Back in August, Channel 4 announced that Peep Show writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong would be collaborating with Oscar-winning director (and Olympics Opening Ceremony hero) Danny Boyle on a new project "set inside the police".
Other than that, details were scarce. The style, format and even the title remained a mystery. But tonight, in a Radio Times-sponsored session at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Bain and Armstrong revealed a lot more about it...
Filming has begun on the Danny Boyle-directed feature-length pilot episode of Babylon, with a six-part series due to shoot next year. Set in London, the comedy-drama will focus on police from all levels of the force and will feature documentary-style elements.
“We’ve been writing it for a few years since we had the first meeting [with Danny Boyle],” said Bain. “Mainly because of availability. Danny, last year, was doing something in the Olympic Park… he was quite busy…
“It’s kind of a cross-section of the police,” added Bain of the new show. “We look at different levels of the police from guys on the street to the top brass. It’s a comedy-drama, it’s got jokes – and people involved in dangerous situations, which is a new one for us. And it’s directed by Danny, who’s directed quite a lot of stuff before – he’s quite experienced at it…”
But Babylon doesn’t just boast top-of-the-line writing and directing credentials. “We’ve got some great cast,” added Bain. James Nesbitt, known for shows ranging from Cold Feet to Murphy's Law, and last seen in ITV medical drama Monroe, will play Chief Constable Richard Miller, with Hollywood actress Brit Marling, star of Another Earth and Sound of My Voice, as Liz Garvey, a US cop drafted in to shake up the PR department.
Armstrong suggested there would be a satirical documentary-style flavour to Babylon: “[Producer] Robert Jones and Danny had wanted to do something about the police, especially about all the Police Camera Action kind of cops, real life filming of police shows and the way they look on TV,” said Armstrong, “so we have a documentary crew within our show.
“As soon as there’s any incident [in real life policing] now there’s 20 camera phones out, and the cops are filming the public back, so it’s quite a screen- and filming-rich environment out on the streets and I think that interests [Boyle] to try and convey. It’s a good area for drama too. “