BBC Orders 'Howards End' Adaptation From 'Gangs of New York' Co-Writer

Howards End - H 2015

More than 35 hours of new programming will be added to the U.K. public broadcaster's slate.

The BBC has ordered a four-part TV adaptation of Howards End from screenwriter and playwright Kenneth Lonergan (Gangs of New York, You Can Count on Me) along with a slew of other new dramas.

Polly Hill, who in May was appointed controller of BBC drama commissioning, announced the new programs, saying: "I'm proud to announce this range of over 35 hours of new drama and to continue the BBC's commitment to backing original, ambitious drama."

She added: "Over the next year, I will continue to reinvent and broaden the range of drama on the BBC, and it is because we make great drama for everyone that we can offer audiences and the creative community something unique and distinct."

Howards End will have four hourlong episodes, produced by Colin Callender's Playground in association with City Entertainment and KippSterEntertainment, based on the classic E.M. Forster novel. The miniseries will explore "the changing landscape of social and class divisions in turn-of-the-century England through the prism of three families." It is slated to start production in the summer

Said Callender: "At a time when there is a raging debate about the BBC license fee it is worth reminding ourselves that it is because this great institution is funded by license fee rather than advertising or subscription that it is able to bring to the British audience dramas that no one else in the U.K. would produce. The boldness of commissioning a playwright like Ken Lonergan to adapt this great literary classic and make it accessible and relevant to a modern audience is a testament to the BBC’s crucial and unique role in the broadcast landscape worldwide."

Here is a look at other new BBC drama commissions, with the last two being for BBC Two and the rest for flagship network BBC One.

6 x 60 minutes
Set in the world of newspapers, "its past riven by hacking scandals, its present at the mercy of the digital age and the 24-hour news cycle, its future uncertain," the show is written by Mike Bartlett, creator of Doctor Foster. He said: "From exposing political corruption to splashing on celebrity scandal, editors and journalists have enormous influence over us, yet recent events have shown there’s high-stakes and life-changing drama going on in the news organizations themselves. I’m hugely excited to be working with the BBC to make Press, a behind-the-scenes story about a group of diverse and troubled people who shape the stories and headlines we read every day."

6 x 60
Written by Jimmy McGovern, it "plots the perspective of a local Catholic priest Father Michael Kerrigan and that of his congregation and their struggle with both Catholicism and contemporary Britain."

The Replacement
3 x 60
The psychological thriller, written and directed by Joe Ahearne, revolves around Ellen, a successful architect in her mid-30s who gets pregnant and finds maternity cover in Paula. "Ellen begins to fear for her safety when she suspects her maternity cover has a disturbing agenda," according to a show description. "Can her suspicions be explained away as female rivalry and her own insecurity of opting out of work at the top of her game — or do they speak to something deeper?"

6 x 60
Written and created by Kris Mrksa, the series will explore the question "what if your parent died and you suddenly discovered that everything they'd said about themselves, and about you, was untrue?"

Woman in White
4 x 60
"When Walter Hartright encounters a ghostly woman dressed all in white on a moonlit road, he soon finds himself drawn into a mysterious and disturbing world," according to a show description. "Romance, suspense and danger combine as secrets come to the fore in Wilkie Collins' haunting tale of insanity and identity. Viewed by many as the first detective novel, The Woman in White will take viewers on a thrilling ride down the paths and corridors of English country houses and, ultimately, into the depths of the Victorian madhouse."

Black Earth Rising
Hugo Blick (The Honorable Woman) is behind the series set in Africa. "Black Earth Rising is a long-form thriller, which, through the prism of a black Anglo-American family, examines the West’s relationship with contemporary Africa by exploring issues of justice, guilt and self-determination," Blick says.

Paula (working title)
3 x 60
Written by Conor McPherson, the program is a revenge drama "about a brief encounter that ends in violence." In it, a man and a woman "get locked into a battle driven by vengeance," according to the show description.