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The BBC’s new drama controller Piers Wenger has unveiled 47 hours of new TV in his first major slate of of commissions since joining the broadcaster in 2016.
At an event held in London on Thursday evening and co-hosted by BBC director-general Tony Hall, Wenger also announced his vision in what is believed to be one of the top jobs in U.K. TV, saying that it was important for the drama team to “deliver the unexpected” and that he wanted a “strong streak of Britishness” to run through the center of everything it does.
One of the most well-known names on the list of titles is the first British TV adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds, a 3 x 60 series to be produced by Mammoth Screen (Poldark, Victoria). Peter Harness (Doctor Who, Wallander) has penned the script, with production set to kick off in early 2018.
Another major 3 x 60 adaptation is Little Women, adapted from Louisa May Alcott’s classic by Call the Midwife’s award-winning creator Heidi Thomas and a co-production with PBS’ Masterpiece. Vanessa Caswill (Thirteen, My Mad Fat Diary) will direct all three episodes, with Playground (Wolf Hall, Howard’s End). Principal photography is set to begin in July.
From Joe Barton, the writer of BAFTA-winning Our World War and Humans, comes Netflix co-production Giri/Haji, an original eight-part series about a middle-aged Tokyo detective (Kenzo) who travels to London in search of his wayward younger brother (Yuto). Once thought dead, Yuto is now believed to be posing as a Yakuza gangster in London and wanted for the murder of a Japanese businessman there. Giri/Haji is being produced by Sister Pictures, and will premiere on the BBC, with Netflix streaming the series globally outside the U.K.
Stephen Frears (Florence Foster Jenkins, Philomena) is taking a break from big screen to direct a three-part adaptation of A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment, based on the book by journalist John Preston and written by Russell T Davies (Doctor Who). In Bruges and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel banner Blueprint Pictures is producing.
Elsewhere, Black Narcissus is a three-part adaptation of Rumer Godden’s tale of sexual repression and forbidden love, returning the haunting story to its original setting in 1930s Nepal and coming from BAFTA award-winning writer Amanda Coe (Apple Tree Yard). The series is being produced by DNA Films (Ex Machina).
From Red Production Company, behind the acclaimed series Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax, is Come Home, a three-parter written by Emmy-winning screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst and telling the story of a mother who walks out on her family.
The War of the Worlds, Little Women, Giri/Haji, A Very English Scandal, Black Narcissus and Come Home were all commissioned for BBC One. For BBC Two, Wenger announced Summer of Rockets, a semi-autobiographical series from Stephen Poliakoff and set during the Cold War in 1957. For the broadcaster’s digital-only service BBC Three comes Overshadowed, a 8 x 10 series from Rollem Productions, based on Eva O’Connor’s play about a girl whose life spirals out of control when she meets the monster of anorexia personified.
“Delivering high-quality drama that engages and excites the public is a priority for the BBC,” said Hall at the launch event. “The commissions we have announced will continue to deliver just that. It’s an exciting time ahead for fans of great drama.”
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