BBC First has announced highlights to screen across the coming 9 months including The Little Drummer Girl, Les Misérables, Baptiste, Press and new seasons of favourites including Luther and Call the Midwife.
Stars to appear in key dramas include Idris Elba, Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Shannon, Lily Collins, Dominic West, Tim Roth, Christina Hendricks and Jenna Coleman.
Tim Christlieb, Director of Branded Services, BBC Studios, Australia and New Zealand, said: “This line-up is absolutely packed full of everything BBC First stands for – brilliant storytelling, immaculately produced and jam-packed full of the best acting talent. It definitely promises to keep BBC First on its growth trajectory, which has seen the channel increase its audience share each year since 2015*. Nowhere else will you see such an incredible range of premium British drama in one place. And, as viewers change the way they view, we have responded by offering extended catch-up periods on some of our biggest titles.”
Liam Keelan, BBC Studios’ Global Scripted Portfolio Director, said because BBC is funded by a license fee, it must constantly innovate.
“So in Drama terms that means trusting the writer, giving the right length to a drama. We’re not beholden to 10 or 13 episodes. What’s the right length for the writer’s vision of the show?” he said.
“We trust the writer, which is a veru different system to the US, for example, which tends to be more team-written. And there’s no denying that has resulted in some great shows.
“But the British version tends to be more ‘authorial.’ It’s one writer. You will often find in a 6 ot 8 part run all episodes have been written by one writer. War & Peace is by Andrew Davies, Mike Bartlett write Doctor Foster, Chris Chibnall did Broadchurch, and he’s now runnin Doctor Who. Sally Wainwright did Happy Valley. These are all really talented individualsand trusted to have their own voice.
“That is what makes British drama so unique.”
In the year to date, live audiences on BBC First have seen an increase of 25% YOY for Total People and 49% for 25-54.
Tim Christlieb said drama premieres worked across the week, not just on Sundays.
“We’ve seen success across different days of the week. Fans of the channel and the genre are open to finding the content they’re interested in across multiple days of the week or via catch-up services. We’re part of an overall platform offering which means we need to retain flexibility to ensure the best overall offering to subscribers that choose to watch live,” he said.
On the question of fast-tracking he told TV Tonight, “We do fast-track, or go very close to UK dates, when it makes sense to do so, particularly around returning series with an established audience such as Call The Midwife and Death in Paradise. Decisions over when a series is scheduled depend on a variety of factors, with the aim of giving the programme the best launch to bring it to the largest audience possible at a time when they are available to view. The overall shape of the schedule, other titles in the current programming mix both on the channel and across the platforms, licensing periods, resources and time to effectively market a series are all factors.”
Also coming are Vanity Fair and a new season of Peaky Blinders.
The Little Drummer Girl
Based John le Carré’s spy thriller, The Little Drummer Girl is the latest adaptation from the team behind the BAFTA, Emmy and Golden Globe winning series The Night Manager. Starring Alexander Skarsgård (Big Little Lies), Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) and Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water), the series is directed by visionary filmmaker Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, The Handmaiden). Brilliant young actress Charlie strikes up an acquaintance with an intriguing stranger while on holiday in Greece, but it rapidly becomes apparent that his intentions are far from romantic. The man is Becker, an Israeli intelligence officer, who entangles her in a complex and high stakes plot orchestrated by Israeli Spymaster Kurtz. Set in the late 1970s, yet sharply contemporary, The Little Drummer Girl weaves a dynamic and exciting story of espionage and international intrigue, love and betrayal.
Adapted by Andrew Davies from Victor Hugo’s 19th Century classic, Les Misérables stars Dominic West as Jean Valjean, David Oyelowo as Javert and Lily Collins as Fantine. The series brings to life a vast and unforgettable cast of characters and tells the story of Valjean, a former convict unable to escape the shadow of his past life, and his relentless pursuit by the chilling police officer Javert. Their cat and mouse relationship plays out against the epic backdrop of France at a time of civil unrest.
Baptiste (The Missing spin-off)
Tchéky Karyo reprises his role as French detective Julien Baptiste from The Missing in a spin-off series. Baptiste and his wife are on a visit to Amsterdam when the Chief of Police – who also happens to be an old girlfriend – seeks out his help due to his renowned and methodical crime-solving skills. He is rapidly embroiled in a case that looks beyond the beautiful streets, canals and house of Amsterdam to the seamy underworld beneath. The series also stars Jessica Raine (Patrick Melrose) and Tom Hollander (The Night Manager).
Written by Mike Bartlett (Doctor Foster) and set in the fast-paced and challenging environment of the British newspaper industry, Press explores the personal lives and constant professional dilemmas facing the journalists who work at two rival newspapers. The series follows their lives as they attempt to balance work and play, ambition and integrity, amid the never-ending pressure of the 24-hour global news cycle and an industry in turmoil. The series stars Charlotte Riley (Peaky Blinders) as the talented and hardworking Deputy News Editor of The Herald, a left-leaning broadsheet; Ben Chaplin (Apple Tree Yard) as the charming and manipulative Editor of The Post; David Suchet (Poirot) as the CEO of the multimedia conglomerate that owns The Post; and Brendan Cowell (Love My Way) as the News Editor of The Herald.
Golden Globe winning Idris Elba returns to the iconic role of DCI John Luther with a fifth series created by Emmy-nominated writer Neil Cross. Luther and new recruit D.S. Catherine Halliday played by Wunmi Mosaku investigate a series of horrific killings in London. But as the case brings him closer than ever to the nature of true evil, a reluctant Luther must also face the ghosts of his own past. Striding back into the line of fire, he must choose who to protect… and who to sacrifice. Whatever his next move, it will have devastating consequences for those around him – and will change John Luther forever.
Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction) returns as Jim Worth, the alcoholic former London detective who moved to the town of Little Big Bear in the Canadian Rockies to escape his troubled past. That quiet life was shattered when he took on the oil company that dominates the town and re-awoke his violent alter ego in order to protect his wife and daughter after his son is killed. The second series picks up where the first left off and sees his daughter Anna seeking refuge from her parents with a family in a religious community near the town. It’s not long before she discovers that the seemingly idyllic family have a disturbing secret of their own. The series also stars Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Genevieve O’Reilly (Glitch) and Abigail Lawrie (The Casual Vacancy).
Starring Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who) and Tom Hughes (Paula), series three promises some new faces, more drama and more intrigue. Starting in 1848 it covers a turbulent and uncertain time for both Europe and the monarchy. With revolutions on the continent and the Chartist movement reaching its peak in London, Victoria is under pressure from the government to leave London for her own safety and beneath the façade of their united bond, Victoria’s relationship with Albert is at breaking point. Laurence Fox joins the cast as wayward Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston and Kate Fleetwood as Victoria’s sister, who makes an unexpected return into the Queen’s life.
Call the Midwife
The Christmas Special will guest star Miriam Margolyes (Harry Potter) as the forthright and indefatigable Sister Mildred who arrives at Nonnatus House together with four Chinese orphans. Having fled China, the child refugees were found abandoned in Hong Kong and are being adopted in the UK as part of the World Refugee Project. With Christmas preparations in full flow and the midwives busy caring for the expectant mothers of Poplar, these unexpected visitors cause joy and chaos in equal measure. Series 8 starts in the spring of 1964 with the eagerly anticipated birth of the Queen’s fourth child and two new Sisters who have been sent to live and work at Nonnatus House.
Death in Paradise
Ardal O’Hanlon returns as DI Jack Moone. The Saint Marie police are joined by new recruit, Officer Ruby Patterson (Shyko Amos), who also happens to be Commissioner Patterson’s niece, which gives the team a challenge or two.