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Bringing ‘Game of Thrones’ to the animal kingdom

The BBC’s factual slate is bringing drama to its animal kingdom this year, as the broadcaster moves forward from the tremendous success of Blue Planet II in 2017 and Planet Earth II a year prior. The 2018 selection welcomes a range of critters, with aims to tell their stories like never before.

Topping the list is Dynasty (WT), a 5x60mins series for BBC One, with each episode focused around one species, including chimps, tigers, penguins, wild dogs and lions.

The show will tell the story of one individual family through the course of a number of years and show the battle to control or survive in the landscape and environment in which they live.

“It’s kind of like Game of Thrones, in the sense that they are all going through these power struggles – just as we’re seeing in the human world of the moment,” says Mark Reynolds, genre director for factual at BBC Worldwide.However, where HBO’s mega-hit trades off of shocking twists and the danger of death, Dynasty will feature more upbeat moments.

“There will also be uplifting stories,” says Reynolds. “There are defeats within it, but we’re all looking for that positive outcome. The audience will find it’s a different take on factual, but will get very quickly engaged and immersed in these stories.”

Another natural history series incorporating dramatic stories is John Downer Productions’ Serengeti (above), which will be a major highlight. Simon Fuller – a man known for his reality TV credentials rather than a pedigree in blue chip factual – is among producers on the show, which is filmed in a “pristine” African filming location. Over six hours, it follows groups of animals, from lions to warthogs, baboons and vultures, to see how all their lives interconnect.

“It’s a very innovative take in natural history – looking to the dramatic devices that are used in the ongoing drama serials and bringing those into the natural world,” says Reynolds.

Similar tropes were found in another recent major BBC natural history series, The Hunt, which used filming and editing devices usually associated with thriller drama to tell its stories.

With BBC factual programming now encompassing natural history, science history, factual documentaries and music, the slate does not begin and end with ‘animal stories’, however. Reynolds says the BBC is also always looking for that big, all-in-one spectacle.

“It’s always striking a balance between doing the big landmark pieces, but also wanting to show a range of different formats and films, so we’re not looking for one kind of storytelling. We’ve got range,” he adds.

Along with Alison Kirkam, the controller of factual for the BBC, Reynolds will also be leading a presentation on where Worldwide sees its global market position, alongside a look at market trends. The duo plan to offer a broad outlook on where they believe factual programming is heading.