturalist Chris Packham embarks on a fascinating journey to try to explain some of Winter’s Weirdest Events. With the help of leading scientists and engaging contributors, Chris will reveal secrets from the natural world from bizarre science to animal oddities, crazy weather, medical marvels and remarkable natural phenomenon.