Spring is crime time at Channel 4


LONDON -- Channel 4 is putting crime at the top of its spring/summer schedule in a bid to deliver on its public service programming pledge, channel head Julian Bellamy said Thursday, adding that it also will launch a range of ambitious documentaries and features.

The centerpiece of the schedule will be a study of violent street and gun crime in which the broadcaster will follow the workings of the Street Weapons Commission, a legal body chaired by Cherie Booth, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Booth, a barrister and part-time judge, will be filmed as her team travels up and down Britain meeting victims, individuals and organizations involved in the issues around street crime and the growing availability of guns here. Channel 4 also will feature a televised debate on the issues.

The factual documentary will be accompanied by the telefilm "Fallout," starring Lennie James and adapted from Roy Williams' acclaimed stage play of the same name, as well as two special editions of the current affairs show "Dispatches" devoted to street violence and a week of short films that will tell the story of victims of violent crime.

The broadcaster is opening up two primetime slots to showcase up-and-coming talent in August with "New Talent Month," which plays host to new comedy talent and will feature the new topical comedy program "The Nightly Show," a successor to "The Eleven O'Clock Show," which launched such stars as Ricky Gervais, Mackenzie Crook and Sacha Baron Cohen in the late 1990s.

Documentary highlights include "Origin of the Species," in which Prof. Richard Dawkins examines Darwin's theory of evolution, and "Victorian Passions," a series of historical documentaries about love and sex in the late 19th century.

Although the broadcaster is cutting back its spending on acquired U.S. programming, Channel 4 will see the return of "Desperate Housewives" and will debut "Back to You" and "Reaper."