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BBC Two announces raft of new commissions

BBC Two Controller Janice Hadlow has announced a wealth of new commissions encompassing major dramas; comedy drama series from Sue Perkins, Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall, and Mitchell and Webb; an exploration of women in art; and a year-long celebration of the genius of British inventions.

Janice Hadlow says: “BBC Two has had a really successful year with stand-out dramas from The Best Of Men to Line of Duty, the channel’s best performing drama series since 2002; fantastic comedy including Twenty Twelve and The Sarah Millican Show; ground-breaking documentaries and current affairs films from The Men Who Made Us Fat to Britain In A Day; and our contribution to the Cultural Olympiad from the acclaimed The Hollow Crown adaptations of Shakespeare’s history plays to a major exploration of the life and work of Lucian Freud.

“Looking ahead, I want to ensure that the channel’s sense of confidence and scale continues, and I believe that these commissions, from a major year-long celebration of British inventiveness and ingenuity to new dramas and comedies from some of our brightest and best talent demonstrate the range and ambition we have for BBC Two.”


Wolf Hall

A thrilling six-part adaptation Hilary Mantel’s novels, the Man Booker Prize-winning ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up The Bodies’.  England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster.  If Henry VIII dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war.  Into the impasse steps Thomas Cromwell; son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a bully and a charmer, Cromwell has broken all the rules of a rigid society in his rise to power, and is prepared to break some more. Pitting himself against parliament, the political establishment and the papacy, he is prepared to reshape England to his own and Henry VIII’s desires.

Writer: Peter Straughan, Indie: Company Pictures, George Faber, BBC exec: Polly Hill

The Honourable Woman

Following the critically acclaimed, The Shadow Line, Hugo Blick returns with The Honourable Woman (6×60). The daughter of a UK Zionist gun-runner inherits her murdered father’s company and by dramatically inverting its purpose from supplying tanks to tractors starts a deadly political war.

Hugo Blick says: “This is a suspenseful spy thriller about inheritance, political and personal, and the lengths some spies will go to not only to deceive their enemies – but also themselves.”

The Honourable Woman is being made by Eight Rooks. The BBC Executive Producer is Polly Hill.

Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama, says: “These two pieces have a level of authorship and ambition that continues to consolidate BBC Two’s reputation as the home of distinctive and intelligent British drama alongside recent hits Line Of Duty, The Hollow Crown and The Best Of Men.”


Our Men

David Mitchell and Robert Webb lead the cast in their first new comedy drama series; ‘Our Men’ follows the lives and loves of the British Embassy team in Tazbekistan, one of the ex-Soviet ‘Stans’. David Mitchell plays Keith Davis, the newly appointed British Ambassador of Tazbekistan – ambitious, he intends to make his mark in this posting.  Standing beside him is Neil Tilly, Deputy Head of Mission (Robert Webb). While Davis is out representing Britain, Neil is in the Embassy pulling the levers and managing the staff. It’s a tough posting where they are far more likely to be drinking lethal vodka in the President’s hunting yurt than having G&Ts on the lawn.

Written by James Wood and Rupert Walters, the executive producers are Kenton Allen and Luke Alkin for Big Talk Productions and Chris Sussman for BBC Comedy.

Heading Out

Broadcaster and comedian Sue Perkins will take the lead role in a self-penned new comedy, ‘Heading Out’. Perkins plays Sara – a veterinarian so skilled, she can spay a tortoise one-handed. She’s successful, she’s popular – there’s just one chink in her armour – she’s too scared to tell her parents she’s gay. On the evening of her 40th birthday, Sara’s friends give her an ultimatum: either she tells her parents when they come to visit in six weeks’ time, or they will. To help Sara achieve this goal, they’ve saved up to buy a series of sessions with Toria, the eccentric and mildly-qualified lifestyle coach / therapist, and so the countdown begins…

‘Heading Out’ was commissioned by Kristian Smith, Executive Editor, BBC Comedy Commissioning. The 6×30 series is a co-production between RED Production Company and Square Peg TV. Nicola Shindler is executive producing for RED Production Company with Debi Allen executive producer for Square Peg TV. The executive producer for the BBC is Kristian Smith.

Hooligans’ Island

Next year it will be 18 years since Richie Rich and Eddie Hitler last graced our television screens in cult hit, Bottom. So what has happened to these titans of comedy? Are they still living in one of the dirtiest and least hygienic flats uncondemned by Health and Safety? Are they still drinking neat furniture polish whilst hitting each other over the head with large metal objects, setting fire to each other as they seek to impress gullible members of the opposite sex, and each other? Or are they down the pub?

No, they are abandoned, lost, shipwrecked on the tropical hell hole that is ‘Hooligans Island’ and they are still hitting each other over the head with large metal objects, still chasing women, even though there are none on the island, and still waiting for that job seekers allowance cheque as they distil something quite like alcohol, only worse. And they are back on BBC Two in 2013 for six new episodes starring Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson. Be afraid, be very afraid and then just a little bit bilious.

‘Hooligans’ Island’ is a BBC In-house comedy co-production with Phil McIntyre productions. It will be executive produced by Jon Plowman for the BBC and Lucy Ansbro for Phil McIntyre Productions.

Count Arthur Strong

Graham Linehan (IT Crowd, Father Ted, Black Books), is working with Steve Delaney, the creator of Sony Award-winning radio character Count Arthur Strong, to take the character on the full journey from Edinburgh cult to his television debut.

Count Arthur Strong is an elderly pompous show-business legend… though really just an out-of-work deluded thespian originally from Doncaster, in the north of England. Delaney’s geriatric creation is a mixture of physical and mental clumsiness, mirthful malapropisms and Tourettic tics, whose pride forbids him from ever conceding fallibility, even as his world crashes around him.

The 6×30 series is being made by Retort and Komedia Entertainment. Executive producers are Jon Rolph for Retort, Richard Daws for Komedia and Gregor Sharp for the BBC.

Gregor Sharp says: “We are absolutely delighted to see Graham and Steve join the immensely talented group of writers and comedians making brilliant shows across the BBC channels.”


The Genius Of Invention

In 2013, BBC Two will look back over the history of British inventions with a major year-long celebration of British inventiveness and ingenuity, with programmes from history, science, documentaries and arts.  In The Genius Of Invention, presenters including Michael Mosley, Liz Bonin, the Hairy Bikers, Professor Brian Cox and Dan Snow will explore the lasting influence of Britain’s scientific and engineering history.

The World That Women Made (w/t)

It is an inescapable truth that throughout history, women’s artistry has rarely been seen as ‘true art’ in the eyes of institutions and commerce. Yet, the female hand and the female gaze have more than played their played their part in shaping the visual culture of the modern world.

In a three-part series, Amanda Vickery travels from the Renaissance to the 20th century to explore and explain the story of female creativity through the ages. Tackling art professionals and ordinary women, Amanda will explore how the story of women in art can help us unlock the key to the female psyche and how the representation can help us understand how artistic attitudes and social tastes have evolved through the years.

The 3×60 series is being executive produced by Ross Wilson for Matchlight Productions and Adam Barker for the BBC.