Last night in London, in a building swarming with olives and cheese straws the BBC held an event to celebrate BBC drama. Speaking at the event for writers, actors, industry and press, Ben Stephenson set out his vision for BBC Drama, looked forward to new horizons and announced a range of new commissions. Roughly 200 people were expected at the event and it appeared they all arrived. The room was packed and everyone was excited about what dramas were to come. In his four years in the job Controller of Drama Ben Stephenson has helped shape the face of British drama with a commitment to strong scripts and big stars. Stephenson said: “Drama and the BBC are inseparable – it is written through the BBC like a stick of rock. No other broadcaster in the world has drama so firmly in its DNA.” He continued: “My aim is to build a BBC drama department that has an enormous international reputation. That means making us more British than ever – it is about applying the Danny Boyle vision to our work – a bold, adventurous, authorial approach that exports because of its Britishness not despite it. A BBC that feels inspiringly creative – where there is a buzz and creativity and anything goes optimism.”
The drama hungry crowd where then shown a 3 minute showreel of dramas coming in 2013. 27 in all squeezed tightly into a fast paced blink and you’ll miss your favourite series package. To be honest the short length of the piece made it difficult to get a real flavour of the best upcoming pieces but they all looked fresh, new and exiting and with Stephenson’s track record I’ve no doubt they will be.
What was Announced.
Stephenson joked that despite the ‘lousy’ ratings it’s been getting the BBC have commissioned a third series of hugely popular period piece Call the Midwife along with a Christmas Special.
Another show doing massively well in the ratings, getting the highest mid-week ratings of any show at the moment crime drama Death in Paradise will also return for a third series.
With new Doctor Who assistant Jenna-Louise Coleman in attendance Stephenson confirmed that the upcoming series of Doctor Who will be shown in 3D.
Moving on to new commissions he announced a new 13-part fantasy drama series created by Howard Overman entitled Atlantis which will fill the gap left by Merlin in the Autumn. He said casting was still being worked on.
He then went onto say the BBC are currently looking into who can play Mr. Darcy in a 3-part adaptation of PD James’ Death Comes To Pemberley.
Two new drama series from two new writers can also be expected. Breakdown 8 x 60 series, written by brothers Jack Williams and Harry Williams and The Interceptor 8 x 60 series, written by Tony Saint and described as a new gripping and high-octane eight-part series about a top secret, state of the art law enforcement team whose unswerving mission is to hunt down some of Britain’s most dangerous and ruthless criminals. Finally for BBC1 a new three-part drama from Gwyneth Hughes entitled Remember Me was announced.
Stephenson then moved on to praise the success of BBC2 drama and announced the second and third parts of the trilogy Turks And Caicos and Salting The Battlefield starring Bill Nighy and following on from successful spy drama Page Eight.
In sad, but not completely unexpected news Stephenson announced that BBC4 drama is coming to an end. The channel has long been known for it’s ambitious drama pieces and in-depth biopics so to finish their off their drama run the channel are tackling a biopic film on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Stephenson was very pleased to announce that they’d secured Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West to pay the iconic lead roles.
What I discovered
Aside from the speech and the teasing showreel the rest of the time at the event was spent chatting and mingling. I chatted to actress Anne Reid who revealed she was over the moon at the success of recent drama Last Tango in Halifax and that she hopes the scripts for the second series are good as there’s so much anticipation for them. Last Tango in Halifax will begin filming for the second series in June.
I chatted with former Silent Witness star William Gaminara who revealed he thinks he made the right decision to leave his role in the long-running crime drama but admitted it was a not an easy decision to make. He hopes to return to script writing now that he has more time.
I spoke with Death in Paradise and Red Dwarf star Danny John-Jules who had just returned from promoting the hugely popular BBC crime drama in Australia. He was genuinely excited at how well the series had been received by audiences and no doubt happy about the announcement of the third series.
I’ll admit to staring longingly at Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss in the hopes that if I caught their eye they’d be drawn to me and reveal how Sherlock survived! I lingered uncomfortably long near Luther star and general mega-star Idris Elba but wasn’t able to track him down. The three minute showreel showed tiny snippets from the upcoming third series and Ben Stephenson confirmed the first episode to be “terrifying.” He also confirmed Luther will reunite with Alice and that Ruth Wilson “wears a black glove and does terrible things.”
I also spotted screenwriter Richard Curtis whose new one-off film Mary & Martha will be airing on BBC1 soon to coincide with Comic Relief.
I also had a genuinely lovely chat with My Mad Fat Diary star Nico Mirallegro who was there to talk about new BBC1 drama series The Village with co-stars Juliet Stevenson and the equally lovely Emily Beecham. Mirallegro was genuinely pleased his E4 series had gone down so well with audiences and hinted that a second series of the comedy good well be on the cards. The Village, which also stars John Simm and Maxine Peake is expected in late March/ April in a Sunday night slot and is expected to run for five years.
The cast of New Tricks were there including newest recruit Nicholas Lyndhurst who will be shortly be going from one series that’s hugely repeated on the BBC to another. I have it on good authority former EastEnders star Lacey Turner was in attendance to discuss her new one-off drama Our Girl and actress Alison Steadman was milling around talking about the upcoming return of lottery drama The Syndicate.
I also spoke with the lovely Julie Gearey, writer of BBC drama Prisoners Wives who hoped the second series would be as well liked as the first.
All in all it was a brilliant night filled with people with a genuine love of what they do and for BBC drama. Stephenson commented that no one makes drama like the BBC and it’s incredibly difficult to dissagree. 2013 is certain to be another strong year for BBC drama and I for one am beside myself with excitement about each and every one of them. I can’t wait for more Original British Drama. Watch the Showreel below.