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Thursday, 30 May 2019

ITV2 recommissions Don’t Hate The Playaz and The Stand Up Sketch Show

Don’t Hate The Playaz
The anarchic Hip Hop comedy show will return to ITV2 in Autumn 2019.

The first series proved hugely popular with ITV2 viewers and was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award this year in the Entertainment category.

Filmed in a gig-environment and hosted by Jordan Stephens, two teams made up of comedians, Hip Hop legends & celebrity Hip Hop lovers battle it out in front of a live audience for the ultimate prize: bragging rights!

Maya Jama and Lady Leshurr will once again lead the two teams alongside new guests each week.

The Stand Up Sketch Show
The comedy format that combines both stand up and sketch will return to ITV2 in early 2020.

From established stand up routines by some of the nation’s best loved comedians, to brand new material from Britain’s most exciting up and coming talent.  The Stand Up Sketch Show is doing what no comedy has ever done before.

Each sketch begins with a comedian telling their story on stage in front of a live audience, before shifting into a surreal reconstruction of the material.  Using some of the circuit’s funniest material, the reconstructions will feature visual jokes, supporting performances, ridiculous props and absolutely killer comedy. 

Comedians in the first series included Joel Dommett, Felicity Ward, Dane Baptiste, Darren Harriot, Tom Allen, Russell Kane, London Hughes, Suzi Ruffell, Seann Walsh, Fern Brady and Tom Allen.

ITV’s Head of Digital Channels, Paul Mortimer said “Don’t Hate The Playaz and The Stand Up Sketch Show were creative and original commissions for ITV2 and we’re delighted both shows resonated with our younger audience.”

Saskia Schuster, ITV’s Comedy Controller added “The Stand Up Sketch Show quickly established itself as a fast paced format that delivered the laughs from well known and up and coming comedy talent.  Don’t Hate The Playaz put its unique spin on panel shows and the producers have some great ideas lined up for the second series.”

BBC Two orders full series of The Mind Of Herbert Clunkerdunk

The commission of The Mind Of Herbert Clunkerdunk comes following the success of the Bafta-nominated short form pilot which aired on BBC Two last year as part of the critically-acclaimed Comedy Shorts.

The series (4x10’) which is being produced by Tiger Aspect (part of Endemol Shine UK), will see multi award-winning comedian Spencer Jones (Mister Winner, Upstart Crow) return to the screen as his alter ego, Herbert Clunkerdunk.

Joining Herbert are regulars Dom Coleman (Upstart Crow) as the irrepressible, unpredictable Jonny Wallop and Lucy Pearman (Mister Winner) as Bobby Kindle, Herbert's wife, who forever supports him as he tries to juggle real-world responsibilities: work, family, finances, and being a good dad. Expect to see a mix of impromptu music videos and talking household objects as Herbert navigates his way through everyday life only to be constantly interrupted by his quirky imagination.

On his new commission, Spencer Jones says: "To be given a full series for the BBC is one of my ultimate dreams come true. I was so chuffed to get it. However, that feeling has now slowly faded away and I’m absolutely bricking it. But I’m going to use the fear to push me to make this the best thing it can be. I’ve got a brilliant team of highly skilled people around me, so if Clunkerdunk ain't 'the nuts', then I can safely say it is completely my fault. How terrifying.”

David Simpson, Producer at Tiger Aspect, says: “I'm so thrilled that people are going to see more from the brilliant mind of Spencer Jones. He's a true original and this programme is Spencer at his very best. Wallop!"

Kate Daughton, Head of Comedy for the BBC, adds: “Spencer Jones has created a unique and gleefully daft world for his alter ego Herbert Clunkerdunk. We can’t wait to see what imaginative tomfoolery he has in store for us in this new series of comedy shorts for BBC Two.”

The Mind Of Herbert Clunkerdunk is a Tiger Aspect production written and created by Spencer Jones. The producer is David Simpson (Man Like Mobeen), the executive producers are Myfanwy Moore (Man Like Mobeen, Upstart Crow) and Spencer Jones and the series director is Martin Stirling (Spencer Jones' Christmas). The series was commissioned for BBC Two by Shane Allen, Controller of Comedy Commissioning. The Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Kate Daughton.

Filming of the full series will begin in early June this year. Transmission details will be announced in due course.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Competition: Win Good Omens Soundtrack by Composer David Arnold on CD

On 31st May, Silva Screen Records will release Good Omens, David Arnold's exciting soundtrack to the highly anticipated TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s 1990 comic fable.

And to celebrate we have a great competition for you and 3 copies on CD to give away.

Composer David Arnold’s soundtrack to the highly anticipated TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s 1990 comic fable that packs a punch.

Following the odd couple, angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and demon Crowley (David Tennant) in their quest to sabotage the end of the World, Amazon Prime's six episode mini-series delivers a tongue in cheek adaptation of this powerful and funny story.

From the Award-winning composer of Sherlock and Casino Royale comes a soundtrack that perfectly complements the Good Omens’ drama and visual sensibilities. At times nostalgic and eerie but always varied, beautiful and full of excitement, this robust, yet funny music entity has become another character in the story. Here, Arnold has created a contemporary soundworld for heaven and hell.

The closing song is Tori Amos’ version of A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, a British wartime favourite referenced at the end of the book, conjuring feelings of separation and pining for untroubled times, and including the lines "There was magic abroad in the air. There were angels dining at the Ritz. And a nightingale sang in Berkeley square".

Watch Good Omens on Amazon Here (Opens in a new window)

For your chance to win just answer the question below.


Terms and conditions
1. Closing date 13-06-19
2. No alternative prize is available
3. When the competition ends as indicated on this page, any and all entries received after this point will not count and emails blacklisted due to not checking this page first.
4. Winners will be chosen randomly and will be informed via email.

Killing Eve - Season two - Multi award-winning cat-and-mouse thriller returns to the UK on June 8

Killing Eve, the acclaimed cat-and-mouse spy thriller will return to UK screens on June 8 on BBC One, with the series boxset available on BBC iPlayer.

Award-winning actors Jodie Comer (Best actress, British Academy Television Awards) and Sandra Oh (Best actress - television series drama, Golden Globe Awards) lead the returning cast for the second series which is written by Emerald Fennell.

Killing Eve has become a massive hit with BBC audiences with over 49 million requests for the series on BBC iPlayer so far.

The BBC announced that it had acquired the rights to series three in April.

Based on the Codename Villanelle novellas by Luke Jennings, Killing Eve (8x45’) is produced by Sid Gentle Films Ltd for BBC America, financed and sold by Endeavor Content, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Sally Woodward Gentle, Lee Morris, Gina Mingacci serving as executive producers alongside Sandra Oh as co-executive producer. Emerald Fennell is the new lead-writer and will also serve as executive producer. Damon Thomas is executive producer and returns as director along with two new female directors, Lisa Bruhlmann and Francesca Gregorini. Elinor Day will serve as series producer.

The first series of Killing Eve is available as a boxset now on BBC iPlayer.

Channel 4 Commissions Whisper to Make Champions League Documentary

Channel 4 has commissioned Whisper Films to make a fast-turnaround documentary focusing on two leading football managers, Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool FC and Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham Hotspur, ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final this Saturday, 1 June.

Against all the odds, Klopp and Pochettino have guided the two English clubs through the most dramatic Champions League competition in living memory, to the final showdown in Madrid, Spain.

Titled ‘Klopp vs Poch – Battle of the Supermanagers’, the insightful documentary will preview the hotly anticipated final with an in-depth look at two of the World’s leading football managers and aims to feature fascinating opinions from a raft of football personalities, such as John Barnes, Jermaine Jenas, Steven Gerrard, Jurgen Klinsmann, Glenn Hoddle, Gabby Logan, Les Ferdinand, Neil Ruddock, Matthew Syed and Chelcee Grimes.

Featuring interviews with a host of managers, players, fans and club legends, the documentary will look at how the German and Argentine managers have gained cult status at their clubs through their unique methods and management techniques.

The one hour documentary will shine a light on what makes both men tick and, in an era of managerial mind games in football, reveal how these two managers have achieved success on football’s biggest stage, where others have failed.

The documentary was commissioned by Channel 4’s Head of Specialist Factual, Fatima Salaria, who commented:

“On eve of a seminal final that sees European football dominated by two remarkable English clubs, this programme takes the opportunity to examine the art of the manager in the modern game. Who are these hugely charismatic and influential executives who are able to make millions for their employers and transform lives of fans through success on the pitch? How do these two very distinct personalities and coaching styles get the very best from their players?”

Whisper Films CEO, Sunil Patel, said: ‘It’s fantastic to be producing something associated with such a huge sporting moment and to be uncovering unique insights about the two central characters. It’s a fascinating subject; story-telling is an intrinsic part of we do and we feel privileged to have the opportunity to tell the story of Klopp vs Pochettino, two world-renowned sporting managers.”

The documentary airs at 10pm on Thursday 30 May on Channel 4.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Ghosts set to haunt BBC One again

BBC One has ordered a second series of Ghosts, the top comedy series on UK television so far this year with a consolidated series average of 3.7m.

The hugely successful house-share sitcom is about a young couple who unexpectedly inherit a grand country estate, only to find it is both falling apart and teeming with the ghosts of former inhabitants.

The crumbling country pile of Button House is home to a troupe of restless spirits who have died there over the centuries, each ghost very much a product of their time, resigned to squabbling with each other for eternity over the most inane of daily gripes. Their lives - or, rather, afterlives - are thrown into turmoil when a young couple - Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) - inherit the peaceful derelict house and make plans to turn it into a bustling family hotel.

Ghosts was the first BBC One project for original stars of Horrible Histories and creators and stars of Yonderland: Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond.

The creators of the show say: “We are DEAD excited to be returning to BBC One for a second series of Ghosts. We could not have asked for a more enthusiastic response to the show, and can’t wait to get haunting Button House once again.

"We’d like to thank Charlotte, Kiell, Lolly, Katy and our fantastic crew for helping us realise such a hugely ambitious project. And thanks also to everyone at Monumental and the BBC for their tireless support of what is clearly a ridiculous idea. We are already hard at work on stories for series two, and can’t wait to share them with you."

Shane Allen, Controller of Comedy Commissioning, says: "Ghosts gave us all a very pleasant shock in landing so fully formed as an instant mainstream hit. This very special gang of writer-performers have created a rich character world shot through with their trademark wit, warmth and mischief."

Alison Carpenter, Head of Television, Monumental Television says: “We are immensely proud of Ghosts, and it's been wonderful to see the audience embrace the show. We can't wait to gather our hugely talented team back together and return to Button House."

The whole first series is available on iPlayer.

Ruth Jones and James Corden reunite Gavin & Stacey cast for one-off BBC special

Bafta and multi-award-winning Gavin & Stacey, starring Mathew Horne and Joanna Page, supported by a cast including James Corden, Ruth Jones, Rob Brydon, Larry Lamb, Melanie Walters and Alison Steadman, is set to return for a one-off special this Christmas on BBC One.
The hit British sitcom, created and written by Ruth Jones and James Corden, will be produced by Fulwell 73, Tidy Productions and Baby Cow Productions.

Ruth Jones and James Corden, says: “Over the last ten years we’ve talked a lot about Gavin and Stacey - where they might be today and what their lives might look like. And so in secret we took the plunge and wrote this one hour special. We’ve loved revisiting Barry and Essex again and bringing the characters back together has been a joy. We’re so excited to get the chance to work with our fabulous cast and crew once more and to give fans of the show a festive treat this Christmas. Thank you BBC for helping to make this happen.”

Gavin & Stacey broadcast over three series (plus a Christmas special) from 2007 to 2010 on the BBC. Gavin (Mathew Horne), an ordinary boy from Essex in England and Stacey (Joanna Page), an ordinary girl from Barry in Wales, spoke on the phone to each other every day at work, they finally met, fell in love and got married. The series went onto explore the simple love story of these two young people from different parts of the UK, and the impact their relationship had on their friends and family.

The sitcom was a breakthrough hit for BBC Three and the 2008 Christmas special and third series moved to premiere on BBC One. The shows 2010 New Year’s Day finale had record ratings for the series with 10.25m viewers.

Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content, says: “Everyone at the BBC is hugely excited to be welcoming back Gavin and Stacey to BBC One this Christmas. We can’t wait to see what’s happened to everyone over the last nine years, and what’s next for one of the nation’s favourite comedy families.”

Channel 4 announces cast of Lucy Kirkwood drama Adult Material

Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake, The Miniaturist) to play lead character Jolene Dollar in Lucy Kirkwood’s upcoming Channel 4 drama, Adult Material. She is joined by Siena Kelly (Vanity Fair, Temple), Kerry Godliman (Afterlife, Save Me), Joe Dempsie (Game of Thrones, Deep State), Julian Ovenden (Downton Abbey, Knightfall), Phil Daniels (A Very Very Very Dark Matter, Sliced) and Rupert Everett (Another Country, My Best Friend's Wedding, The Happy Prince).

Set in modern Britain, the 4 x 60’s drama from Fifty Fathoms delves inside the porn industry from the perspective of a woman who has been working in it her entire adult life and has seen it grow from an illegitimate backroom enterprise to a mainstream and highly profitable arm of the telecommunications industry. Adult Material will interrogate what’s real, what’s fake, what’s up for sale and the impact that these things have on the individuals involved.

Squires plays Jolene Dollar, a regular mother of three, who is proudly the breadwinner of the family. But Jolene doesn’t have the most conventional of careers: she is one of the top porn performers in the UK. Adult Material ventures into Jolene’s world - to a place that influences all of our lives, whether we know it or not, but none of us ever truly see.

One day on set, Jolene is introduced to Amy (played by Siena Kelly). Amy is 19, not much older than Jolene’s oldest daughter, Phoebe (played by Alex Jarrett). Jolene looks after Amy the way that she looks after every new girl on set, but she can’t protect Amy from her own choices, and soon her relationship with this unstable young woman will see Jolene’s own career and home life start to unravel.

Rupert Everett plays Jolene’s long-term friend, producer and businessman, Carroll Quinn. Carroll has been in the business a long time and has seen the porn industry change to a multi-million-dollar proposition.  He’s constantly trying to keep up with the times and technology.  Joe Dempsie plays Rich, Jolene’s loving and dedicated long-term partner. Julian Ovenden plays the US porn Kingpin, Tom Pain, a man from porn’s most extreme quarter, for whom ‘no’ doesn’t exist. Kerry Godliman plays MP, Stella Maitland, whose life becomes intertwined with Jolene’s when they form an unlikely friendship. Stella comes to her defence when Jolene’s career, family, and reputation are in tatters.

Hayley Squires commented; “I am so excited and incredibly grateful to be playing Jolene Dollar, she is like the wildest dream. Lucy has written the most complex, multi-faceted and morally challenging story. Throughout each episode you are constantly forced to question your own judgement and beliefs and that makes for the very best drama. I’m very lucky to be part of a female-led crew and an incredibly talented cast.”

Monday, 27 May 2019


Mohamed Hefzy

Amsterdam. 27 May 2019 - Netflix, the world's leading internet entertainment service, announced PARANORMAL, its new original Middle Eastern series. Based on Paranormal the best selling books in the Arab world by late author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, that sold more than 15 million copies. PARANORMAL will be produced by both Mohamed Hefzy and Amr Salama, who is also the showrunner and the director, PARANORMAL is Netflix's first foray into Egyptian drama.

Set in the 1960s, the series, packed with mystery and suspense, depicts the adventures of PARANORMAL leading character Dr. Refaat Ismail, a single hematologist who finds himself faced with a series of supernatural events.

"We are so excited to be investing in more Middle Eastern productions by adapting the highly acclaimed PARANORMAL series of novels into an exciting show. We’re also pleased to collaborate with prominent producer Mohamed Hefzy and director Amr Salama whose creative vision we look forward to bringing to our international audience" said Kelly Luegenbiehl, VP of International Originals at Netflix.

This third Middle Eastern Netflix original show reflects the company's commitment to exploring more stories and talents in the region. This will give filmmakers and audiences in the Middle East presence on a global platform to both tell and enjoy a variety of exciting new stories.

Show producer, Mohamed Hefzy, commented, "I’m proud to be working with Netflix on bringing to life the PARANORMAL series, which I hold dear to my heart. I’m also excited to be cooperating again with long time collaborator and friend, director Amr Salama. Together with Netflix, we aim to present a show of international quality and that lives up to the promises and ambitions of Egyptian and Arabic drama."

"I’m very excited about this project, It was my dream to adapt PARANORMAL of the late author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik and turn it into a drama since I ever wanted to be a filmmaker. I’m proud to present the books in a new light while still keeping the essence of PARANORMAL. I can't wait to introduce these exciting stories to the Netflix public in 190 countries around the world" said producer, director, and showrunner Amr Salama.

Expected to be filmed in Egypt, PARANORMAL is the third Middle Eastern Netflix original show after Jinn, which features a cast of emerging Jordanian talents and is set to be released on June 13, 2019, and Al Rawabi School for Girls, which was announced last April. These productions reflect Netflix's dedication to investment in Middle Eastern Arabic content.

Actors Rob Delaney and Martin Freeman coming to BBC Radio 6 Music

Rob Delaney and Martin Freeman will be joining BBC Radio 6 Music for a run of Sunday afternoon shows.

They will be hosting their own shows, covering Guy Garvey’s 2-4pm slot whilst he is on an extended break working on his next album. Cillian Murphy has been presenting the show since March, with his final programme on 2 June.

Rob Delaney says: “I’m thrilled to be presenting on BBC Radio 6 Music. Whether you listen to music while you make dinner, widgets or perhaps even love, I hope you’ll do so to my powerful rhythms.”

Cillian Murphy says: “Thanks so much to everyone at 6 Music, all the listeners, and especially Guy Garvey, for giving me the chance to play some music on the best radio station in the world. I had a splendid time. Looking forward to tuning in to the brilliant Rob Delaney.”

Paul Rodgers, Head of 6 Music, says: "Rob Delaney and Martin Freeman are both fantastic talents so I’m delighted they will be joining 6 Music, where they can bring their love of music to our Sunday afternoons. I’d like to thank Cillian Murphy, who has done a great job sitting in for Guy Garvey since since March - listeners have loved tuning in to him."

Rob Delaney will be on air from 9 June - 7 July, with Martin Freeman presenting from 14 July - 4 August. The shows will also be available on BBC Sounds.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Rob Lowe stars in new ITV drama Wild Bill - Trailer

Internationally renowned actor, Rob Lowe, in new ITV drama Wild Bill, in which he takes the leading role and executive produces.

Joined by stage and screen actress Rachael Stirling (The Bletchley Circle, Detectorists) who takes the role of Lady Mary Harborough, and Angela Griffin (Ordinary Lies, Brief Encounters) who will play local journalist, Lisa Cranston. Tony Pitts (Peaky Blinders, Line Of Duty) will play Crime Commissioner Keith Metcalfe and rising star Bronwyn James (Harlots, The ABC Murders) takes the role of DC Muriel Yeardsley.

Also joining the cast are Anjli Mohindra (Bodyguard, Dark Heart) as Deputy Chief Constable Lydia Price, Steffan Rhodri (A Very English Scandal, Apple Tree Yard) as DS Alex Blair, Divian Ladwa (Lion, Detectorists) as PC Drakes, Anthony Flanagan (Versailles, Humans) as PC Sean Cobley and Vicki Pepperdine (The Windsors, The Woman In White) as pathologist, Broadbent.

Rob Lowe’s character is Bill Hixon, who has been appointed Chief Constable of the East Lincolnshire Police Force. Landing in Boston, Lincolnshire with teenage daughter Kelsey, he’s hoping they can flee their recent painful past. However, this unfamiliar, unimpressed community will force Bill to question everything about himself and leave him wondering if it's Boston that needs Bill, or Bill that needs Boston?

Wild Bill is a co-production between 42 (Traitors, Watership Down), Anonymous Content (13 Reasons Why, Maniac) and ITV Studios label, Shiver (Come Dine With Me, Piers Morgan’s Life Stories) and marks the first occasion the companies have collaborated to produce a drama series for ITV. Created by David Griffiths (The Hunted, Collateral Damage), Kyle Killen (Halo, Awake), Dudi Appleton & Jim Keeble (Silent Witness, Thorne: Sleepyhead & Scaredycat), it will be written by lead writers and show-runners Keeble and Appleton.

As an Executive Producer on Wild Bill, Rob Lowe will work alongside Eleanor Moran (Rome, Being Human, Watership Down) and Rory Aitken (Watership Down, Traitors) who are Executive Producers on behalf of 42, and fellow Executive Producer, Tim Carter, (Traitors, Garrow’s Law, Privates) Managing Director of ITV Studios label, Shiver. Writers Dudi Appleton and Jim Keeble, creator David Griffiths, Kyle Killen, Scott Pennington and Keith Redmon from Anonymous Content also join the team as Executive Producers.

They’re back! The Judoon are returning to Doctor Who to face the Thirteenth Doctor!

When Jodie Whittaker returns to Doctor Who next series, the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends won’t be the only familiar faces.

The show, currently filming, is set to welcome back The Judoon as one of the Doctor’s fearsome adversaries.

More than twelve years after they stampeded onto screens to terrorise the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones on the moon in 2007’s Smith and Jones, the rhino-headed, brutish intergalactic police are returning to cause havoc and thrill children and adults alike.

These ruthless enforcers are on a deadly mission: But what for? And why has it brought them to present-day Gloucester?

The episode will also star acclaimed actor Neil Stuke. Neil has an established career on stage, television and films, and is a two times Bafta nominee. Neil’s recent credits include Doctor Foster, Silk and Silent Witness.

Chris Chibnall, Showrunner says: “No! Sho! Blo! The Judoon are storming back into Doctor Who in full force, and the streets of Gloucester aren’t safe. If anyone has anything to hide, confess now. The Judoon are taking no prisoners, and will stop at nothing to fulfil their mission! The whole team on Doctor Who are delighted and scared in equal measure to welcome them back: One of many treats we’ve got in store for viewers next series. And we’re over the moon (with Judoon), to be welcoming the wondrous Neil Stuke as guest star. We can’t wait to show you what happens when his path crosses with the Thirteenth Doctor."

BBC Four wants another Big Night Out

Legendary double-act Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are bringing another blast of high octane comedy to BBC Four with a second series of Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out.

The studio-based show will burst into life with special effects, songs, stunts and plenty of surprises. During their time off screen, Bob has been working hard on his musical dance routines and can’t wait to impress Vic and the audience with his latest skills.

Novelty Island will be back as well as fan’s favourite Judge Nutmeg who once again presides over the Wheel of Justice. There will also be the return of hit sketches The Free Runners and Mostly UnHaunted alongside a host of new characters and guest stars.

The legendary comedy duo will be joined once again by hapless Vaun (Vaun Earl Norman) who still doesn’t have a clue what’s going on… and probably never will.

Following a highly successful series last year marking their 25th anniversary at the BBC, the pair that has entertained generations of comedy fans proved they still have the skill to surprise and delight audiences with their unique brand of surreal humour.

Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out is a reimagining of the original Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out which was a seminal force in British comedy. First broadcast in 1990 it was an original, maverick & very silly stage show which transferred to television and introduced the world to the outlandish comedy duo.

Vic and Bob say: “We’ve had so much fun writing this series, the chemistry between us has never been so explosive and we can’t wait to get going - for our writing to make it on screen and see how it all works out.”

Shane Allen, Controller Comedy Commissioning, says: “Vic and Bob continue to pioneer, dazzle and reduce audiences to helpless laughter. Who knows what inventive brilliance is in store, it’s not like the scripts will give us much of a clue. They return at the height of their comedy powers with more audience love than ever.”

Cassian Harrison, Channel Editor BBC Four, says: “I am overjoyed to welcome back Vic and Bob to BBC Four. Their big night out was a must-see moment on the channel last year and we’re looking forward to even more of their inimitable anarchy.”

Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out is a BBC Studios production for BBC Four. The producer is Lisa Clark, the executive producer is Ben Caudell, the studio director is Mat Whitecross. The Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Alex Moody.

Trans Athletes: A Fair Playing Field? Martina Navratilova in new BBC One documentary

When Martina Navratilova called for an open debate about male to female transgender athletes competing in women’s sports earlier this year, a heated and passionate debate was sparked creating global news headlines.

In this one off special commissioned from Brook Lapping for BBC One, Martina sets out to open up the debate and find answers to some of her own questions by meeting a range of athletes, scientists and sporting officials to get to the heart of why the subject is so controversial.

Martina meets Dr Gemma Whitcomb and Dr Emma O’Donnell at Loughborough University who are leading the sports science research into transgender athletes and have a team dedicated to looking at the emerging issues around gender and fair participation in sport.

She discusses the complexities with Joanna Harper, a Medical Physicist who specialises in research into trans athletes and is a trans woman herself. Joanna knows first-hand the impact of gender transition on athletic performance - an elite runner all her life, Joanna explains how her run times dropped by 12% when she transitioned from male to female in 2004.

The film also includes contributions and opinions from elite female athletes like Sharron Davies, who has been very outspoken on the issue, as well as medical experts and sporting bodies.

Martina Navratilova says: “I hope that this documentary enables everybody to be more knowledgeable about the overall transgender and sport debate and hopefully brings us closer to a solution that makes as many people as possible happy.”

The Crystal Maze unveils brand-new Eastern Zone

The Crystal Maze will return in 2019 with all new celebrity episodes and an all new zone: The Eastern Zone. Influenced by the historic art, architecture and monuments of East Asia, the zone will feature five games rooms for eight new games, set around a lily pond, cherry blossom trees and ornate vases. The new zone will join the Futuristic, Aztec and Industrial Zones, with all four featuring a host of challenging new puzzles in the forthcoming series. It’s the first time a new realm has been added to the show since the Ocean Zone was introduced in the fourth series of the original 1990s run.

Richard Ayoade as Maze Master will be again welcoming teams of five celebrity contestants, who will take on a host of skill, physical, mental and mystery challenges, in the hope of winning crystals that can be exchanged for time in the iconic Crystal Dome. The celebrity specials will once again see the teams aiming to win a prize sum for Stand Up To Cancer. The production of 13 new episodes will include a Christmas special, with filming taking place at the 30,000 sq. ft. studio space at The Bottle Yard Studios, Bristol.

The Eastern Zone has been designed by production designer, James Dillon, who has designed all the zones featured on the series since its original run in the 1990s. He and the programme’s team of games designers have come together to create a fantasy microcosm of pre-modern East Asia complete with challenging themed games.

James Dillon comments: “It’s very exciting to be asked to design a new zone for The Crystal Maze. The challenge, to create a zone referencing such an ancient and beautiful part of the world, and to bring those intense, rich colours and textures to the mix of zones that make up the Maze, has been most enjoyable.”

Neale Simpson, Executive Producer at Fizz adds: “We’re thrilled to be back with more maze-based madness and especially excited to share our new zone, all-new games and some frankly ridiculous new nonsense involving an over-sized crystal.”

The Crystal Maze is executive produced by Neale Simpson for Fizz, a Banijay Group company and is a Banijay Group format. The series is commissioned for Channel 4 by Tom Beck and Karen Murdoch, Commissioning Editors, Entertainment.

The Crystal Maze will return to Channel 4 later this year.

Ground-breaking animal science for Channel 4

Channel 4 have commissioned My Gay Dog and Other Animals (w/t) (1 x 60 min) from Arrow Pictures, the film explores something that traditional evolutionary theory cannot explain -  gay behaviour in animals.  With more than 1,500 animal species displaying same-sex  behaviour, the programme highlights recent research from leading scientists in the field to find out more about this largely unexplained phenomenon.

Challenging many pre-conceptions about animals and procreation the documentary features a wide range of experts, who specialise in Evolutionary Anthropology, Sexuality, Sex-differences and Gender-differences, and scientists leading the pioneering study of the genetics of homosexual behaviour in animals. In addition, the documentary also hears from non-academic experts including zoologists, farmers and more.

Siobhan Sinnerton, Commissioning Editor, Channel 4 News and Current Affairs, says: “This hugely enjoyable film explores the complex science and associated controversies around same sex behaviour in animals in a totally refreshing way."

Nick Metcalfe, Executive Producer, Arrow Pictures, says: “Even though  it was observed by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, same-sex behaviour in the animal kingdom has since largely gone unreported and unanalysed.  From domestic pets to the kings of the jungle, it was thought that the animal may just be showing its dominance or higher social status.  British scientists now believe that they are close to identifying the combinations of genes that explain why there may be evolutionary advantages to an animal being gay.  This documentary builds on Arrow’s reputation of presenting pioneering science in an accessible and compelling way, so we are delighted to be working with scientists to bring this ground-breaking discovery to the screen.”

My Gay Dog is Exec Produced by Nick Metcalfe for Arrow Pictures and commissioned by Siobhan Sinnerton at Channel 4.  It is distributed internationally by Blue Ant Media.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance will launch on Netflix Aug. 30

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance will launch on Netflix Aug. 30

The 10-episode show is a prequel to the beloved Jim Henson and Frank Oz-directed 1982 puppet fantasy-adventure film, The Dark Crystal.

The show is once again set on the world of Thra and concerns three Gelflings who discover the horrifying secret behind the Skeksis' power and set out on an epic journey to ignite the fires of rebellion and save their world. The Gelflings are voiced by Taron Egerton, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Nathalie Emmanuel.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Westworld Season 3 Trailer - Coming 2020

Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, explore a world in which every human appetite can be indulged without consequence.

Westworld will premiere in 2020

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Netflix launches the trailer for its latest drama series, Leila

Netflix have released the trailer of its upcoming drama series Leila.

Based on author Prayaag Akbar’s award-winning book of the same name, Leila stars, in pivotal roles, actors Huma Qureshi, Siddharth, Rahul Khanna, Seema Biswas, Akash Khurana, Sanjay Suri, Arif Zakaria, amongst others, and is helmed by Creative Executive Producer, Deepa Mehta. The series has been directed by Deepa Mehta, Shanker Raman, and Pawan Kumar and is based on the book (also called Leila) by Akbar.

India's first dystopian story, Leila is set in an imagined world, Aryavarta in which there is great suffering, extreme and totalitarian rules of engagement and fictional extremes constructed around an obsession with purity, communal and divisive societal dramas and grit.

Leila is the story of a mothers’ imperishable maternal love for her daughter set in the political and emotional dystopia of Aryavarta.

The series is set to release on the service worldwide across 190 countries on 14 June, 2019

First look trailer from upcoming Sky original British drama Temple

Find out just how far one man will go for love in the first look trailer for Temple, an emotionally complex and riveting Sky original drama.

Starring Mark Strong (Kingsman), Carice Van Houten (Game of Thrones) and Daniel Mays (Line of Duty), Temple tells the story of Daniel Milton (Mark Strong) a talented surgeon whose world is turned upside-down when his wife, played by Catherine McCormack (Braveheart), develops a life-threatening illness. Conventional options for treatment run out, yet Daniel refuses to accept the cards he’s been dealt. He partners with the obsessive yet surprisingly resourceful misfit Lee (Daniel Mays), to start a literal ‘underground’ clinic in the vast network of tunnels beneath Temple tube station in London.

They are soon joined by Anna (Carice Van Houten), a guilt-ridden medical researcher whose past is entangled with Daniel’s, and Jamie, played by Tobi King Bakare (Cursed), a young fugitive bank-robber. Daniel does his best to juggle this dysfunctional family as his moral boundaries between being a husband, friend and doctor are challenged. But it soon becomes apparent that it may be him and his desperate actions that finally bring the whole thing crashing down. Just how far will Daniel Milton go for love?

Additional cast include Wunmi Mosaku (Damiola Our Loved Boy), Craig Parkinson (Line of Duty), Lily Newmark (Pin Cushion) Chloe Pirrie (The Victim) and Ryan McKen (The State). 

Written by Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe (Boy A) and produced by Hera Pictures, Temple is executive produced by Liza Marshall, Mark Strong and Mark O’Rowe for Hera Pictures and Gabriel Silver for Sky. Luke Snellin (Wanderlust), Shariff Korver (Fenix) and Lisa Siwe (Modus) direct. Barney Reisz (Black Mirror) produces. Temple is based on the critically-acclaimed Norwegian drama Valkyrien. The eight part series was commissioned by Cameron Roach, Sky’s Director of Drama and Sky Studios and Zai Bennett, Director of Programming for Sky Entertainment UK & Ireland. The series is co-funded and distributed internationally by Sky Vision.

Temple will air on Sky One and streaming service NOW TV this autumn.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Statement from ITV regarding The Jeremy Kyle Show


Statement from ITV regarding The Jeremy Kyle Show

Carolyn McCall, ITV's CEO, announced today: "Given the gravity of recent events we have decided to end production of The Jeremy Kyle Show.

"The Jeremy Kyle Show has had a loyal audience and has been made by a dedicated production team for 14 years, but now is the right time for the show to end.

"Everyone at ITV's thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of Steve Dymond."

The previously announced review of the episode of the show is underway and will continue.

ITV will continue to work with Jeremy Kyle on other projects.

Hello possums!... Dame Edna brings her entertainment show back for one very special night on BBC One

Following her emotional farewell tour, Dame Edna has been enjoying luxury downtime on board her enormous yacht, sailing the seas without a care in the world. But now she's back for one very special night and she's bringing her legendary entertainment show to BBC One.

Filmed in front of an audience, Dame Edna will host a very exclusive evening with celebrity chat, music and of course a few surprises direct from her luxury yacht, staffed by some familiar faces.

On her return Dame Edna says: "The world needs sunshine so I am very happy to welcome you all on board. One hour on my yacht is better than a lifetime on a cruise liner."

Kate Philips, Controller, Entertainment Commissioning, says: "There's nothing like a Dame Edna and I can't wait for this unforgettable one off special to hit our screens. With a whole host of celebrities bravely stepping on board to join the First Lady of Oz we're all in for an absolute treat."

Rachel Ashdown, BBC Commissioning Editor, says: "Over the past 50 years Dame Edna has got to grips with the world's biggest stars and I am looking forward to seeing her welcome the current generation of celebrities to her sofa."

Patsy Kensit and Luke Roberts return to Holby City for special episode

Patsy Kensit and Luke Roberts will reprise their roles as Faye Morton and Joseph Byrne in BBC One's Holby City for one episode as part of the programme's 20th anniversary celebrations.

Last seen on the Holby wards almost ten years ago, Faye and Joseph return to the hospital under dramatic circumstances and come face to face with Jac - Faye's nemesis and ex love rival. The turbulent history between the three of them doesn't bode well when certain events mean they need to come together as life hangs in the balance.

Patsy Kensit says: "It's a great honour to be asked back. As soon as I got the script I sat down and read it as fast as I could, which shows what a gripping episode it's going to be. Faye has changed quite a lot, it's very feisty and there are lots of surprises! It's also really exciting to be working with Rosie and Luke again; we always had a fantastic time together on set and that's not changed at all."

Luke Roberts says: "Actors take jobs for a number of reasons. Pay the bills, learn the craft, further the career, tackle a challenging role. Holby City ticked all of those boxes when I had the good fortune to join the cast in 2005. For five years it provided me with a much needed community of artists and technicians who always made me feel at home. It really was like a family. So it's been an absolute joy to slip back into the surgical scrubs, see so many familiar faces and reconnect with the likes of Rosie Marcel, Patsy Kensit, Jaye Jacobs, Bob Barrett, Guy Henry, Hugh Quarshie, Belinda Owusu and Alex Walkinshaw to name but a few of the mega talented folks working on the wards. Not to mention our brilliant director David Innes-Edwards who has the colossal task of keeping us all in line!"

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

The Ranganation - Q&A with Romesh Ranganathan

Romesh Ranganathan is the host of a brand new BBC Two topical comedy show which takes a humorous look at the week’s biggest talking points, from front page news to trending topics and the smaller stories you might have missed.

To help Romesh understand what the nation really think on a wide range of topics he will be consulting with his very own focus group, The Ranganation. This rambunctious group of 25 lovable, outspoken and passionate characters represent a real cross-section of modern Britain so expect to hear from people such as 'Cockney Geezer', 'Vicar’s Daughter', and ‘Romesh’s Mum' - who is a key member.

Each week he’ll also be joined by other comedians and expert guests to get their take on modern Britain and how stories in the news are affecting us all. Together, they workshop the lighter end of the news spectrum and discuss the stuff that we actually talk about, other than Brexit and Trump.

A Q&A with Romesh Ranganathan

Tell us about your new series, The Ranganation

I wanted to do a topical show not a political show. So how the show works is, I have a focus group of 25 people who come from different walks of life from across Britain, and they help me chew the fat over whatever has been going on that week.

So it could be political, but - for example - in the pilot we talk about people putting up England flags during the World Cup and how that makes people feel, because in the week we filmed it Royal Mail banned their staff from putting flags on their vans because of the connotations or whatever.

We discussed that and it’s interesting to see how different people, based on their background, reacted. For some people that flag was a symbol of patriotism and they thought it was amazing or disgusting that it was banned. And other people saw it as a sign of slightly distasteful nationalism. So it’s me discussing these issues with people from all different backgrounds, with a few other guests each week.

How did you choose the 25?

We have a team of people who cast all across the UK and we wanted people from all walks of life, ages and backgrounds. We held auditions, basically a very informal version of the show in an office so they could meet me and other Ranganation members and we could figure out who would be right.

It’s not just about them being good on TV necessarily, as people who are too TV savvy probably aren’t right. We are looking for regular people who are opinionated and passionate. Also there may be more than 25 members who might rotate.

Why did you want to make a topical show?

It’s because you sort of get pissed off with things, well maybe not pissed off, but there are certain things that dominate your conversations but they’re not always political. And I sort of thought there isn’t a show, a comedy-entsy [comedy-entertainment] sort of show - ‘comedy-entsy’ is one of the worst things I have ever said - that deals with topical stuff.

I don’t want to say we’re not going to talk about Brexit, or that it’s banned or anything, but, for example, me and my friends fiercely debated the recent spate of all-female reboots, and nerds getting upset about Captain Marvel. It’s those sort of things that people are talking about. It’s not necessarily political, it's watercooler chat for want of a more modern phrase, but it’s those things that aggravate people and I wanted to explore that. And I wanted to be the host of another show and so those two selfish motives married together to form The Ranganation.

What’s it like working with your mum again?

It’s great! The honest truth is that it is great having my mum there. Does it grate slightly when people go on about how naturally funny she is? Yes it does. Is it annoying that she has more time in hair, makeup and wardrobe than I do? Yes it’s annoying. But she loves it, she loves getting recognised and I’m happy for her to be successful. Up to a point.

Is she ever going to take on projects without you?

I suspect so. She’ll deny it but I think that’s very much in her plans. We did an interview the other day and she was saying she doesn’t want to ever do anything without me but I believe that’s a lie. She would step over my dead body to get a cookery show, I can tell you that for nothing.

If you could invite anyone in the world to join The Ranganation who would it be and why?
Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister. I like everything about him: he’s charming, I like what he’s about, he’s a good looking bloke, which normally puts me off people as I just think ‘you’ve had an easy life’, but I like him and think he’d be a good guy to have on. The only thing is he doesn’t qualify because he doesn’t know what it’s like to be British, it’s meant to be a cross-section of Britain. He would qualify if he decided to move to Britain, but we can’t just have him turning up, swanning in to do the show and effing off again back to Canada. That’s not what The Ranganation is about.

If you have to choose someone to be in The Ranganation that adheres to the rules of the show, who would it be?

Idris Elba. I think he’s got interesting things to say, he’s a good-looking guy and now he has got married it’s safe for me to be on a thing with him and not be annoyed that my wife is drooling over him. My mum fancies the pants off of him but is also very highly moral, so it would be quite nice watching her internal struggle with the fact she is absolutely obsessed with him but also respects the sanctity of marriage.

Do you have any pre-show rituals that you perform before the cameras start rolling?

I have an app on my phone that’s a brain training thing, and it does these little number and shape tests and I read somewhere ages ago that if you’re trying to get mentally sharp for something then it’s a good thing to do because it gets your brain revving. Whether or not it does something I don’t know, but I have got into this superstitious thing where I have to have a go on that.

What do you enjoy most about working with the public when you’re doing TV shows?

It's like pretending that I consider them equals but inside knowing I’m better than them; you look so humble because you’re in amongst them but actually you know you’re of a different quality. I’m joking, joking!

I like unfiltered people and people being honest, and members of the public often are, so that’s what is so great about the show. We’re not getting views from people who are worried about how they come across on screen, or worried about a career in television, they’re just saying what they think, and so that is quite refreshing and interesting as people are less guarded. It makes the show more exciting.

Which category, for want of a better word, would you represent if you were in The Ranganation?

We try and summarise people, so I guess mine would be overweight misanthrope. That would be the filter I’m approaching everything from I reckon. But the names are actually a lot catchier than that, so perhaps ‘fat sad’? ‘Sad fat man’? ‘Obese sad’?

Are your kids allowed to watch you on TV?

My eldest kid is nine and they’re allowed I guess. When I did The Misadventures Of Romesh Ranganathan for BBC Two they were interested in the places I had gone to and my wife thought actually this is one of the few things I have done that has any educational merit. So she watched it ahead and then would watch it with them with her finger on the fast-forward button because for a travel show I have a real inclination to drop the f-bomb, so she had to be mindful of that. They don’t go anywhere near my stand-up.

Are you already quite engaged with the news or are you going to have to ramp it up for the show?

No I won’t have to ramp it up, I’m pretty engaged already. I did Question Time a while ago, I’m not engaged enough to just wander in to that and freestyle it, but I knew enough to go on it. I am informed but I am not like Nish Kumar who is across everything and so politically minded, I’m not that way inclined. I do read the news, but not with any great purpose, rather I read it because it interests me, so I have a potted understanding of what’s going on. Combine that with my, I would say, sub-par intellect and you get quite an interesting take.

Where do you get most of your news from? Which sources do you use? Twitter?

I tend not to get it from Twitter. I do actually, and I’m not just saying this because we’re talking about a BBC programme, but I do tend to go to the BBC News website first thing and then I’ll go to the newspaper websites to see what their takes on stories are based on their leanings. And then I may go to Twitter to see what the worst-informed, most-reactionary group of people I follow have to say about everything.

Is that the kind of atmosphere you’re going to try and capture on the show?

I like the idea that the show will be a combination of people being informed, but also just shooting from the hip. We all go through life knowing what we should think about things, but sometimes that doesn’t coincide with what you actually feel about something, and I think it will be interesting to see that mixed in the show. We assume that people from certain backgrounds will think a certain way about issues, and in the pilot I was surprised by the way not everyone had a set-in-stone take on the things you'd expect them to because of where they’d come from.

Eurovision 2019 on the BBC - Michael Rice - Bigger Than Us

The world’s biggest music competition returns this May as the Eurovision Song Contest, one of the longest-running and most-watched non-sporting events in the world, is broadcast live from Tel Aviv across the BBC.

Tel Aviv will play host to the competition for the first time following the country's victory last year in Lisbon with Netta who sung and performed Toy. Israel has won the Eurovision Song Contest four times with Izhar Cohen and Alphabeta in 1978 with A-Ba-Ni-Bi and Milk and Honey and Gali Atari with Hallelujah in 1979, Dana International with Diva in 1998 and Netta with Toy in 2018.

This year marks the 64th edition of the competition, with a total of 41 countries competing in the contest, including two semi-finals that will be broadcast on BBC Four, and the Grand Final which will be broadcast on BBC One and BBC Radio 2.

As one of the Big Five countries (United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, France, Italy), the United Kingdom does not have to qualify from the semi-final stage of the competition and will gain automatic access to the Saturday Grand Final. Israel, as the incumbent champion, will also not need to qualify from the semi-final stage and will gain automatic entry to the Grand Final.

In order to find a song to represent the United Kingdom, this year the BBC undertook a massive song search via a public song submission as well as Eurovision song writing camps held by Music Consultant Greig Watts. Ten songs were then shortlisted and were given to an international jury of music experts who chose the final three songs to put forward to Eurovision: You Decide 2019 on BBC Two. Each of the three songs were then performed in two musically different ways, by two different acts. After all six acts performed the expert judges chose the best version of each song which went forward to face the public vote.

Michael Rice was chosen to represent the United Kingdom after winning the public vote in Eurovision: You Decide.

Michael will head to Tel Aviv to perform his song Bigger Than Us, an epic power ballad on behalf of the United Kingdom this May. Bigger Than Us was written by Jonas Thander, Anna-Klara Folin, John Lundvik and Laurell Barker.

The result of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest will be decided for 50% by you, the public, and for 50% by a group of music industry professionals. Each jury member ranks all entries, except for their own country's contribution. The jury names who will be voting on behalf of the UK jury from home are:

Sophie Ellis-Bextor (Jury Chairperson) - Artist
Pete Watson - Musical Director, Kylie Minogue/Hurts/Leona Lewis
Jai Ramage - Vocal Coach
Adele Roberts - BBC Radio 1 DJ
AJ Bentley - Singer and Musical Performer

Channel 4 serves up sixth series of Friday Night Dinner

Channel 4 has commissioned Big Talk Productions and Popper Pictures to produce a sixth series of the critically-acclaimed and multi-award winning comedy, Friday Night Dinner with Tamsin Greig, Paul Ritter, Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal returning as the Goodman Family, with Mark Heap as Jim.

Friday Night Dinner is written and produced by Robert Popper, who co-created and starred in BBC Two’s Look Around You with Peter Serafinowicz, produced the Bafta-winning Peep Show, wrote on season 14 of South Park, and script-edited The Inbetweeners, The IT Crowd and Him & Her. Robert also wrote the bestselling The Timewaster Letters books under his pseudonym, Robin Cooper.  Recently, he co-wrote several episodes of Channel 4’s Stath Lets Flats, with Jamie Demetriou.

Robert Popper said: “I’m really looking forward to exploring new avenues with series 6. Inspector de Vries (Paul Ritter) will still be working on the Rynsburger case, but this time he's joined by new partner-in-crime, Mees Janssen (Tom Rosenthal), fresh out of Rotterdam Police Academy. Eva de Bruin (Tamsin Greig) is now trying to regain control of her pharmaceutical company, after an aggressive takeover-bid by the always-cunning Sem Teuling (Simon Bird). But can ‘Vos’ (Mark Heap) and his faithful dog, ‘de Welson’ save the day?”

Friday Night Dinner is executive produced by Kenton Allen, Chief Executive of Big Talk Productions and Caroline Leddy. Martin Dennis returns as director.

Kenton Allen, Big Talk CEO said: "Friday Night Dinner has grown into a monster hit for Channel 4 and it’s incredibly exciting to see the audience growing every season as new viewers fall in love with the antics of the Goodman household. It’s also incredible that Robert has singlehandedly written and produced all 31 episodes so far, which must make him one of the most prolific comedy writer/producers working today.  We’re incredibly grateful to Channel 4 for letting him have another go. Fingers crossed!"

Fiona McDermott, Head of Comedy at Channel 4, said: “We’re delighted that audiences love Friday Night Dinner as much as we do at Channel 4, and are thrilled that it will be returning. It’s always brilliant when audiences for a show grow over time and we’re thrilled that more and more people are falling in love with the Goodmans. We are so pleased to be making a new series with Robert and Big Talk.”

Friday Night Dinner is one of Channel 4’s longest running sitcoms. Series 5 is the second highest rating series for the show so far, beaten only by Series 1. It also attracted the biggest audience share across all series. The series averaged 1.9m / 11.4% per  episode – up +19% on slot average and up +27% for share - outperforming the series 4.

Launching in 2011 the series went on to win Best Situation Comedy at the 2012 Rose D’Or Festival and was nominated at Best Situation Comedy and Best Female Performance in a Comedy for Tamsin Greig at the 2012 BAFTA TV Awards. Other nominations include Best New Comedy Programme, Best Sitcom, Best Comedy Actress for Tamsin Greig and Best Comedy Breakthrough Artist for Tom Rosenthal at the British Comedy Awards 2011. Best Situation Comedy at the National Television Awards 2011, and gained a Best Comedy writer nod for Robert Popper at The Royal Television Society Award 2012. The recent series won the British Comedy Guide award for Best returning TV Sitcom.

The new six part series will shoot late 2019 and transmit next year on Channel 4.

The Hunt for Jihadi John: Interview with the producer Richard Kerbaj

You’ve made a film about the terrorist known as Jihadi John [real name Mohammed Emwazi]. Explain a bit about the programme. 

The wider picture is that this is about the formation and collapse of Isis, and the impact that the ISIS ideology had on the recruitment of young men and women who left heir countries, particularly in the West, to go out and fight on the front lines in Syria and Iraq. They were given numerous promises about the caliphate, what it represented, and the religious underpinnings that it had. That’s the base outline if the story. But I wanted to tell the story through a particular character, and of course Jihadi John became such an enormous, symbolic character for Isis. Not because of the military value that he had, but because of the propaganda war that he helped wage. He became a very beneficial propaganda tool for them.

I think the very first video of him beheading the US journalist Jim Foley became such a great hit for them. It created such an enormous wave and generated so many headlines. It was an experiment that worked. So they replicated that on a number of occasions, with the beheadings of several other journalists and aid workers, and that helped them drive the propaganda machine. I’d made a couple of films before this. My Son the Jihadi was my first film, and again, I told the story of the radicalisation of young men through a single perspective, the perspective of a mother who’s longing for the return of her son who converted to Islam and went on to become a terrorist. The second film I made was about the hunt for Litvinenko’s killers. I always try to tell the story from a single perspective, and I think we’ve done that here by using the Jihadi John story. It’s not just about him, it’s telling the wider story about the threat of Islamist extremism and Islamist terrorism. It in no way glamourises him. In every element of his story there is analysis from experts or people who knew him, including his teachers, including his hostages. It’s the story of a kid who went from being fairly ordinary, on the fringes – in one case he was described as ‘a passenger in life’ – to becoming this symbolic figure for the world’s most brutal terrorist organisation. It’s about the transformation that took place, (a) because of his inclination but (b) because of the radicalising influences he encountered. And also because of some of the admitted failures within the systems of the security services. 

Looking at his back story, do you think it’s a fairly typical story of jihadi recruits? Is there a typical back story, or a type? 

It’s typical in the sense that what ISIS managed to do by creating this so-called caliphate was that they were able to draw thousands of people over to it. So typical in that sense that yes, they were fighting a war which initially started off for different purposes. Initially they were fighting the Assad regime. That was their initial purpose, which then expanded and they went on to fight the West. So from that perspective yes, he was typical – many young men and women were going at around the time that Jihadi John went out there, around 2013. At that time there were many people going out to fight, but also people going out there for humanitarian reasons. So it was a difficult thing for the security services and the police to determine who was going out for what reason. In some cases, they were able to stop people. In others, they weren’t. But what’s not typical about him is the transition he made from being a fairly ordinary and low-level radical – and there are many of them – to becoming such a poster boy for the brutal organisation that is ISIS. That’s not typical. There was only one of him. So in that sense, he was extraordinary. And what made him extraordinary was the power of the propaganda campaign he was able to launch. He was given the resources to do this by ISIS, as were some others. But with him, he had the most number of hits on social media.

Why did they alight on him? Obviously it was partly because he was British, but was it because he was eloquent or brutal or what? 

I don’t think eloquence is his thing, he wasn’t necessarily eloquent. But he was willing to be brutal. He brandished his credentials early on. He was loyal and he was brutal. And he was there at a time when they had taken about 300 people hostage, and he was carrying out acts of brutality. So he definitely demonstrated that he was able to be brutal, but also demonstrated that he was able to assemble these videos. And that’s why they decided he was quite effective. But I think, in a way, it was an experiment. Before his video came out, the most iconic video that had been released by ISIS featured three men from Cardiff. It was almost the world premiere of the caliphate, telling everyone to come and join. That went around the world and generated a lot of interest. But it was the sheer brutality of the first jihadi john video that was so shocking. You could hear the voice of this British man, and there was something familiar about it. And also, it was the way he conducted his terrorist act, and the person that he was conducting it on. He was one of us, a journalist. That caught the attention of news outlets. 

I presume you’ve seen these videos in full. Is that a difficult thing to do? 

Totally. We went through hundreds and hundreds of hours of brutal imagery. The problem with that imagery is that over time, it all ends up looking the same, it’s just brutal. It’s there to dehumanise the victims. There’s only so much that you can do for the sake of taste and measure, in terms of how you reflect them in a film like this. It’s quite harrowing, going through that footage.

In some senses, is being a Jihadi just an extreme form of being in a gang? 

That’s something that has been expressed by some people. There are many similarities between gangsters and Jihadis, but I think the one thing that really drives jihadis is ideology. Ideology is much more radicalising than, say, the need for profile, or the need for financial growth. The way gangs operate, it’s all about street cred, whereas for a Jihadi it’s all ideologically driven, to the point of blindness. To go out there and carry out brutal acts because they believe in their warped interpretation of their religion. They believe they’re doing it for the right reasons, in the name of god. 

You’ve attracted the most extraordinary roll call of talking heads for the documentary. That must have taken some doing… 

Yeah. I’ve been covering national security now for about fourteen years now, having started in Australia, before I moved to the Sunday times. So naturally my contact list is fairly wide. But the difference between a print newspaper and a film is that in a newspaper you might get a soundbite or you might get a quote on or off the record, for a film, you’re hoping to get people to actually sit down in front of a camera. So that took some doing. I started working on this film in June 2017, and I had a number of people who were committed to it, and as we continued filming, more and more people came on board. And they really were the people who had skin in the game. These are people who were involved in the hunt of Jihadi John, and what was fascinating about their revelations was that they were so honest – even when it came to them taking a look at their own performance. And they were so self-critical, whether it was from a military perspective, about Britain’s unwillingness or failure to properly fund the right part of the militant movement there, or whether it was about the missed opportunities by the police and security services to allow the likes of Jihadi John to be able to get to Syria. That raises its own questions, because if you look at the way the counter-terrorism police were operating, they had, in some cases, up to 50 people leaving a month. To track each one of them down is a very difficult thing. So they had a lot on their plate. But even by their own admission they made some errors, and I think that’s going to be quite revealing. 

One of the subjects then film touches on is whether the actions of the security forces may have alienated and further radicalised Emwazi. Do you believe that to be the case? 

By Richard Walton’s own admission, and he was the then head of counter terrorism at Scotland Yard, he says it’s a fine line between trying to recruit someone and pushing them over the edge. If you don’t successfully recruit them, then what you do is contribute to their world view and the conspiracy theories they have about western security Services. I think, in Emwazi’s case, certainly he knew he was being approached by the security services, and he opposed it. Would he have become a terrorist had he not been approached? Everything in his pattern of behaviour suggests that he would have become a terrorist, because the reason he came on to the security services’ radar to begin with was because he was raising funds for jihadists in Somalia, and then subsequently he was arrested when he went out to fight in Somalia. He pretended he was going out to check out animals on a safari. So he had every intention of becoming a terrorist because of the people he mixed with. 

Did you try and get any of his family to talk? 

Yes, we did try. We had no success, they didn’t want to discuss it. 

Among those who you do talk to are some of the hostages who were held by ISIS. How do you think they are coping in the aftermath of what happened to them? 

I think what you see of them in the film is very much unfiltered. It had an enormous emotional impact on them, and that’s affected them to this day. They were beaten, tortured, forced to beat each other up, starved in some cases, made to feel almost like animals. That had a massive impact on them. So I suppose from a PTSD perspective, it must be quite debilitating for them. However, what’s really fascinating is how they’ve managed to turn it around, in a way. They’ve decided to tell their story. It’s gives you an insight into the brutal nature of those who had taken them hostage.

What’s your motivation for telling this story as a film. Rather than sticking with the print medium? 

My entry into documentary film making comes from my studies many years ago. I studied script-writing and film back in Australia. It’s a fairly familiar world, even though I didn’t go into documentary-making until later on. The one thing that films present that newspapers don’t is that you’ve got time to tell a big story. A big story of this nature requires numerous things like cultivating the right relationships and building the right amount of trust. And there are certain things you can express visually on the screen that you could never express in writing. There are certain facial expressions or reactions that you just need to be able to see. There are moments like that in the film with the hostages, and there’s a moment like that with Diane Foley [who’s son James was a journalist who was killed by Emwazi]. There’s a moment when she’s lost for words, and it’s about three seconds, and that kind of tells you everything about what she’s feeling in that moment. So, from that perspective, that’s why film-making is very appealing. 

The Hunt for Jihadi John, Monday 20th May at 9pm on Channel 4

Monday, 13 May 2019

Competition: Win Warren, Series 1 on DVD

Warren, Series 1 is released on DVD on May 20th

And to celebrate we have a great competition for you and 3 copies on DVD to give away.

TV favourite Martin Clunes returns to our screens as another man behaving badly: Warren, a hilariously pedantic driving instructor who thinks the world is against him, in prime-time sitcom currently airing on BBC One and coming to DVD and digital courtesy of Acorn Media International.

Created and written by upcoming British writing team Jimmy Donny Cosgrove and Paul McKenna (no, not that one), this original six-part comedy drama centres around Warren Thompson, who suddenly finds himself in his mid-50s, forced to up sticks from the south to Preston when his partner Anne’s (Lisa Millett – Robin Hood, Peterloo) father falls ill. Not blessed with patience, empathy, or any kind of paternal instinct whatsoever, cantankerous, blunt and grumpy, he just about tolerates his students, not to mention the two teenage stepsons he never wanted.

To put it delicately, Warren’s naturally difficult personality means he’s constantly finding himself in sticky situations. Set in his ways, he’s happy with a clean house, a neat garden, and a nice cup of tea…but always seems to end up on the verge of absolutely losing it. From neighbourly disputes to vendettas in both his personal and professional life, this uniquely British, crabby comedy hero will have you clutching your sides and clutching your pearls in equal measure.

Warren arrives on DVD and digital (to download and keep from iTunes, Amazon Prime Video and Google Play) so stick on your L plates and get ready for a bumpy ride.

Click here to buy from Amazon (Opens in a new window)

For your chance to win just answer the question below.


Terms and conditions
1. Closing date 27-05-19
2. No alternative prize is available
3. When the competition ends as indicated on this page, any and all entries received after this point will not count and emails blacklisted due to not checking this page first.
4. Winners will be chosen randomly and will be informed via email.

Competition: Win Chimerica on DVD

Chimerica is released on DVD on May 20th

And to celebrate we have a great competition for you and 3 copies on DVD to give away.

EARNING PLAUDITS galore and described as an ‘electrifying thriller’ by The Guardian, Olivier award-winning playwright Lucy Kirkwood’s stage play Chimerica is set for the small screen treatment, as a powerful and timely four-part series. Airing on Channel 4 this Spring, this unique drama is set to arrive on DVD and digital from Acorn Media International.

Adapted by Kirkwood for TV, this fictional story about true events has been brought up to date using the notorious 2016 US Presidential election as a back drop. It explores the murky borders between fact and fiction, truth and censorship, political manipulation and personal sacrifice.

Award-winning actor Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Disobedience) stars as Lee Berger, the photographer behind the seminal Tank Man of Tiananmen Square photo, captured during the deadly 1989 protests in China. Now working as a dedicated photojournalist in America, accusations of fake news are levelled against him, and he sets out to reclaim his credibility by searching for the subject of his most famous picture.

Joining Lee on his frantic search are seasoned reporter Mel Kincaid (Cherry Jones - Transparent, The Handmaid’s Tale), corporate market researcher Tess Kendrick (Sophie Okonedo - Hotel Rwanda, The Hollow Crown) and cynical newspaper boss Frank Sams (F. Murray Abraham - Homeland, The Grand Budapest Hotel). Lee also enlists the help of an old friend, Chinese activist Zhang Lin (Terry Chen - Jessica Jones, Birth of the Dragon), who has troubles of his own. Can he uncover the elusive truth before it is too late?

Exploring not just the relationship between East and West, but also some of the most pressing and important issues affecting society today, the series delves deep into the new world of fake news, censorship and the power of political protest, with the rise of Trump and the suppression of Chinese human rights protests mirroring each other in unexpected and unsettling ways.

Click here to buy from Amazon (Opens in a new window)

For your chance to win just answer the question below.


Terms and conditions
1. Closing date 27-05-19
2. No alternative prize is available
3. When the competition ends as indicated on this page, any and all entries received after this point will not count and emails blacklisted due to not checking this page first.
4. Winners will be chosen randomly and will be informed via email.