BBC drama controller Ben Stephenson today unveiled details of five new programmes to air on BBC1 this year – which he said would “up the scale and pace of our output in order to secure the next generation of mainstream hits, risk-taking and originality”.
Leading the way is War of the Roses, a dramatisation by Emma Frost (Shameless) of the Cousins’ War novels by Philippa Gregory. A serial focusing on the women who shaped and were affected by England’s civil wars of the 15th century, War of the Roses was described by Stephenson as “one of the most ambitious projects ever attempted by the BBC”.
New comedy drama is to come in the form of Truckers, a six-parter by William Ivory (Made in Dagenham) about a Midlands haulage firm and its “rogues’ gallery” of employees, struggling to survive the recession and to balance their home and work lives.
Stephenson also announced three seasonal dramas. Halloween will bring The Secret of Crickley Hall, a three-part version of James Herbert’s bestselling ghost story. Christmas 2012 will offer The Moonstone, a dramatisation of Wilkie Collins’ ground-breaking detective novel, and Room on the Broom, an animation by the makers of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child, based on another of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s books.
Despite what might seem to be a preponderance of traditional, stately adaptations of respected literature, Stephenson claimed his new slate showcased the corporation’s versatility. “The unique nature of our funding means that only BBC1 drama can bring you this kind of quality and range to ensure there really is something for everyone,” he said. “BBC1 showcases the biggest and broadest range of what mainstream drama can offer of any channel in the world. BBC1 is the home of big characters, big emotions and big stories – and it is these three components that will define drama on the channel over the next few years.”
The channel also announced casting details for several other forthcoming dramas. Matthew Macfadyen is to take the lead in Ripper Street, an “extraordinary” eight-parter about a police division trying to keep order in the East End of London in 1889, during the aftermath of the “Ripper” murders.
Finally, Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid will lead the cast of Antony and Cleopatra, Sally Wainwright’s romantic comedy drama about childhood sweethearts reunited after 60 years. Also in the cast are Sarah Lancashire, Nicola Walker, Tony Gardner, Dean Andrews and Ronni Ancona.