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Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Award-winning Australian comedian Sarah Kendall will star in the bittersweet dark comedy Frayed

Award-winning Australian comedian Sarah Kendall will star in the bittersweet dark comedy Frayed, a Sky original production, co-commissioned with ABC in Australia. The comedy is the first scripted co-commission between the two broadcasters and is now filming in Newcastle (NSW), Sydney, and London.

Set in 1989, Frayed follows the journey of Sammy Cooper (Sarah Kendall), a fabulously wealthy London housewife who is forced to return to the town in Australia she grew up in. In coming home, Sammy must revisit her past and the events that led her to flee as a teenager years ago.

Painfully funny and sometimes dark, Frayed is full of complex characters, dubious decisions, and unfortunate events; and at its heart is the journey of one flawed family confronting their secrets and trying to find a way back.

Creator / Star Sarah Kendall says: 
"I just wanted to visit my family in Newcastle but I ended up shooting a 6 part comedy here for the ABC and Sky. I'm incredibly excited to be given this opportunity. And I also love free flights."

Sky's Head of Comedy Jon Mountague says: 
"We can all relate in some way to complex family drama, which is at the heart of this ingeniously written comedy. Sarah Kendall is an exceptional lead and I'm excited to add Frayed to Sky's line-up of original British comedy in 2019."

ABC Head of Comedy Rick Kalowski says: 
"Frayed is among the funniest, but also most moving, pieces I've ever had the pleasure to work on. I'd been a fan of Sarah Kendall's standup for years and am delighted to be collaborating with Sky, Sharon Horgan and Clelia Mountford's Merman, and Kevin Whyte's Guesswork to bring Frayed to Australian and worldwide audiences next year."

Frayed is written by Kendall and produced by Merman (Motherland/BBC, There She Goes/BBC, Women on the Verge/UKTV, Catastrophe C4/Amazon) the production company founded and run by award-winning duo Sharon Horgan and Clelia Mountford, in association with Australia's Guesswork Television (ABC's Rosehaven, Get Krack!n, Please Like Me).

Frayed (6x45') will air on Sky and streaming service NOW TV, and ABC in Australia in 2019.

Helen Mirren holds court as formidable Russian Empress in Sky and HBO’s Catherine the Great

Set against the lavish backdrop of the politically ruthless 18th century Russian court, this is the first image of Helen Mirren as one of the most powerful female leaders of all time, in Sky and HBO's original British drama Catherine the Great.

Starring alongside the Oscar® winner in the glittering and power-hungry court are Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) as Catherine's favoured statesman, military commander and lover Potemkin, BAFTA winner Gina McKee (Bodyguard), as Catherine's lifelong friend and confidante Countess Bruce, and Rory Kinnear (The Imitation Game) as Minister Panin, a skilful politician, advisor and governor to Catherine's son and heir Paul (Joseph Quinn).

Richard Roxburgh (Moulin Rouge) also joins as Grigory Orlov, one of Catherine's former lovers who, with his brother Alexei Orlov (played by Kevin R McNally, Unforgotten), orchestrated the coup that brought Catherine into power.

Currently shooting in palaces and sets across Russia, Latvia and Lithuania, this four-part epic will chart the latter years of Catherine's 34-year reign, as she builds Russia's reputation as one of the great powers of Europe.

The first-look image shows Helen Mirren as Empress Catherine in her private quarters modelled on the original Russian palaces and surrounded by hand-copied paintings from the Hermitage.

The wider cast includes Clive Russell (Game of Thrones) as The Fool, Sam Palladio (Nashville) as Catherine's young lover Alexander Vasilichikov, Lucas Englander (Genius) as Lieutenant Mirovich, Antonia Clarke (Les Misérables) as Princess Sophie, Paul Ritter (Friday Night Dinner) as General Suvorov, Paul Kaye as Pugachev, Thomas Doherty as Peter Zavadovsky, Raphael Acloque as Platon Zubov, James Northcote as Alexander Bezborodko and Andrew Rothney as Alexander Dmitriev-Mamonov.

Written by Nigel Williams (Elizabeth I) and directed by BAFTA and Emmy® Award-winning Philip Martin (The Crown), Catherine the Great is produced by Origin Pictures and New Pictures. It is the third commission from Sky and HBO's high-end global drama partnership.

The series will air on Sky Atlantic and TV streaming service NOW TV in the UK and Ireland next year, and on Sky Atlantic in Italy, Germany, Austria and Spain. Sky Vision will handle international sales and distribution.

Peter Jackson's First World War Film They Shall Not Grow Old set for television premiere on BBC Two

In a unique film commissioned by 14-18 NOW, Imperial War Museums in association with the BBC aims to bring to life the realities of the First World War for a whole new generation.

Peter Jackson's highly anticipated First World War archive feature film They Shall Not Grow Old is to receive its broadcast premiere exclusively on BBC Two on Sunday 11 November at 9.30pm, following its World Premiere at the London Film Festival in October. The film forms part of the BBC's commemorative coverage around the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK's arts programme for the First World War centenary, and Imperial War Museums, in association with the BBC, They Shall Not Grow Old has been created exclusively with original footage from Imperial War Museums' film archive and audio from BBC archives.

They Shall Not Grow Old uses the voices of the veterans combined with original archival footage to bring to life the reality of war on the front line for a whole new generation. Footage has been colourised, converted to 3D and transformed with modern production techniques to present never before seen detail.

Created to mark the centenary of the First World War Armistice, the internationally renowned director Peter Jackson (The Hobbit, The Lord Of The Rings) combined his personal fascination with the period and his Academy Award-winning directorial skills to bring the First World War to life in a way never seen before.

Peter Jackson, Director and Producer of They Shall Not Grow Old, says: "I wanted to reach through the fog of time and pull these men into the modern world, so they can regain their humanity once more - rather than be seen only as Charlie Chaplin-type figures in the vintage archive film. By using our computing power to erase the technical limitations of 100 year-old cinema, we can see and hear the Great War as they experienced it."

Tom McDonald, BBC Commissioner, says: "It's a great honour to broadcast Peter Jackson's extraordinary film, which brings the realities of World War One vividly to life."

They Shall Not Grow Old is directed by Peter Jackson, produced by Peter Jackson and Clare Olssen and edited by Jabez Olssen. Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW and Imperial War Museums in association with the BBC, and commissioned by Tom McDonald, Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual, for BBC television.

Produced by WingNut Films and Executive Produced by House Productions. Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Special thanks to Matthew and Sian Westerman with additional support from The Taylor Family Foundation, The Moondance Foundation, Welsh Government, Scottish Government, British Council, Tim and Sarah Bunting, Jacqueline and Richard Worswick and one anonymous donor.

Complementing the broadcast premiere of They Shall Not Grow Old, a special behind-the-scenes 30-minute Peter Jackson documentary under the What Do Artists Do All Day? strand, will be broadcast on Monday November 12 at 7.30pm on BBC Four.

Doing Money - A shocking true story about slavery in the UK

Written by Gwyneth Hughes and directed by Lynsey Miller, Doing Money is a shocking true story about slavery in the UK.

This fact-based one-off drama follows the heart-breaking and compelling story of Ana, a young woman snatched in broad daylight from a London street, trafficked to Ireland and used as a sex slave in a series of 'pop up' brothels. Ana's story offers a tense and thought-provoking thriller, with powerful insights into the challenges of policing a form of modern slavery that hides in plain sight. It exposes just how big business 'doing money' is.

The cast includes the lead Ana played by Romanian actress Anca Dumitra, the police investigator DI Dougie Grant will be played by Allen Leech. They are joined by Tom Glynn-Carney, Dragos Bucur, Alec Secareanu, Cosmina Stratan, Voica Oltean, Alina Serban, Turlough Convery, Karen Hassan and Jonathan Harden.

Doing Money is a 1x90' film produced by Renegade Pictures for BBC Two. It is written by Gwyneth Hughes, directed by Lynsey Miller and produced by Mike Dormer. Alex Cooke is Executive Producer for Renegade Pictures, and Lucy Richer for BBC Two.

Commissioned by Patrick Holland, Controller BBC Two and Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama. Doing Money is produced in association with RTÉ and supported by Northern Ireland Screen, it will be distributed by Warner Brothers ITVP. Filming took place in and around Belfast.

Doing Money is part of BBC Two's Why Slavery? season: a season of ground-breaking films about slavery in the modern age.

This drama is based on the case of one particular person who was held as a sex slave for 10 months and trafficked around both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

After her ordeal, she told her story to politicians at Stormont. Her testimony helped to contribute to the passing of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act, the first new law against slavery in the UK for almost 200 years.

Worldwide almost five million women and girls endured forced sexual exploitation last year.

Introduction by Gwyneth Hughes

Stolen off the streets of London, she was raped by thousands of men, starved, bullied and threatened by pimps who threatened to kill her mother if she resisted. Somehow the young woman we call "Ana" survived her slavery. Somehow she found the courage first to escape, and then to speak out. I met her and listened to her over many hours of interviews. The international trafficking story that unfolded is complex, astonishing, and heartbreaking.

But it was the details that stuck with me and rang round my head. One example: they took her glasses, so she could not see. The special cruelty of that very ordinary detail really caught my imagination as a writer. I've worn specs since the age of six and I can't imagine how I'd go about my normal life without them, let alone how Ana coped in her ordeal. Another example: her bewilderment at the critical reviews posted on sex websites by angry men. She wondered how they didn't notice the starved, bruised, desperate state of the young woman they'd just used.

There were glimpses of a better world. Ana was proud to tell me about "Sean", the drug dealer, in and out of prison, who unexpectedly became her friend, rescuer and champion. Alone among all the men she met in Ireland, north and south, this rackety young fellow produced a simple human response. "It's just wasn't right," he told me when I met him. "You can't treat a human being that way." And so he helped her, and the lights flickered back on in her darkness.

Today the real Ana is a lively, smiley young woman doing her best to put her life back together. Going back into these hellish memories has been hard for her. So it's been important to pay attention to her grief and her rage, and to treat her kindly as she relived the worst of her experience. But it's also been vital to keep a cool and rational head, to comb through the tumbling horrors, to double check, to read other witness statements, to talk to the police, to make sense of the unspeakable. Because when you make a drama out of a true story, everyone understandably wants to know - how true is it, really?

The answer is that everything you see in Doing Money really happened to Ana. All of it, and more. Much more. For ten long months she went to a place most British and Irish women have never had to see. A place where young women are for sale in an international marketplace, organized online, where there is no desire which cannot be met for money.

Stacey Dooley gives a voice to homeless teens in new film for BBC Children in Need

Broadcaster Stacey Dooley MBE will uncover stories from the UK's homeless teenagers in a new film Stacey Dooley: The Young And Homeless for BBC Children in Need, coming to BBC One on 13 November at 10.45pm.

The film, from Bafta Award-winning True Vision Productions, gives a voice to some of society's most vulnerable young people, sensitively sharing their thoughts and concerns, shining a light on their struggle to find a safe place to sleep and their journey in securing a stable and permanent home.

Last year in the UK more than 100,000 young people presented themselves as homeless, but the real number is much higher as thousands of teenagers go under the radar by sofa surfing or staying with friends.

One of the young people featuring in the film is Shelby, aged 18, who became homeless after leaving the care system. Viewers hear Shelby's thoughts on the dangers of being on the streets of Manchester and how she would rather walk the streets all night than fall asleep for fear of being robbed.

Shelby says: "We just walk around… it's every man for themselves around here so it's [sleeping on the streets] not beneficial at all, it's dangerous.

"I think people misunderstand the concept of being homeless, because they think it's just people with a sleeping bag but it's not actually like that. There's more depth to it - anyone can be homeless. You can be homeless and have make-up, you don't have to look homeless to be homeless. A lot of people try their best not to look homeless because they are - so it's hidden. There are a lot more homeless people that what you can see with your eyes, Anyone can be homeless."

Viewers will also meet Millie, aged 17 from Devon, who shares her experience of finding herself without a home at the age of 14. Speaking to Stacey, Millie says: "Home life wasn't very good and there were a lot of issues growing up. My older siblings had moved out, my GCSEs were coming up and I knew what I wanted in life and I knew [leaving home] was the best thing for me.

"Not having a home makes you just feel worried, it's very exhausting. It affected my mental health quite a lot and I found myself getting down into really low places in my life and I found getting out of those low places were even harder just because of the situations going on. I was constantly stressed; I didn't really know what to do. I didn't know how to deal with myself and my own emotions, so I think it does really affect your mental health. As a teenager, you're already going through so many changes within yourself… your emotions feel so heightened all the time so to have to put all that stress on top of what you're going through already, it really does affect you.

"I think everybody needs a home or a safe place to be, otherwise you can't really move on with your life."

The film also follows 18 year-old Josh over a six-month period as he spends his nights on the streets of Blackpool in night shelters or sofa surfing - all whilst holding down a job at a local take-away and tirelessly striving to secure a permanent home.

Stacey Dooley: The Young And Homeless will also demonstrate how projects and organisations dedicated to supporting young people through these difficult times become a life-line, giving young people the hope they need to overcome their adverse situations. These organisations include Streetlife in Blackpool and Encompass South West in North Devon, which are supported by BBC Children in Need.

Streetlife currently receives over £99,500 across three years in BBC Children in Need funding to employ a full-time youth worker who can provide intensive one-to-one support for young people aged 18 and under who are at risk of, experiencing, or have experienced homelessness. Encompass South West currently receives £105,450 in BBC Children in Need funding over three years to provide The Junction project, supporting young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in rural communities. The project aims to help the young people to become safe, improve confidence and increase life skills.

Speaking of the film, Stacey says: "Our film for BBC Children in Need, shares stories from some incredible teenagers from across the UK facing the struggles of finding a stable roof over their heads. I am so grateful to all of the brave young people involved and hope that their honesty will go on to start a really important conversation about today's homeless young people.

"In addition, the film highlights how organisations and projects funded by public donations and charities such as BBC Children in Need go on to change the lives of young people who find themselves homeless or at risk or homelessness. I hope the British public are encouraged to tune in and donate to BBC Children in Need to enable the charity to continue to support children and young people who need it most."

Tommy Nagra, BBC Children in Need's Director of Content, adds: "With thanks to Stacey Dooley, our colleagues at the BBC and True Vision, we're pleased to be bringing this hugely poignant and thought-provoking film to viewers across the UK. Stacey Dooley: The Young And Homeless is a riveting watch, revealing just how serious the situation is and how important it is that we support our young people, who, for one reason or another, have found themselves without the comfort, safety and security of a home and with nobody to turn to."

Brian Wood, Founder of True Vision Productions, syas: "Stacey has once again shown in this film that she has an unrivalled ability to connect with young people in difficult situations. The four homeless teens who Stacey spent time with, in Blackpool, Manchester and Devon, illustrate many of the challenges facing young people in these situations, and articulate clearly and powerfully the profound need on the streets of the UK for the type of support BBC Children in Need provides. But Josh, Caitlin, Shelby and Millie a just four of over 100,000 teenagers who suffer homelessness every year. Every one of them needs our help."

Stacey Dooley: The Young and Homeless will air on BBC One during BBC Children in Need Appeal Week on BBC One on 13 November at 10.45pm. Those interested in finding out more about BBC Children in Need can visit bbc.co.uk/Pudsey.

Jamie Cullum to release BBC Children in Need’s official single for 2018

Love Is In The Picture by Jamie Cullum is BBC Children in Need's 2018 official single.

Singer-songwriter, Jamie Cullum is to release this year's official BBC Children in Need single, Love Is In The Picture. The emotive, uplifting single was written especially for BBC Children in Need by Jamie Cullum to celebrate and embrace the charity, and the children it works to support.

After revealing the news live on BBC Radio 2 this morning, Jamie said: "Earlier this month I visited two projects funded by BBC Children in Need, both of which work tirelessly to bring smiles and a sense of normalcy to children and young people.

"It's an absolute privilege to have been asked to provide a song for this year's BBC Children in Need campaign. I hope it goes on to raise money for more projects like those I visited."

Love Is In The Picture is available as a stand-alone charity single from today.

Jamie will give it its debut television performance live on the 2018 BBC Children in Need Appeal Show on Friday 16 November, at 9.50pm on BBC One.

The official BBC Children in Need single has an extensive history and, as the official artist behind this year's release, Jamie joins a long line of celebrated performers including Katie Melua, Craig David, Jess Glynne, Gareth Malone's All Star Choir, Ellie Goulding, and Girls Aloud.

All profits from the single will go to the charity, with a minimum of 40p from each single sale.

BBC Children in Need currently funds 2,700 projects supporting disadvantaged children and young people in communities across the UK.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Callum Turner and Holliday Grainger to lead the cast of BBC One’s conspiracy thriller The Capture

Written and directed by Ben Chanan (Cyberbully) and produced by Heyday Television and NBCUniversal International Studios, Callum Turner (War and Peace, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) and Holliday Grainger (Strike, Cinderella) will lead the cast of The Capture, an acutely timely surveillance thriller set in London for BBC One.

When proud British soldier Shaun Emery's (Turner) conviction for a murder in Afghanistan is successfully overturned due to flawed video evidence, he begins to plan for his life as a free man with his six year old daughter. However, when damning CCTV footage emerges from an incident in London, it isn't long before Shaun finds himself fighting for his freedom once more, only with lies, betrayal and corruption spreading further than he ever could have imagined. With DI Rachel Carey (Grainger) drafted in to investigate in what could be a career-defining case, she must discover if there is more to the shocking evidence than first meets the eye. Rachel will soon learn that the truth is merely a matter of perspective - before deciding what hers is.

With an adamant Shaun battling with his tormented past in order to clear his name once and for all, The Capture looks at a troubling world of misinformation, fake news, and the extraordinary technological capabilities of the intelligence services. In the post-truth era and when criminal justice relies so heavily on video evidence, can we always believe what we see?

Callum Turner says: "The Capture is one of the best things I've ever read and I jumped at the chance to join this wonderful team of people. Shaun Emery is an antihero. He's funny yet wounded, complex, visceral and dangerous. The epic journey he goes on was one I wanted to travel."

Holliday Grainger says: "I am thrilled to be joining the complex and intriguing world of The Capture. Ben Chanan's scripts are totally absorbing - I'm excited to explore the mind of DI Rachel Carey."

Ben Chanan says: "I am thrilled to have Holliday Grainger and Callum Turner leading our cast. As detective and suspect respectively, Rachel and Shaun must grapple their way through a world of deception and moral uncertainty. With Holliday and Callum, I feel blessed to have two such brilliant, dynamic and engaging lead actors taking us on that journey."

The Capture is a 6x60' series for BBC One, produced by Heyday Television and NBCUniversal International Studios. It is written and directed by Ben Chanan. Executive Producers are David Heyman and Rosie Alison for Heyday Television, Tom Coan for NBCUniversal International Studios, Ben Irving for BBC One and Ben Chanan. Derek Ritchie will serve as producer and it will be distributed by NBCUniversal International Distribution.

Filming will begin next month and further casting will be announced in due course.

BBC to mark Remembrance Week 2018 and the end of the First World War centenary

Following an ambitious four years of coverage to mark the centenary of the First World War, this November the BBC will mark Remembrance Week 2018, and the end of the war across TV, radio and online.

On TV, BBC One will air Remembrance programming including the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance 2018 and World War One Remembered: The Cenotaph - as well as specials of Antiques Roadshow and Countryfile, and the return of Home Front Heroes; BBC Two highlights include WWI: The Final Hours WWI's Secret Shame: Shell Shock with Dan Snow discovering how shell shock has evolved into cases of PTSD that modern soldiers suffer, and drama documentary two-parter 100 Days to Victory. BBC Three will be making acclaimed Our World War available again, and BBC Four highlights include a special What Do Artists Do All Day? on Peter Jackson and Dan Cruickshank will reveal the story behind the creation of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Monuments Of Remembrance.

On Radio, BBC Radio 2 highlights include The Radio Ballads of the Great War Live, the Festival of Remembrance and Good Morning Sunday special. BBC Radio 3 will air Sonic Memorials; a Free Thinking on Wilfred Owen: Poetry and Peace and Opera on 3 - The Silver Tassie. BBC Radio 4 will conclude its broadcast of Home Front, air the Ceremony of Remembrance from the Cenotaph and A Service to Mark the Centenary of the Armistice and Tommies (w/t). BBC Radio 5 live highlights include The Dying Hours on 5 live Breakfast, Remembrance Sunday coverage from Folkestone Beach at the Pages of the Sea event, and coverage of events at the Cenotaph in London.

There will be the launch of a new digital experience, Armistice Day, which will help users explore what they might have done during the Great War through clips taken from the BBC Archive, personalised by where they live and whether they think they would have fought or stayed at home. The BBC is also releasing the award-winning virtual reality experience Nothing to be Written which received its world premiere at the BBC Proms this summer, and will be available to download for free. To mark the Two Minute Silence CBeebies and CBBC will simulcast Poppies, an evocative, dialogue-free animation set to a score by Steve Price and recorded by the BBC Philharmonic. And BBC NI, BBC Scotland and BBC Wales will all broadcast special TV and radio programming.

Tony Hall, Director General, BBC, says: "This centenary has inspired us all. It has re-defined how we remember, but also how we can engage creatively in events that took place 100 years ago and have shaped who we are today. I'm proud the BBC has played such a major part in that endeavour, working in partnership with so many organisations across the country. I've seen the difference we've made in communities, but also the way people have responded to the new stories we've been able to tell and to the moments of reflection that have brought us all together.

"And to mark the end of the centenary with Peter Jackson's masterpiece - as well as showcasing all the Armistice events - is, I think, a fitting tribute to all those who served and to those we remember."

Monday, 29 October 2018

Louis Theroux discusses his new BBC Two series Altered States

Louis Theroux will return to BBC Two on Sunday 4 November with a new series exploring the unusual ways modern America deals with birth, love and death.

Changing social attitudes and radical new laws have transformed how Americans can experience some of life’s most intimate moments - how we raise children, how we love and even how we die. Twenty years since Louis first hit our screens with his pioneering series Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends, the award-winning documentary-maker is back with three gripping new films.

Altered States tackles three particularly challenging subjects - polyamory, adoption and assisted dying. What made you want to cover these topics?
Altered States was an attempt to take a look at the most intimate and most difficult sides of life (birth, love and death) in an American context, and specifically ways in which these issues are being handled differently. As a production team, we always tend to look at knotty issues, issues where there is angst, where there is high emotion, where there are wrenching decisions to be made. And within that we became interested in the almost utopian ways in which, in America, they attempt to do things a bit differently. Full disclosure - the series was incubated over a few months and slightly on the fly - we didn’t sit down and think, let's do a three-parter called Altered States. It kind of evolved.

The first one we made was about open adoption. I was interested in the difficulty of mothers handing over their newborn babies for adoption, and then, around the same time, we began talking about the way in which dying is changing in America - and specifically that people with terminal illnesses in certain states can now opt to be prescribed life-ending medication. And then, finally, polyamory came up as a subject. We noticed that all of these, in different ways, were attempts to deal with age-old situations in a new way.

You don’t shy away from covering controversial subjects - what gives you the inspiration and confidence to be so bold in your film-making?
I take on difficult subjects because it’s what I find most interesting, and if anything, it’s in a spirit of self-doubt and anxiety that I tend to take on difficult subjects. In other words, my biggest fear as a programme maker is the idea of either being boring, or presuming on the goodwill of the audience that they’ll want to see whatever I do. That runs completely counter to how I see myself, which is as a journalist and a curious person, but not as an entertainer who is interesting in his own right.

Parenthetically, I’d have to say that the lighter subjects are the hardest ones to do. When you’ve got 60 minutes to fill, you have to have something pretty big that you’re exploring thematically and emotionally. It’s happened in the past where I’ve gotten 30 or 40 minutes into a film and realise, wow – what do we do for our finale? That being said, over the years it has taken time to earn the right to tell stories that are very stressful, intimate and difficult. That’s been a process of learning how to do it. I’ve come from a background where what I was doing was quite tongue in cheek – like Weird Weekends. To go from that into stories about trauma, involving very vulnerable people... it was just a case of learning how to do that gradually.

What were your opinions of these topics beforehand and were they changed at all in making these films?
It’s almost always the case that when you go into covering a story, you have some preconceived ideas. You have an opinion on subjects - whether it’s something like assisted dying or polyamory. And then you immerse yourself in the research and you figure out what you really think about any given subject, based on your values - which for me are more-or-less liberal and humanistic. It would be quite weird to come at a subject as a completely blank slate. And then in the course of meeting people you try and make yourself open to being surprised.

Sometimes it is surprising the ways in which either making a connection with someone, or an argument someone, makes - or just being around someone for weeks slightly tweaks your experience or understanding of it. For example, in the assisted-dying film there are groups that educate people on 'end-of-life options' and telling people how to make devices which will end their life. I went into it in the spirit of 'people should be allowed to do what they want - it’s your life, do what you want with it' – within the law. And then, it was in the act of telling the story that I became more sensitised to the problems with it. So I do go on a journey with the stories.

Many of your works over the years have been set in the United States - what is it about the US that attracts you?
It’s a combination of things. One is the size of the place, the number of people - America is the world's global superpower - and part of that is because there’s money, there’s space and there’s an abundance of strange things happening.

There’s also something in the fact that the American personality tends to be expressive and uncensored and outgoing. And you’ve also got the common language. There’s probably amazing stories in Russia that I would struggle to tell because so many of the programmes I make revolve around shared language. Beyond that, there may be some sort of ineffable American quality to do with ingenuity, utopianism, and the urge to do things a bit differently. That’s a bit harder to put my finger on - but that may be there as well.

What do you hope viewers will take away from Altered States?
As with all my programmes, I’m aware that I’m taking on subjects that are outside the mainstream or involve situations that are, by their nature, imbued with angst or emotional upset. The idea in general is to create a human connection - and that’s the connection that sits between myself and the contributors that allows them to open up and express something that has great meaning for them.

But there should also be a connection with the viewers: hopefully they will appreciate what’s involved in these very difficult decisions and maybe open their minds to different ways of doing things and challenge their own preconceptions. In meeting people who appear to be good people, people who are sensitive and thoughtful and kind but who are doing things in a different, possibly counter-intuitive way, you can go on a journey with that person and open up new perspectives.

Sara Cox to present new weekday Drivetime show on Radio 2, Trevor Nelson to present 10pm-midnight show

2019 will ring in the changes for Radio 2 with a new schedule for a New Year.

Sara Cox, who currently presents the 10pm-midnight show each Monday to Thursday, will present a brand new weekday Drivetime show on BBC Radio 2 from 5pm-7pm. The programme will build on the success of Sara’s current show, and will be jam-packed with listener interaction, brilliant music and fun-filled chat.

Sara says: “I’ve been proud to be part of the Radio 2 family for a few years now and the opportunity to present such a big show as Drivetime - playing fantastic music and hopefully making people smile as they cook tea or head home after a day’s graft - is the icing on what is already a very brilliant cake. I’m beyond chuffed to be given this role and to directly quote my mum on hearing the good news, it is indeed ‘fandabbyruddydozy’.”

Trevor Nelson will now move his Rhythm Nation show from Saturday nights (8pm-10pm) to each Monday-Thursday night from 10pm-midnight. The show will continue to bring listeners the perfect soundtrack of Soul, R 'n' B, Dance, Disco and Reggae to celebrate the end of the day and liven up weekday nights.

Trevor says: "To present eight hours a week of the music I love on BBC Radio 2 is a dream come true for me. I’ll be introducing tracks from some soul stars of the future as well as playing some of my favourite songs from the past 50 years of dance music, from Motown to the present day. Bring it on!"

Lewis Carnie, Head of Radio 2, says: "Sara is hugely popular with the Radio 2 audience and I have every confidence that she’ll make the new Drivetime show her very own. Trevor is one of the leading lights in soul music in the UK, and he’ll bring his curated blend of music to Monday to Thursday nights, which I know our listeners will love. With Zoe Ball at Breakfast and Jo Whiley from 7pm-9pm each weekday, 2019 looks to be an extremely exciting year for Radio 2."

Sara joined BBC Radio 1 in 1999 to present a Saturday lunchtime show, moving on the following year to present the Radio 1 Breakfast Show until December 2003. Over the next 11 years Sara presented various shows on the network, including the weekday afternoon show, a Saturday and Sunday weekend afternoon show and weekday mornings.

Sara covered various shows on Radio 2 from June 2011, and landed her own show on the network in 2013 by launching Sounds Of The 80s, which she presented until earlier this year. Sara also fronted the show’s BBC Red Button specials featuring interviews with some of the 80s most popular musicians. Sara began presenting her 10pm-midnight show on the station in May 2018 and has also covered for Chris Evans on the Breakfast Show in recent years. In 2017, Sara raised an incredible £1,242,624 for Comic Relief by taking part in a non-stop 24-hour Dance Challenge to 80s music, live from Wogan House.

Trevor kicked off his radio career at pirate station Kiss FM in 1985, transferring to Saturday nights on BBC Radio 1 in 1996 to present the first ever national R’n’B show, The Rhythm Nation, for 17 years. Trevor also joined BBC Radio 1Xtra in 2007 to present the Breakfast Show, then the 10am-1pm weekday show until November 2016, when he moved to weekends 4pm-7pm.

Trevor made his Radio 2 debut in 2008 by presenting a weekly Wednesday night soul show and in July 2016, he launched Rhythm Nation on Saturday evenings. Trevor has also covered for Ken Bruce (weekdays, 9.30 – noon). Trevor has won a variety of plaudits including four MOBO (Music Of Black Origin) Awards and an MBE for services to the community following his work as an ambassador for the Millennium Volunteers. In 2010 he received a Gold Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sony Radio Academy Awards for his services to broadcasting.

Trevor will continue to present on BBC Radio 1 Xtra, Saturday and Sunday 4pm-7pm.

Sara takes over from Jo Whiley and Simon Mayo, who currently present each weekday from 5pm-8pm (5pm-7pm on Fridays), and follows the announcement that Simon Mayo will be leaving Radio 2, and Jo Whiley will be launching a new Monday-Thursday show from 7pm-9pm.

We will announce who will host the Saturday night 8pm-10pm slot in due course.

The First: Interview with Natascha McElhone who plays Laz

Explain a little bit about The First.

One of the things that Beau was aiming for was this idea of human ambition. We even have it in our vernacular – “it’s not rocket science, it’s not like going to the moon…” It’s no accident he used that… not in an allegorical way because it is literally what we’re all questing to do. It’s about how robust human relationships are, the contracts we make, the understandings between families and what we hear and don’t hear. At the critical moment when these people are leaving Earth, those things are under a microscope in a way they might not be in normal life when you’re not shoved up against the wall. It’s as much a map of the human heart as the space between Earth and Mars.

You play Laz Ingram. What’s her story?

She is still undergoing construction ongoing fermentation! People don’t normally have the bandwidth, time or money for that, but Beau is very much into character excavation and talking about all the possible variants, even writing scenes that we perhaps don’t use but somehow deepen our understanding of who these people are. It’s such a luxury to have that kind of process.

Laz is a hugely successful and intelligent individual, but is it fair to say she struggles with the interpersonal side of things?

Yes Laz is someone who is very unapologetic. She’s the opposite of a ‘people pleaser’. I think she’s probably had advice on how to curtail her direct approach but she isn’t interested in behaviour or impressions enough to change it, she is expedient. It’s served her well in terms of what she wants to get done. She’s not impatient; she’s just someone who cannot understand why people don’t see what she sees and why they don’t share her sense of urgency. She’s very, very decisive. I think she’s very secure and pragmatic in her decision making and solution finding, that’s something that comes very easily to her. Life has taught her she should be in the driving seat. I don’t think it’s complicated interpersonal relationship dynamics with humans that she worries about it’s why the MAV is not communicating!

Why do you think the creators decided to make her a Brit? Is that relevant to her character?

I wonder if for Americans British people get away with being more direct because they’re deemed to be courteous and civilised. I also think Beau has cast very different characters throughout because he wanted as many different perspectives as he could get. It was partly just trying to gain another perspective and show ambition, in a very obvious physical way. If you come to the States to study specifically or to get a contract with NASA, that in and of itself takes quite a lot of ambition. I was just delighted I didn’t have to work in an American accent. My dad is from Lancashire, so I took that. Her Northern accent has almost eroded. She’s been in USA for twenty years. I liked doing a hybrid accent as that’s what I hear most around me in real life.

What was it that drew you to the show?

The script has a lot to do with it. It was a joy, for sure. Whether I feel it’s something that hasn’t been fully explored or… sometimes you can read a script that feels a bit hackneyed, the buttons are all in the right places and you think, “Oh here we go, I am being pulled and triggered,” and that’s fine but it gets repetitive. The themes Beau wanted to explore in human nature really appealed to me, irrespective of the ‘space forum’ that was a bonus; it’s not a world that I’ve ever had a chance to fully look into before. I did a film once set in space but it was very much the George Clooney character who was the astronaut. I was a figment of his imagination for most of it. I didn’t do scientific kind of research for that project so this was a first. And also playing an entrepreneur, I haven’t done that before. Plus it was fun to play someone who isn’t in a romantic relationship! I liked playing a zealot. I played a nun once who had a vision and was incredibly articulate about her belief system. It was interesting to play someone who has a lot of that but it’s internalised and it’s not very expressed.

I understand you had a 7 and a half hour meeting with Beau. What did you talk about?

We had to stop because he had a plane to catch, but we could have gone on for a few more days. He’s very inspiring. He’s the real deal.

You’ve alluded to doing research to this; what kind of research did you do?

I did read quite a few books and watch Particle Fever and other documentaries. I met an engineer, an entrepreneur and futurist Sophie Hackford was hugely helpful. Also a few people who were involved in start-ups which are now up and running and successful, but equally I wanted to meet a few people whose ideas were nascent, Sophie was very informative around that what is brewing now that may be manifest in 13 years’ time etc. . Our series is set in the near future, so I wanted to talk to someone who was mid-twenties now, who maybe has a prototype, is shopping it around and is hoping to break through make it big soon…that was what I was interested in, the kernel of Laz’s ambition. One of the things that I would hear in a lot of in these people’s conversation was that they didn’t really mind if something was unpopular because they wouldn’t have gotten to where they were if they’d bothered by that. That usually denotes a certain kind of a character and also a certain kind of social behaviour. Laz is just looking for improvements all the time and that can make you unpopular. She doesn’t mind a bit of unpopularity. It’s a race against time. She’s used to most things being against her, that’s normal.

There’s some pretty technical scientific discussions in the script. When you’re doing dialogue like that do you feel you need to understand the science?

I do like to. The astronaut Chris Hadfield, who advised on the show, was really, really helpful. I’d read his book and done a bit of research on him anyway and watched his show on TV. He was a great resource. And another guy called Nicholas Patrick, a British astronaut who worked for NASA. He was great, just answering my dumb questions. I’d WhatsApp him when he was fixing some part of an engine in a desert somewhere! He was really helpful. You want to break it down in order to be able to explain it to another character. That was very important to all of us.

Going into this, did you have a particular interest in the cosmos? Has this peaked your interest?

If I wasn’t an actor I’d have a pathology of being not a finisher, someone who loves the start of an idea but rarely seeing them through to their end. Because I’m an actor and I’m meant to abandon projects when I’ve done my bit it works quite well. It was very true of this project. I became obsessed, I watched nothing but space films or documentaries or Mars society podcasts And the moment the project was over I’m thrust back into my world, kid’s stories & their needs, homework, ratios, Northanger Abbey, river flow and the PH of urine! Doctor’s appointments, birthday parties & School plays and trumpet lessons. It sounds very fickle but necessarily so. If it comes back round I’ll pick up where I left off. Work feels like a luxury because it’s part time so it never gets repetitive.

How was it working with Sean Penn?

I just loved it. From the beginning I was delighted by his generosity and desire for collaboration. It’s unsurprising because he’s directed to great acclaim; he spots what needs to be done. He also knows when to step back and let the director or writer or showrunner take control. He’s very good at immersing himself in the job he needs to do. He’s great to work with. It’s so natural, effortless for him you don’t see the stitching. It’s very easy for him. Everyone felt the same, it was pretty unanimous

The show is set in the near future and the tech is just a bit more advanced than what we have at the moment. Do you think it was a conscious decision to go down that route, rather than super sci-fi?

For my taste, because the sci-fi world has been well covered and explored, I like this. I like this achievable future that’s in our midst. In the same way we look back 15 years ago, we wouldn’t have been aware of some of the advances, yet we could imagine it. It feels like the tech and the machinery of the piece doesn’t overwhelm the people and the characters.

Bearing in mind it’s not that far into the future, did you get an idea of where we are on the road to this being a scientific reality? Are we going to colonise Mars?

For the rest of the public, if you listen to a compelling speech by someone from the Mars Society, you think “Cool! If they say it’s possible, it probably is. If they’ve invested all these billions and private individuals are willing to put money into this when they could put their money into anything, it must be.” Then when you start to break it down you see the amount of work that needs to take place. The fact that we can’t breathe, there’s no water… it’s so colossal. Then again throughout history we’ve done seemingly impossible things. There’s no reason why we won’t get to it. But by no means do I think it’s the next step. How does international law operate? Who gets to decide? We have an International Space Station for a reason but this is only relatively recently. Our international relations have reflected our space explorations to date.

Do you think Laz would have liked to have made the trip herself?

No, I don’t think so. You don’t just go – the first manned mission to Mars is clearly going to be with astronauts who are highly trained and have taken years to gather the expertise they’ve gathered. That’s not what she’s doing; she’s doing something very different. She’s probably very good at compartmentalising knows what her skill sets are, she’s not a larger than life character, a fantasy of an all-powerful CEO. I like the fact that she’s not particularly articulate or excessively magnetic or any of the things we’d normally associate these characters with.

For a lot of kids, becoming an astronaut is a dream. Is it one you ever had?

No. If anything I would dive to the bottom of the ocean before I would go into space. I’m really fascinated with the underwater world.

SU2C raises biggest total ever - £24.6 million

On Friday 26th October stars from across the worlds of entertainment, music and sport came together for RTS award-winning and BAFTA nominated Stand Up To Cancer, the joint national fundraising campaign from Channel 4 and Cancer Research UK.

Alan Carr, Maya Jama and Adam Hills were at the helm of the spectacular, star-studded live TV fundraiser and announced a grand total of £24.6 million for research into cancer which will accelerate new cancer treatments to UK patients and save more lives.

Money is still coming in and donations can still be made at channel4.com/SU2C. To give £20 or £10 text TWENTY or TEN 70404 or call 0300 123 4444. 100% of your donation goes to Cancer Research UK in support of the Stand Up To Cancer campaign.

The live extravaganza, a culmination of inspirational programming and epic fundraising activities, was heaving at the seams with celebrity sketches, comedy skits, interviews and moving moments, all banging that Stand Up To Cancer drum.

Michael BublĂ© was James Corden’s passenger for a world exclusive Stand Up To Cancer Carpool Karaoke, Miss Piggy teamed up with Jack Whitehall and Liam Gallagher ranted about cancer meanwhile, Danny & Dani Dyer, Louis Tomlinson & Liam Payne, Dele Alli & Eric Dier and Abbey Clancy & Peter Crouch were the very special stars of our Celebrity Gogglebox special.

Music superstar John Legend led the cast of ‘Big Star, Small Print’ showing us quite how easy it is to donate with a brilliant new version of his smash hit All of Me with Rick Astley and Zara Larsson following suit. Popstrels Little Mix and 90s heroes Backstreet Boys were our superstar superteases leading us through the events of the evening, Sharon Horgan and a host of stars including Emma Willis, Katherine Ryan, Prue Leith and Clare Balding were on hand to highlight the importance of knowing your boobs and recognising signs of cancer and Kate Beckinsale showed us why going for a smear test can save your life.

There was an incredibly moving moment as Emeli SandĂ© paid tribute to soul legend Aretha Franklin who died from cancer in August with a stunning version of Don’t Play That Song and Gary Lineker and Mark Gatiss talked very movingly about their personal experiences with cancer.

Joining Alan, Maya and Adam for Stand Up To Cancer live in the studio were Liam Gallagher, John Bishop, Nick Grimshaw and Mo Gilligan and there were very special music performances from Tom Odell, Tom Walker and Freya Ridings. Plus Chris O’Dowd and Katherine Ryan were in the studio all night to explain the incredible science funded by Stand Up To Cancer.

An exclusive first look clip revealed the star-studded line up for The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer 2019. Those competing for the much sought-after Star Baker apron are John Lithgow, Jeremy Paxman, Sally Lindsay, Michelle Keegan, Jon Richardson, Russell Brand, Russell Tovey, Greg Wise, Jess Phillips MP, James Acaster, Big Narstie, Nicola Adams, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Caroline Flack, Hannah Cockroft, Joe Wilkinson, Johnny Vegas, Georgia Toffolo, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, and Rylan Clark-Neal.

Davina McCall tasked Spencer Matthews and Jamie Laing with creating a charity single with very unexpected results and there were very special sketches featuring the likes of Sting, Shaggy, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Hamm, Stephen Merchant, Olly Murs, Mark Wright, Marvin and Rochelle Humes, the stars of Poldark, Jamie Oliver and The Windsors.

Ed Havard, Head of Entertainment at Channel 4 said, "This has been the most successful Stand Up To Cancer campaign to date and we continue to be blown away by the public’s generosity. We’re incredibly grateful to every single person who donated and to the huge array of famous faces who gave up their time to be a part of the campaign. From all of us at 4, a massive thank you”

Clare Moore, Director of Stand Up To Cancer at Cancer Research UK, said, “There’s been amazing progress in research. Thanks to new treatments, screening and prevention, more people are now surviving cancer. But 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives, that’s one person every 2 minutes, so we still have a lot more work to do. And funding research is key.

On behalf of Cancer Research UK, I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who shared their experience of cancer, fundraised or donated to help us reach this incredible total. Because of you, we can fund more research and save more lives.”

#standuptocancer trended all night on 26th October on Twitter.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

The Time It Takes - The only quiz in the world where the contestants decide how much time they have to answer the questions

The only quiz in the world where the contestants decide how much time they have to answer the questions...
What takes longer - unwrapping every Werther’s Original in a family pack, completing a Rubik’s cube underwater or deflating an air bed and putting it back into its original box?

These are the kinds of scenarios the contestants must choose from as timers on BBC One’s new Saturday teatime gameshow, The Time It Takes. The challenger who gets the most questions right in their given timescale will be one step closer to winning a dream holiday. But do not fret dear viewers, all is not completely lost for the player with the lowest score, as they will receive a very special The Time It Takes tea-towel before leaving the show.

Award-winning comedian Joe Lycett, described as “the next mainstream stand-up star” by the Evening Standard, will be fronting this riotous new BBC One quiz show with assistance from his referee sidekick Alison Hammond. Made by Hat Trick, one of the UK’s most successful independent production companies, and filmed at BBC Scotland studios in Glasgow, The Time It Takes is set to be a vibrant and gleeful treat of a show, full of organised chaos, jeopardy, judgement and, most importantly, fun and laughs throughout the four action-packed rounds.

Alongside the time it takes Alison to do weird and wonderful tasks, and the downright mundane everyday ones, there will also be a chance for audiences to discover how long it takes some of the UK’s favourite celebrities to enact certain assignments: Ore Oduba, The Sooty Show, Joel Dommett, Debbie McGee, Paul Chuckle, Four Of Diamonds, Jess Wright and Mark-Francis Vandelli all make special studio guest appearances and throw themselves into the chaos of the timers!

Further special celebrity guests offering pre-recorded video timers across the series include Nish Kumar, Natalie Cassidy, Ainsley Harriot, Frankie Bridge, Kimberley Wyatt, Jamie Laing, Katherine Ryan and Richard Blackwood.

Host Joe Lycett says: "Never before has so much relied on someone knowing how long a kettle takes to boil. The Time It Takes is one of the most brilliantly daft shows I’ve ever been involved in - and that’s saying something.”

The Time It Takes is produced by Hat Trick Productions for BBC One. The producer for the series is Meriel Beale and the Executive Producer is Richard Wilson. The new series was commissioned for BBC One by Jo Street, Commissioning Editor of Entertainment and Daytime.

Managing Director of Hat Trick Productions Jimmy Mulville says: “The Time It Takes is a brilliant format which is brought to life by the hugely talented Joe Lycett. It’s both exciting and funny - just what you want at tea-time on Saturdays.”

Series Producer Meriel Beale says: “The Time It Takes is very funny and incredibly silly and happily so is Joe Lycett. I'm very excited to be working with such a star and I've no doubt his warm, generous wit will be lapped up by BBC One viewers.”

The Time It Takes will air on BBC One this Autumn.

Friday, 26 October 2018

ITV throws open the doors for Happy Hour with Olly Murs

ITV have commissioned Happy Hour With Olly Murs, a one-hour special produced by ITV Studios and set to transmit later this year.

The much-loved pop star and coach on The Voice UK will be heading back to his Essex roots as he takes over an entire pub to put on a jam-packed night of games, chat and performances of all his biggest hits. As he celebrates a decade at the top with his sixth album, You Know I Know, set for release on November 9th, it's the ultimate homecoming party with a specially invited audience of friends, family and famous faces. 

With the bar packed to the rafters, there will be laughs aplenty as Bradley Walsh – who Olly affectionately calls his 'showbiz dad' – steps inside. Emma Willis will be the resident Karaoke Queen as she hosts special singalongs for any game guests that choose to step up to the mic and entertain the crowd. Fellow Voice coach Sir Tom Jones will be dropping in to join in the fun and there will be a very special exclusive duet from Jennifer Hudson and Olly. 

With multiple sold out arena tours to his name, there will be truly intimate performances from the multi-platinum selling star as he sings his classic hits as well as songs from his brand-new album. His latest single Moves will be one of those performances with Lady Leshurr taking to the stage alongside him. 

Lucky super fans will mingle with the invited audience that will also include Olly's closest friends and family with more special guests to be announced.

Olly Murs commented: "We know how to throw a proper party back in Essex so I'm looking forward to welcoming everyone into my world to join me and my family for what will be a fun night in/night out for all. I can't wait!"

Katie Rawcliffe, Creative Director, ITV Studios, said: "Olly is a firm favourite here at ITV. From when he won everyone's hearts on X Factor to now being one of our fantastic superstar coaches on The Voice UK.  We're so pleased to be producing this show with Olly that will be filled with music and laughter."

Emma Thompson cast in Russell T Davies' BBC One drama Years and Years

Emma Thompson joins Jessica Hynes, Rory Kinnear, Ruth Madeley, T'Nia Miller, Anne Reid and Russell Tovey as production for Years And Years begins in Manchester.

Red Production Company (a StudioCanal company) and acclaimed writer Russell T Davies are delighted to announce the dynamic cast for new BBC One drama Years And Years, a unique and ambitious six-part limited series charting one family surviving the future.

As Britain is rocked by unstable political, economic and technological advances, we follow the Lyons family as their complex lives converge on one crucial night in 2019. Then, over the next 15 years, the twists and turns of everyday life are explored as we find out if this ordinary family could ever change the world.

Two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson (The Children Act, Late Night) stars in the family saga as Vivienne Rook, an outspoken celebrity turned political figure whose controversial opinions divide the nation. She's a new breed of politician, an entertainer, a rebel, a trickster, and her rise to power leads us into an unknown future.

Bafta-nominated Rory Kinnear (Spectre, Peterloo) joins Emma as Stephen Lyons, a financial advisor and the family's peacekeeper who is married to Celeste played by T'Nia Miller, (Obey, Marcella), an ambitious and opinionated accountant.

Russell Tovey (The History Boys, Quantico) will play Daniel Lyons, a hard-working housing officer and Stephen's brother. Their sister Edith, played by Jessica Hynes (Paddington 2, W1A), is radical, dangerous and calculating with a secret life. And completing the siblings is heavily pregnant Rosie, played by Ruth Madeley, (Cold Feet, Don't Take My Baby). Anne Reid (Last Tango In Halifax, The Mother) presides over the family as Muriel, imperial grandmother to the Lyons.

Russell T Davies says: "This is a dream cast, put together by Andy Pryor, the man who found Jodie Whittaker to be Doctor Who. I'm very lucky, and very excited to start filming."

The drama marks the ninth collaboration for acclaimed screenwriter Russell T Davies (A Very English Scandal, Doctor Who) and Red's Nicola Shindler, whose working relationship spans over 20 years. The partnership is known for producing relevant and timely emotionally charged dramas having previously created hit series including Queer As Folk, Casanova, Cucumber, Banana, Bob & Rose and The Second Coming.

BBC Radio 1 announce Matt Edmonson and Mollie King as new Weekend Breakfast Show hosts

Matt Edmondson and Mollie King will be the new weekend BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show hosts (Friday-Sunday, 6am-10am), swapping with Dev Griffin and Alice Levine, from Friday 16 November.

Starting her Radio 1 career as a guest host on Matt's show, Mollie quickly made an impression on listeners, soon becoming a permanent member of the Radio 1 family in June when she co-hosted the 1pm-4pm slot with Matt as part of the new weekend schedule. The duo will be bringing their usual fun and games plus more to the mornings.

Dev and Alice will be setting their alarms a little later and fronting the 1pm-4pm slot, after Maya Jama's Greatest Hits (10am-1pm). The swap comes as both presenters have had a busy 12 months, with Alice becoming an international sensation with the My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast and Dev reaching the final of Celebrity MasterChef and most recently stepping in to host The 8th until the end of the year, with a permanent host to be announced in coming weeks. They'll be bringing with them popular features like 'Kids Ask' which has previously featured the likes of Tom Hardy, Margot Robbie and Idris Elba.

Matt Edmondson says: "Getting to present the Radio 1 Breakfast Show three days a week is an absolute dream come true, as is working with Mollie (a nightmare is technically still a dream). I know we're going to have so much fun, and I can't wait to get started."

Mollie King says: "I'm absolutely blown away to have been asked to host the Radio 1 Breakfast Show every Friday, Saturday and Sunday with Matt Edmondson, my partner in crime! I remember the buzz I got when I first walked into Radio 1 as a guest 10 years ago, and that buzz is still with me now every time I step through the studio doors. I can't wait to get started! See you there - bright and most definitely early!!"

Dev and Alice say: "The thing we will really miss is setting that 4am alarm, but in time we think we might get used to it. We love doing the show together, and the afternoons have such a good energy about them - these shows are ideal for our sense of humour and the kind of things we like to talk about. We can't wait to get started!"

Ben Cooper, Controller, BBC Radio 1, says: "Radio 1 loves discovering new talent for the BBC and the industry, and Matt and Mollie along with Dev and Alice have been hugely popular with our listeners, on radio, on video and on social."

You can listen to both shows on BBC Radio 1 or BBC Sounds from November.

Nadine Coyle joins the cast of BBC Northern Ireland's Soft Border Patrol

Nadine Coyle joins the cast of BBC Northern Ireland's Soft Border Patrol in a cameo role. The Londonderry-born singer stars alongside comedian Shane Todd as filming gets underway for the new five-part series.

The mockumentary follows the antics of the teams patrolling the often twisting highways and byways of the border on push bike and by car, as they try to help commuters cross the border smoothly and swiftly, if not always successfully.

However details of Nadine's storyline are being kept under close wraps.

Nadine Coyle said: "Being a Derry girl I was always aware of the border, and it's great to get back home, and out filming with Shane and the crew for Soft Border Patrol.

"We've had some craic on location, but my lips are sealed about the storyline. You'll just have to wait to find out what I've been up to!"

Made by the Glasgow-based Comedy Unit, most of the dialogue in the series is largely improvised and performed by a cast, including Karen Hassan, who plays SBP CEO Lisa McCoy, and Neil Delamere as Niall Sweeney, Head of Virtual Border.

Also making cameo appearances are BBC Northern Ireland's favourite weather man Barra Best, broadcaster and singer 'Uncle Hugo' Duncan and country star Lisa McHugh.

The series will be broadcast next year.

Pictured: Nadine Coyle and Shane Todd in rehearsal

BBC Two series to capture Britain's biggest ever archaeological dig

BBC Two has commissioned a major new TV series documenting the huge number of archaeological discoveries being made along the length of the HS2 route.

Made by Lion Television, Britain's Biggest Dig (w/t) has been granted exclusive access to HS2's archaeology teams, offering a unique opportunity to record and explore the biggest archaeological excavation that has ever taken place in Britain. The series will reveal the stories of people from the Stone Age right up to the 20th century - not just on the route itself, but right across the country.

Throughout the archaeological works, cameras will capture what is happening on site, from excavating huge Georgian and Victorian inner-city graveyards to finding the remains of Romano-British homes. The series will also dig deep into the archives to tell the stories of those who lived and were buried on the route - from painters and London prizefighters to medieval peasants and lords. With the use of the latest archaeological science, it will also explore the wider stories about what these sites can tell us, including where people came from and the food that they ate.

Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two, says: "This is a major series following this unprecedented archaeological project. The HS2 digs promise to reveal secrets throughout a vast timeline of British history and I am delighted that BBC Two will be following the journey."

Tom McDonald, Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual, says: "It's thrilling to be there from the very start of what is unquestionably one of the most significant archaeological endeavours in British history. It promises to make us re-interrogate what we think we know about British history and give us an extraordinary and privileged insight into the past."

Bill Locke, Director of Specialist Factual, Lion TV, says: "This 'line through time' is a unique and exciting opportunity to explore the story of Britain through a single massive archaeological project that promises many exceptional discoveries. We will be there every step of the way with the HS2 archaeologists, seeing what they turn up and following it to the labs for analysis, and tracking down key documents, enabling us to piece together the wider story of Britain through the millennia and the lives of the people, ordinary and extraordinary, who lived here before us."

Highlights include:

London - Saint James Gardens, Euston
The excavation of more than 45,000 Georgian and Victorian burials - the largest population ever excavated in Britain - will give us a rare opportunity to understand how Londoners lived and died during the period when the city became the most populous and important in the world.

Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire - St Mary's Church
An estimated 5,000 skeletons are a gateway into the medieval world and beyond, from the Black Death to farm labourers and civil wars; this is a fantastic chance to study the history of a single rural community over a thousand-year period.

Birmingham - Park Street Burial Ground
One of the biggest burial ground excavations ever to have taken place outside London, and an amazing opportunity to understand the lives of Brummies during the Industrial Revolution and beyond: who were Birmingham's new population, and where did they come from? Next door is one of the bases of the real Peaky Blinders - the Park Street Gang - as well as the site of sectarian riots against Irish immigrants and the hub of the city that became the 'workshop of the world'.

Boddington/Wormleighton – Warwickshire
Possibly 3,000 years of history in one location. We'll set out to discover what impact the Roman invasion, the coming of the Saxons, and the Norman conquest had on rural Britain - and understand why some settlements were abandoned, whilst others remained.

Britain's Biggest Dig (w/t) is a Lion TV production for BBC Two. The executive producer is Bill Locke and the series producers are Izzy Charman and Harvey Lilley. It was commissioned by Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two and Tom McDonald, Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Simon Young.

SAS: Who Dares Win - SU2C Celebrity Special

This year SAS: Who Dares Wins has partnered with Stand Up To Cancer for its very first celebrity special. The team of ex-Special Forces operators, led by Chief Instructor Ant Middleton have put 12 brave celebrities, both male and female, through an intensive 7 day course to see if they've got what it takes to pass this unique version of SAS Selection.

The varied group of Celebrities includes former professional athletes such as Olympic Gold Medallist Victoria Pendleton and England Rugby International Ben Foden, a former MP, Louise Mensch and TV stars such as Loose Women's Andrea McClean, Love Island's Camilla Thurlow and Made in Chelsea's Sam Thompson.

Instructor Jason 'Foxy' Fox says, "We took great pleasure bringing these celebrities into our world and giving them as hard a time as we give anyone."

There's been no allowance made for fame or status, the celebrities have had to push themselves to the limit and reveal themselves like never before. We've learnt about each Celebrity's strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, and come to an understanding of who they really are.

Chief Instructor Ant Middleton says, "Celebrities go through their lives showing the public a front and face they want them to see but this process stripped all that away. They've importantly turned up to raise money for SU2C but also to learn something about themselves by facing extreme experiences."

The First: Interview with executive producer Jordan Tappis

Tell us a bit about The First.

The First chronicles the first human mission to Mars. While the concept of Mars looms large throughout the season, the majority of the these eight episodes focus on the cost of getting to the starting line, on the astronauts embarking on the inaugural mission, and on the colleagues and loved ones they will be leaving behind.

What makes the show unique?

The First is a deeply personal human drama with a science fiction premise. Straddling those two worlds is atypical from what you'd expect from a space-themed show. Furthermore the project was produced more like an eight hour film than an episodic TV series. The differences in terms of performance, pacing, production design, music, VFX and cinematography are obvious from the opening frame.

Why is a show like The First important today?

The First is optimistic to its core. It is one of the only big budget modern TV series that doesn't harness negativity – typically in the form of crime, violence or drugs – to achieve its narrative goals. The First is about real people, flawed as they may be, working together to achieve something extraordinary.

People might go into The First thinking it's a sci-fi drama on Mars, but it's a lot cleverer and subtler than that. What was your reasoning for showing this specific story in this specific way?

In the not too distant future, a team of real life explorers will travel to Mars and it will instantly become the greatest pioneering achievement in human history. But these people will risk their lives, leave everything and everyone they've ever known behind, in an attempt to evolve human beings into an multi-planetary species. This all sounds like science fiction but it's reality. This will happen. Probably in the next 15 to 20 years. First and foremost, our show tells the story of those as they navigate the perilous waters of life in an attempt to do something greater than themselves. The show does its best to approximate what that first mission will look like.

The show creates a really believable near future. All the tech is just that bit more advanced than what we have now. What was the process for creating that environment?

It took years of research and dozens of real world consultants to help us flesh out what the near future would look like and how it would work. Before we looked forward, however, we decided to look back. The show takes place 13 years from now and yet we began the process of future prediction by analysing what the world looked like 13 year ago. We studied med tech, cars, phones, computers, wearables, architecture, and fashion and found that some of the most practical and visible advancements between 2005 and 2018 had to do with cars and communication. Once that analysis was complete our next challenge was to imagine the leap between 2018 and 2031, and for the most part we honed in on those same two fields: cars and coms. With the help of a team of extraordinarily talented production, prop, and concept designers, we developed several autonomous electric vehicles and a suite of interactive AR wearables in the form of glasses and ear buds to tell the story of 2031. Most of our near future communication predictions, while subtle, incorporate broad scale voice activation, augmented reality (vision) and bone conduction technology (sound) along with a sweeping range of environmental smart tech all of which are in early phases of real world development today.

Do you think humans will ever colonise Mars? And do you think we should?

Yes and hell yes!

The First: Interview with Beau Willimon

Explain a little bit about The First.

The First is about the first human mission to Mars in the early 2030s which will be the greatest pioneering achievement in human history. But on a deeper level it's about journeys, not just to other planets but inward journeys: journeys to confront one's demons, to confront the past; journeys to find ways to move forwards. We're really telling the human story of this mission and humans are messy, complicated, flawed people. We don't shy away from that. That's the subject of our show - how these ordinary people are able to confront all the various things in their lives that pose as obstacles to getting to the fourth planet from the Sun. These ordinary people are able to accomplish extraordinary things.

Why this idea? Where did the inspiration come from?

It's always difficult to pinpoint a moment of inspiration for any project. In this case I actually do have one. I've always been interested in science, technology, and in stories of exploration and adventure, stories of people pushing themselves to the limit. For me this story was a song, and the song was In Love and In Justice by Colin Stetson who scores the soundtrack for the show. I was driving in the car and that song came on. It's simply one man with one instrument, a baritone saxophone, but he makes it sound as though it's five instruments. There's a deep base from circular breathing, he's getting microtones out of the instrument using the valves, he has a microphone taped to his throat to capture vocalisations in his larynx… it feels like this otherworldly type of music but also like the sound that comes straight out of the centre of the earth. I had the volume up loud, the car was actually vibrating with the bass, and the image came to me of a dust devil making its way across the surface of Mars, which is actually the first image of the show. From there I began to think about the story getting from my car driving here on Earth to the surface of Mars. I told my producing partner when we began working on this that if we didn't get Colin to score the story I didn't think it was worth doing! For real! I really didn't want to make this show if Colin wasn't making the music. Luckily for us he was excited by the idea.

What did you do in the way of research? Do you do a lot of reading, is there a lot of talking to experts…

Both. It's almost impossible to read every book on the subject. There are books and articles coming out all the time. But I try to read and continue to read as much as possible. Every one of our team is constantly reading. But there's no substitute for talking to experts, the people that do this in real life. So we worked with a lot of folks from NASA, astronauts, scientists, engineers, a whole range of consultants, the current lead on the Mars 2020 mission… a couple of astronauts in particular: Chris Hadfield, Michael Lopez Alegria, Chris Ferguson, all have been invaluable in this process. And also Amy Webb, who is a futurist consultant, which is a whole industry in and of itself of people trying to make very informed speculations into where science, technology and culture is moving in the near future. She really helped us envision our 2030.

How much of the science behind the story do you think you need to understand in order to do your job?

It's kind of an impossible question to answer. We're exhaustive in terms of our research. I don't have a PhD in astrophysics, I don't have various masters in engineering. I will never have as a writer the expertise the experts have. What you have to do is have enough of a working knowledge that goes a bit beyond pure layman's knowledge in order to be able to envision the world. Then you break story and write scripts and run them through gauntlets of consultants to help correct what you've done wrong or make suggestions of things that could be improved.

A lot of the show is about the sacrificies made by the astronauts and their families and the toll that takes. Did you get a sense of that from the people you spoke to?

Sure. One of the things we always asked was, anecdotally, what were their own experiences, their human experiences, working in this field. In the first episode there's a major catastrophe. A lot of people we spoke to had worked for NASA during the Columbia and Challenger tragedies and were able to talk to us about what the atmosphere was like, how it felt, how devastating it was, how much determination it took to get going again. It just reinforces in the most profound and visceral way how dangerous this all is and that there is no real exploration without the potential for harm or death. That's really at the root of everything. All these thousands of people are working so hard to keep human beings alive. But aside from those ultimate costs, there's a lot of other costs too; how much time these people are away from their families, how much their families worry about them… they're all dealing with the same things you and I are. People are getting divorces, people are having a difficult time with their kids, people have professional and interpersonal issues they're trying to work through. There's something universally human about all these people that are trying to do this impossible thing.

Do you write the show with the actors in mind?

I began working on this over three years ago. In the initial draft I tried to focus on the truth of the characters themselves and building their inner lives and backstories without necessarily trying to do that with particular actors in mind. I wanted to remain as open minded as possible to what the characters were telling me they wanted to be. But as they really began to form certainly Sean and Natascha were people that came to mind as really perfect for what I needed to achieve with these two roles. Luckily they were both willing to go on this journey with us.

Why did you decide to set this in a relatively familiar world, as opposed to setting it fifty years hence and making it super futuristic?

I set it in the near future, a little over a decade from now, because we wanted to envision a world in which we got to Mars sooner as opposed to later. The early 2030s is about as soon as we could possibly get there, if we really dedicated ourselves to this mission now. What we're trying to do is say "This is within arm's reach, let's not think about it as some distant things but something all of us might see in the next decade and a half."

A lot of time and effort has gone into designing the tech that will exist 15 years from now. Tell us a little about the process for that.

When you're envisioning the future, even if it's only 13 years from now, a lot can change. What we tried to do is not necessarily tackle every last bit of the way that culture and technology will change in the next thirteen years, but focus on a few key areas so we would feel that future but not become a distraction, or drive us insane by trying to tackle every single detail. We wanted to pick a few areas and do them really, really well. The areas that spoke to us most were cars and communication devices. We've been working with Amy Webb and others who speculate that in the early 2030s at least 50 percent of cars will be autonomous and electric. You see that reflected in the show. One of the examples if Laz's car. We actually worked with a company in that case to build upon one of their future prototypes thinking about, if this was a self-driving autonomous car what would it look like? And not just the exterior, where you see that very smooth skin and light bands circumferencing the car where all the sensors and cameras would be, but also the interior - if you want to have the options to both drive or not drive, perhaps you have a driver's seat that can swivel and face the back, when the car is driving itself. Every last detail of that car had to be designed the way an actual car is. On the communications side we're really looking at people having customised kits. It might be an earbud, it might be a bracelet, it might be augmented reality glasses or a mixture of those. We think that people won't actually have just one smart phone, they'll have multiple devices that they mix and match depending on what they want their experience to be. The AR glasses are something a lot of futurists and people working on communications think we'll be moving towards quite quickly to the point where they are ubiquitous in the next decade or so. AR technology already exists. The question now is how it will integrate into our lives. The ultimate goal is to have characters use these things in a way that feels totally normal to them. Technology integrates itself into our lives pretty quickly. None of us are looking down at our phones saying, "God, look at this magical box!" It feels normal to us.

We live in a world of finite resources and finite money. Should we be striving to go to Mars?

You could say we live in a world of finite money, but I don't necessarily see the world that way. That's only true if you define human existence through money. Really when it comes to our imagination, our determination, our will to accomplish things, it's deeper than money. We cannot be stopped doing that which we set out to achieve. In a practical sense you can say it will require money but if the will is there by our species to get to another planet we can make it happen. I do think we should do it. The story of The First is not just the story of going to Mars in the 2030s. It's an ancient story. It's the story of a species from its earliest moments hundreds of thousands of years ago was driven not just by necessity but also curiosity, to see what was over the horizon. We've traversed the entire world in the process. We've left our cave, we've left our continents, we've climbed the highest mountains, we've gone to the Moon… Mars is simply the next step in that story. It's our destiny. We're drawn to it, we're driven to it, there's a need in us to grapple that which we do not know and to understand it. Mars is part of that longer journey.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Cast and crew announced for BBC One Daytime’s sizzling new Spanish crime drama The Mallorca Files

Dan McGolpin, Controller of BBC Programming and Daytime, has today announced the line-up of key cast and crew for new 10-part crime drama The Mallorca Files.

The BBC One Daytime and BBC iPlayer series has been penned by Dan Sefton, the writer behind hits such hits as The Good Karma Hospital, Trust Me, Delicious and Porters.

Set amongst the vibrant international community of the eponymous Spanish island, The Mallorca Files centres around the clash of personalities between a British and German detective who have very different approaches to policing. Yet despite - or perhaps because of -their very different approaches, the sleuths form a perfect complementary partnership as they seek to solve a new crime on the island each week.

Elen Rhys (Keeping Faith, Ordinary Lives, Broadchurch) plays self-confessed introverted Brit Miranda Blake, who takes her career (as well as everything else in life) seriously.

Julian Looman (Pagan Peak, Prey, Cop Stories) plays Miranda's German partner-in-crime-solving, Max Winter - a classic extrovert who is unashamedly unconventional and not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve.

These two diametrically-opposed personalities set the stage for much of the humour and thrills of the series, which plays out against the backdrop of sun-drenched locations and the glamorous lifestyle of the Balearic island few Brits get to see.

Reluctantly overseeing the Anglo-German partnership is formidable Palma Police Chief Inez Villegas (casting to be announced) - a woman who doesn't suffer fools (gladly or otherwise), and who ensures the two foreign detectives are kept busy by handing them the cases her own team don't want to touch.

In the line-up to bring The Mallorca Files to life are a high-calibre production crew of exceptional pedigree. They include Bryn Higgins (Endeavour, Black Mirror, Electricity) who leads a slate of directors including Charlie Palmer (Poldark, Doctor Who, Silent Witness) Rob Evans (Mr Selfridge, Granchester, Our Girl,) and Gordon Anderson (Shetland, Lovesick, Shameless).

Dominic Barlow (A Discovery Of Witches, Mr Selfridge, George Gently, The Mill, Garrow's Law) is series producer of The Mallorca Files and Vicki Thomson (Deutschland 86, Granchester, Brief Encounters) is the show's Casting Director.

Other key crew include production designer, Michael Fleischer (The Borgias, Hotel Babylon, Fleming) make-up designer Maggi Vaughan (Riviera, Black Mirror, Downton Abbey) and Jan Jonaeus, director of photography (Hooten & The Lady, Safe House, Complicit).

The Mallorca Files is a Cosmopolitan Pictures/Clerkenwell Films co-production for the BBC. Ben Donald and Murray Ferguson will executive produce, together with Dan Sefton who leads a team of writers including Rachael New, Sarah-Lou Hawkins, Dan Muirden and Alex McBride. It will begin production in November this year and air on BBC One in 2019.

The Mallorca Files will broadcast on BBC One Daytime across the week Monday to Friday, with all 10x45 episodes dropping on BBC iPlayer on the first day of transmission.

Dan McGolpin, Controller of BBC Programming and Daytime, says: "The Mallorca Files is an exciting new drama series for BBC One daytime and BBC iPlayer, with a wonderful collection of talented people behind the camera and a fantastic cast who viewers are going to love."

Elen Rhys says: "Dan Sefton has written a wonderfully flawed character in Miranda, who promises to be a lot of fun. I am thrilled to be playing one half of this mismatched crime-fighting duo - especially against the beautiful backdrop of Mallorca. What's not to like?"

Julian Looman says: "When I read the scripts I was immediately drawn to Max, and it was an opportunity to play a different kind of German to the ones British audiences might be used to! I'm thrilled to be playing opposite the talented Elen and know we can make a great on-screen partnership. And having now met all the production team I'm convinced The Mallorca Files is going to be fun to make and great fun to watch."

Showrunner Dan Sefton adds: "It's always an exciting time when you watch your characters come alive. I am confident that having Elen and Julian on our screens together in the Mallorcan sunshine will brighten up living rooms all over the nation. In addition we now have a great crew who I'm confident will transform the black and white of our scripts into technicolour reality in exciting and unexpected ways."

Ben Donald, Founder of Cosmopolitan Pictures, says: "Elen and Julian embody Max and Miranda exactly as we always imagined them from the outset. Smart, cool, glamorous and playful, but also real and relatable. I look forward to seeing how they inhabit and grow these characters and am sure viewers will delight in spending time with them."

Murray Ferguson Chief Executive and Director, Clerkenwell Films, says: "The Mallorca Files is attracting a formidable array of talent both in front and behind the camera. This is a testimony to the quality of the material and the work of Dan Sefton and his highly accomplished writing team. We can't wait to get started."

The Mallorca Files is the first production greenlit for Cosmopolitan Pictures, the independent production company founded by Ben Donald in 2014. It has been created with his production partners at Clerkenwell Films and commissioned by Controller of BBC Programming and Daytime, Dan McGolpin. BBC Studios and Cosmopolitan Pictures have jointly put a co-production deal in place with BritBox for the US and Canada, and with ZDFneo for Germany. Other partners on board include France 2. BBC Studios is the international distributor.