BBC1 controller Danny Cohen outlines new commissions and “five key themes” for 2013

New shows from David Walliams, Ben Elton, Toby Whithouse, David Nicholls and Richard Hammond are planned for next year

BBC1 controller Danny Cohen today announced the “five key themes” he intends the channel to deliver on in 2013, as well as a number of new commissions.


Viewers can expect new dramas from the likes of One Day author David Nicholls and Being Human creator Toby Whithouse, fresh comedy by David Walliams, Jason Byrne and Ben Elton, documentaries from David Attenborough, Eddie Izzard and Paul O’Grady and entertainment shows starring Richard Hammond and Clare Balding in the New Year.

Cohen said he wanted to build on an “extrememly strong” year for BBC1 in 2012, after the Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee and Euro 2012 helped draw huge audiences to the channel.

Outlining his strategy, Cohen said: “We plan to maintain our creative momentum in 2013, and there are five key themes that I am focused on to ensure that we deliver that.

“Event drama, the biggest names in comedy, high-impact intelligent factual, a strong sense of contemporary Britain and warm-hearted popular entertainment will all play an important role on BBC1 in the coming year. Together, they will express the range and creative ambition audiences can expect from the channel in 2013.”

Here are some of the shows Cohen has commissioned under his five pillars:

“Event drama”

Cohen said he was commited to “raising the stakes” on BBC1 drama and “working with Britain’s very best writers, actors and directors” on programmes with “great ambition, quality writing and memorable performances which portray a captivating range of fictional worlds and landscapes.” 

Cohen’s “event dramas” already announced include The Village, which charts the tubulent times in an English village across the whole of the 20th century, period crime drama Ripper Street, starring Matthew Macfadyen, a third series for Idris Elba’s maverick detective Luther, historical adaptation The White Queen and programming for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. These will be bolstered by three new commissions announced today: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, The 7:39 and The Game.

*Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell has been adapted by playwright Peter Harness from the bestselling Susanna Clarke novel and takes place during the Napoleonic Wars “in an England where magic once existed and is about to return”.

*The 7:39, a two-part romantic drama by David Nicholls – the award-winning author of One Day and Starter for Ten – finds two commuters falling in love after battling to get a seat on their regular early-morning train to work.

*The Game is a new six-part Cold War spy thriller from Being Human writer Toby Whithouse, which takes place in the secretive world of 1970s espionage.

“Biggest names in comedy”

As well as kicking off the year with new series of Miranda and Mrs Brown’s Boys, BBC1 will also be screening brand-new sitcoms from Ben Elton and David Walliams later in 2013.

Lee Mack will return in a sixth run of Not Going Out, there’s a second series of Citizen Khan, about a Muslim community leader and his family, and Sue Johnston will star in a new comedy piece based on last year’s Christmas special Lapland.

Stand-up comic Jason Byrne has also written a new sitcom called Father Figure about an ordinary dad plagued by bad luck and meddling in-laws.

“High-impact factual”

Cohen said: “The New Year begins with Africa, the latest piece of magic from the BBC’s peerless Natural History Unit, voiced by Sir David Attenborough. It’s full of unmissable moments that are the hallmark of the BBC’s wildlife output.

“We will also be premiering a new series on DNA presented through the eyes and genetic coding of the brilliant polymath Eddie Izzard, and a series on the history of working-class Britain by Paul O’Grady.”

“Contemporary Britain”

BBC1 will also “introduce a stronger and spikier flavour of contemporary Britain in the coming months,” says Cohen, with new prime-time documentary series The Prisoners and Life-Savers, as well as a range of programmes about the cost of living in the current economic climate.

“Warm-hearted and popular entertainment”

Richard Hammond’s Secret Service – in which the Top Gear presenter plays pranks on members of the public – and Clare Balding’s new intelligence test format Britain’s Brightest are intended to give viewers more of the “warm-hearted and popular entertainment” promised by Cohen, as are new series of The Voice UK and Strictly Come Dancing.

“The job of running BBC One is all about making television audiences love,” said Cohen. “Both in terms of new programmes and maintaining the vibrancy and creativity of our longer running shows.


We aim to keep working with Britain’s very best writers, actors and directors.”