Transgender documentary amongst Channel 4’s autumn offerings

There's a host of new drama, entertainment and comedy to look forward to...

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A documentary exploring the challenges of being transgender is among the eclectic line-up in Channel 4’s autumn schedule, which was announced today.

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Girls Will Be Boys and Boys Will Be Girls is a four-part series that will seek to “explore the challenges of being ‘trans’ in a world that can be quick to judge, prejudiced and abusive”. It follows the fortunes of seven transgender people as they live together and interact with the surrounding community.

Executive producer Sam Whittaker was quick to quell comparisons between the show, which follows the fortunes of seven transgender people living together in a house, and former C4 favourite Big Brother. “It couldn’t be further from it,” he said.

Chairing a Q&A at this morning’s press launch, new Channel 4 newsreading acquisition Cathy Newman revealed, “Some of it’s quite graphic – there is footage of a man in genital surgery.”

One of the participants, identified only as Max, explained that the series would help to highlight how being “trans” is a psychological issue that goes far beyond surgery.

“Something that came through from all the people in the house is that surgery is something that you might choose, you might not choose, but that emotional journey is a lot more important about how you feel and how you relate to your body.”

Another highlight of the schedule is a brand-new set of three stand-alone dramas from the pen of Charlie Brooker. Black Mirror, described by the Guardian columnist-cum-TV writer and presenter as “inspired by shows like The Twilight Zone” in that it “investigates a sense of unease at the time”, will use satire and suspense to tell stories of techno-paranoia.

After the success of Hugh’s Fish Fight, campaigning will continue on C4 this autumn with The Empty Homes Show. Fronted by architect and Shelter ambassador George Clarke, the programme will investigate why there are a million uninhabited homes in Britain, and what we can do to help.

“The scale of [the problem] is mindboggling”, said Clarke. “The more I’ve looked, the more I’ve been shocked by it.”

Top Boy, a four-part drama from the pen of Ronan Bennett, promises a gripping portrayal of life as a young drug dealer and gang member in inner-city London. Inspired by Bennett seeing a 12-year-old boy dealing drugs near his house in Hackney, the drama has a cast of 68 speaking parts, primarily drawn from local schools, youth clubs and drama groups.

Drama fans will also be pleased to hear Shane Meadows has written a follow-up to his critically acclaimed This Is England ’86 – This Is England ’88.

There’s plenty of new and returning comedy on the menu, including Fresh Meat from the writers of Peep Show, Comic Strip: the Hunt for Tony Blair and Hit the Road, Jack – a new entertainment format starring stand-up sensation Jack Whitehall.

Other shows sure to make a splash include Educating Essex, a fly-on-the-wall documentary set in a secondary school in the fair county, and Fighting on the Frontline, a hard-hitting battlefield documentary filmed in Afghanistan.

Big-name favourites Derren Brown and Kevin McCloud will both return for new shows. In Kevin’s Grand Design the presenter sets out to prove building beautiful affordable housing is possible and Derren Brown: the Experiments is a new four-part series that promises to see illusionist “push the boundaries in terms of size and scale” in a series of social experiments.

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As if that’s not enough – there’s a high-concept game show, The Bank Job, in the pipeline for next year (think Deal or No Deal meets The Million Pound Drop) and another new series from Jamie Oliver.