Mid-Week Round-Up

Mid-week round up of recent television news including, new programming for Sky Atlantic, drama latest from the BBC and ITV as well as entertainment re-commissions, sport for ITV4 and factual for BBC Four.


HBO comedy comes to Sky Atlantic.

This May, Funny or Die Presents, a half hour comedy sketch show based on the award-winning website FunnyOrDie.com, will air on Sky Atlantic HD.

The show was created and is executive produced by frequent collaborators Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Andrew Steele and Chris Henchy, and showcases the innovative comedy style of the Funny or Die creative team.

Funny or Die Presents provides some of the sharpest writers, actors and comedians in the business with free reign to produce outrageous sketches, animations, music videos and more. Each episode is viewed as if you are watching a television channel called The Funny Or Die Network, a hybrid fusing television and the internet.

The website upon which the show is based, FunnyOrDie.com, has become one of the top destinations for comedy on the internet, racking up millions of video views and unique visitors every month. The award-winning debut video, “The Landlord”, from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, remains one of the most popular videos of all time, with over 76 million views. The site continues to attract a multitude of celebrities, with James Franco, Eva Mendes, Rachel Bilson and Charlie Sheen all starring in their own videos.


More Doctor Drama for Clunes

As revealed by Martin Clunes last year, he’ll be returning to Cornwall to begin filming a brand new series of ITV1 drama Doc Martin. With ratings topping nine million viewers for the series screened in Autumn 2009, Doc Martin is considered one of ITV’s most successful drama series.

After a two year break to allow Martin to pursue other drama and factual projects, he is back to reprise the role of the curmudgeonly GP in the picturesque fictional village of Portwenn.

Martin says: “I have missed our annual visits to Cornwall, and I look forward to spending the next few months in this beautiful part of the country. I am thrilled to be able to work with such a fabulous cast, and exciting new story lines.”

Eight 60 minute episodes will be filmed around the stunning settings of the North Cornwall coast. The series is produced for ITV1 by Buffalo Pictures, the independent production company owned by Martin and his wife Philippa Braithwaite, who also produces the series.

We’re delighted so many viewers enjoy the series, as much as we enjoy filming and producing Doc Martin with the beautiful backdrop of Cornwall.  Our vision is to ensure this series continues to be as fresh, different and bold as when we first went into production,” said Philippa.

Guest stars lined up include Julie Graham, Peter Vaughan, Joanna Scanlan, Robert Daws and Louise Jameson. Recording begins this week on the drama.


From Ashes to Undisclosed

Ashes to Ashes star Philip Glenister (pictured left, far right, in the series) has been cast to star alongside film star Thekla and David Suchet in a taut and compelling four-part conspiracy thriller for BBC One. Written and created by Ronan Bennett in collaboration with Walter Bernstein, Undisclosed revolves around the efforts of Harry Venn (Glenister), a small-time solicitor who is forced to delve into his murky past.

Philip Glenister says: “I am looking forward to shooting Undisclosed which I feel is a bold, innovative, complex piece of drama from the pen of Ronan Bennett.”

When a mysterious lawyer Gina Hawkes (Reuten) turns up asking Harry to find a missing alibi witness for her client he agrees to take on the job but is unwittingly drawn into investigating the death of his brother 20 years ago. Harry quickly finds himself caught up in a much bigger and more complex conspiracy that reaches deep into the heart of the British political system.

Ronan Bennett adds: “I have really enjoyed collaborating with Walter on Undisclosed and I am delighted the drama has attracted such an outstanding cast. I hope the twists and turns of this conspiracy thriller will keep audiences hooked.”

Undisclosed will start filming next week in Belfast.


The BBC aims to Continue to Entertain

BBC Entertainment has re-commissioned two of its successful Saturday night formats – Tonight’s The Night and Secret Fortune. Both will again be recorded at BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay studios for BBC One later this year.

The new series will be the third for Tonight’s The Night, starring John Barrowman. Secret Fortune, the new National Lottery gameshow format which launched last month and gives contestants the chance to win up to £100,000, will return for a second series.

Both series were commissioned by Controller of BBC One, Danny Cohen; Executive Editor for Entertainment Alan Tyler; and Controller of Entertainment Commissioning Mark Linsey.

Alan Tyler said: “We are delighted to re-commission these shows, which will continue to be made in Scotland and Northern Ireland. They are first and foremost great programmes. Their re-commissions are fantastic news not only for the viewers who love them, but also for the in-house and independent production companies involved and for the local economy.”


ITV Banking on DCI

Six hour-long episodes from Left Bank Pictures of the crime thriller DCI Banks will be filmed on location in Leeds following the success of the two-part special aired on ITV1 last year.

Stephen Tompkinson and Andrea Lowe are back as the tenacious and stubborn detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks and the feisty and headstrong DS Annie Cabbott. The six episodes – three stories each told over two episodes – have been adapted from Peter Robinson’s novels – Playing with Fire, Friend of the Devil and Cold as the Grave.

Writer Peter Robinson is delighted with the decision to commission a series: “I was thrilled to hear that the DCI Banks pilot was a great success and that Left Bank Pictures and ITV are going ahead with a series of three more adaptations of my novels. You can only do so much in one two hour adaptation of one novel, so I hope this will give everyone a chance to build on the success they have already had and make DCI Banks a staple of prime time ITV series for years to come.”

The new episodes based on the DCI Banks stories have been commissioned for ITV by Director of Drama commissioning, Laura Mackie and Controller of Drama Commissioning Sally Haynes.

“DCI Banks launched really strongly and already feels like a great new addition to our roster of crime dramas. We’re looking forward to bringing a full series to ITV1 later this year,” said Sally.


In Brief

ITV4 Cricket

ITV has agreed a new four-year deal with Nimbus Communications for the UK broadcast rights to the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket competition.

Announcing the deal, Niall Sloane, ITV’s Controller of Sport said: “ITV4 has a fast growing reputation for broadcasting sport and, after a terrific audience response to our coverage of last year’s competition and more recently the winter Ashes series, I’m delighted that we have secured a new four-year deal for free-to-air coverage of the Indian Premier League.”

Under the new agreement, live coverage of IPL matches will be broadcast free-to-air on ITV4 and simulcast live on ITV.com.  The fourth season of the Indian Premier League begins on April 8th running over 74 matches to May 28th. ITV4 coverage will be produced by ITV Sport with the presenting team due to be announced shortly.

BBC4 Decays

A project to bring the process of decay “to life” is set to be launched this summer by BBC Four.

A full-scale, typical kitchen and garden, contained in a purpose-built box, is planned to go on display to visitors at Edinburgh Zoo in August. Visitors – at the event or online – will be able to witness everyday foods and substances decompose over a two month period in a compelling life-size demonstration of one of nature’s most fundamental but least understood processes.

Richard Klein, Controller BBC Four, says: “From death comes life. It is a classic contradiction of nature. And our new Afterlife science event offers viewers the chance to observe the compelling and extraordinary world of decay and decomposition to rebirth and new life in vivid, full colour, up-close detail. The fact that we are able to open the process up through an exhibition at Edinburgh Zoo, putting BBC Four at the heart of cultural life, is an added bonus.”

The sealed 6m x 6m box is to be constructed by specialist engineers in an enclosed lecture hall, with input from expert scientific consultants. Events in the box will be recorded using the latest technology in time-lapse photography and microscopy for a feature-length programme on BBC Four later in the year.

The programme is a co-production with Discovery and BBC Worldwide, and will be screened internationally.


On the Throne at Sky Atlantic

On Monday 18th April, HBO series Game of Thrones will launch on Sky Atlantic HD, just a day after its premiere in America. Based on the series of best-selling novels – A Song of Ice and Fire – by George R.R. Martin, the ten part epic looks set to redefine the fantasy genre.

Author and executive producer George R. R. Martin commented: “Game of Thrones is an epic fantasy, with a conflict for power at its core. But it’s more than just politics; there are questions of loyalty, lust, sexual obsession, desire, defiance, history. In this world, when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. Honour and mercy have no place in the game of thrones.

Game of Thrones is, Sky say, an expansive saga set in the Seven Kingdoms of the mythical continent Westeros and follows several noble families as they vie to rule the land.

Stuart Murphy, Director of Programmes, Sky Atlantic HD, said: With Game of Thrones HBO is going to redefine the term ‘event TV’. We know our customers’ anticipation for the series has reached fever pitch, so we wanted to ensure they could see the show as close to its US broadcast as humanly possible. The series is a true spectacle that will surprise and captivate audiences,”

The show airs on Sky Atlantic HD and Sky Atlantic from Monday 18th April 2011.

Sky Atlantic is also to screen the HBO series In Treatment starring Gabriel Byrne in the lead role of Dr Paul Weston. The series consists of five episodes, one for each day of the week. For the second season, Paul’s week involves dealing with panic attacks, being sued for negligence by a former patient’s father and dealing with a student with lymphoma.

In Treatment starts on Friday 29th April with a double-bill.