Netflix copro among raft of BBC drama commissions

Scripted-logo-460_2Piers_Wenger_sofaThe BBC has announced a raft of new drama series including Duty/Shame, a copro with Netflix about a Japanese detective who travels to London looking for his missing brother, and rejigged its scripted team.

Duty/Shame (aka Giri/Haji) was one of eleven new dramas for BBC One and one apiece for BBC Two and internet service BBC Three.

BBC drama controller Piers Wenger joined from Channel 4 last year. The UK pubcaster’s scripted offering will be marked by risk-taking and Britishness, according to the drama chief.

“In a world where there is just so much content, it’s never been more important for BBC Drama to deliver the unexpected and for us to be clear and strong on what sets us apart,” he said. “Only by thinking outside the usual parameters will we discover the next generation of standout shows.”

Wenger went on to set out a five-year vision for BBC Drama. “I also want a strong streak of Britishness to run through the centre of everything we do,” he said. “It gives us distinctiveness in a crowded landscape and a strong identity internationally.

“I think that it’s the individuality, chutzpah, determined vision and tireless curiosity at the heart of Britain’s creative community which has played a huge part in turning drama from the UK into such a valuable cultural export and so I’d like the next five years of drama from the BBC to be a celebration of British authorship, identity and life in all its most diverse forms.”

He also unveiled a new look commissioning team that now comprises Lucy Richter as senior commissioning editor for England, Elizabeth Kilgarriff the same post for England and Scotland, Mona Quareshi commissioning editor for England, Christopher Aird as commissioning editor for Wales and continuing drama, Tomy Bulfin as commissioning editor for Northern Ireland, Gaynor Holmes as commissioning executive in Scotland, Ben Irving as head of drama development and Anne Edyvean as new writing associate. The latter will also remain head of the BBC Writers Room.

Bulfin joins from New Pictures, while Irving has been at Heyday Films, which has moved into TV, since 2011. Quareshi joins from The Night Manager prodco The Ink Factory.

“The changes I’m announcing to my team will help deliver a better service to writers and producers, and a more focus and a co-ordinated approach to commissioning,” said Wenger. “My new structure has bolstered the commissioning team to ensure greater plurality of taste and vision; they are the tastemakers who have the right palate to champion creative risks and diverse ideas. They will also better reflect our commitment across the UK as it’s the first time we will have commissioners with a dedicated role in each nation who are there to improve portrayal and grow sustainable drama bases.

“I’m also introducing a new head of development role and I’ve appointed Ben Irving. He will be responsible for the overall co-ordination and management of the slate. He will also be the liaison with our international partners and take an overview to ensure we continue to be the place that commissions the broadest and most diverse range of drama in the world. On a practical level, these changes will help us respond quickly by creating a simpler structure and encourage greater ambition, support risk taking and originality.”

Jane Featherstone’s Sister Pictures, will make Duty/Shame. She set up the prodco last year after leaving Humans producer Kudos, and Humans writer Joe Barton will pen the BBC-Netflix copro. The US-based streaming service is sinking a huge amount into original programming and is also starting to coproduce.

The SVOD service has been both lauded and criticised for its algorithm-based approach to programming and Wenger told press he wanted the BBC to move away from that kind of commissioning and to take creative risks and trust its instincts.

Almost half of the new series on Wenger’s slate are book adaptations. The adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds will be produced by Mammoth Screen, Rumer Godden’s Black Narcissus by DNA Films, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women by Playground and John Preston’s A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies And A Murder Plot At The Heart Of The Establishment by Blueprint Pictures.

All will be three-parters and Little Women is another US-UK copro, this time with PBS Masterpiece.

Also running to three instalments are Come Home, a family drama from StudioCanal’s Red Production Company, and The Wilsons, a period mystery series from Snowed-In Productions

The adaptation of Vikram Seth’s international bestseller A Suitable Boy, meanwhile, will be 8x1hrs. The BBC One slate is rounded off by Informa, a crime and terrorism drama from Call the Midwide prodco Neal Street Productions.

For BBC Two there is Stephen Poliakoff’s semi-autobiographical Summer Of Rockets, a six-part series from Little Island Productions.

Youth-skewed online net BBC Three has Overshadowed from Rollem Productions, an 8x10mins series about anorexia, adapted from the play of the same name.

“Delivering high quality drama that engages and excites the public is a priority for the BBC,” said BBC director-general Tony Hall. “The commissions we have announced will continue to deliver just that. It’s an exciting time ahead for fans of great drama.”

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