Richard Klein, Controller of BBC Four, today unveils the channel’s autumn 2010/winter 2011 line-up, packed full of insightful, opinionated and bold new programmes for the discerning viewer.
New announcements include a brand new literary adaptation of Douglas Adams’s masterpiece Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and an opera about the life of Anna Nicole Smith, a season on sculpture and an entire village that has dug up their back gardens to unearth a fascinating history.
Culture and knowledge
Unashamedly expert, undiluted and in-depth, the season consists of an extensive range of intelligent programmes focusing on the arts, music, culture and knowledge in all its forms.
2010 has seen the channel enjoy its best ever performance, with both share (1.1 per cent) and reach (15.4 per cent) up considerably on the same period last year and an average of 8.4 million viewers coming to the channel each week. With the new line-up, BBC Four continues its mission to be the most culturally enriching channel within the UK’s digital broadcasting world.
Richard Klein says: “BBC Four is the channel that seeks to offer television to those parts of the brain that other television channels don’t reach. We always aim to provide context and complexity, and all with a strong flavour of wit and opinion. So I am delighted to be able to offer a host of deliciously inventive, thought-provoking and entertaining programmes over the next six months. From arts to performance, drama and comedy to social culture, history and science, there is programming here to satisfy the most curious and interested of minds, as well as one or two surprises for the fun of it.”
In line with BBC Four’s goal always to add context and champion opinion, this season features the channel’s strongest ever line-up of visual arts, reflecting and commenting on the cultural DNA of the UK and the wider world. There’s a major season embracing one of Britain’s greatest contributions to the art world – sculpture, with the channel’s widest range of in-depth programmes celebrating everything from the world’s most fascinating tombs, gargoyles and royal statues to the meaning of the fig leaf in 2,000 years of Western art and ethics. As part of the season, journalist Alastair Sooke delves deeply into the three golden ages in The Story Of British Sculpture and actor David Thewlis becomes part of art itself by having his head recreated by three different sculptors in How To Get A Head In Sculpture.
As part of one of television’s most ambitious arts projects ever to assess and document the Western tradition of painting, BBC Four turns its undivided attention to a fourth country in Art Of Germany, having already scrutinised the art of Italy, Russia and Spain. The programme features unprecedented access inside Cologne Cathedral and rare footage of Franz Marc’s sketches from the First World War trenches – his last before he was killed. The season also includes an examination of some of the most influential and impressive avant garde artists of the 20th century who dwelled upon our own shores in Art Of Cornwall.
Always proud to provoke lively discussion and debate, BBC Four continues to seek out new points of view from the finest experts in their field. This autumn, critic and author Laura Cumming brings her in-depth knowledge of self portrait to the channel in Portrait Of The Artist and acclaimed writer, actor and Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss turns his hand to presenting and indulges his passion for horror films in A History Of Horror With Mark Gatiss, part of a blood curdling new season on the genre.
The season also sees Patrick Stewart play Macbeth in a spectacularly dark, contemporary and stylish film version of Rupert Goold’s highly acclaimed production, set in an undefined and ominous central European world. And, following the BBC’s recent focus on opera, BBC Four reinforces its commitment to representing the arts in all its forms, as one of popular culture’s enigmas – glamour model Anna Nicole Smith – is immortalised in an opera about her life by the Royal Opera House and Olivier Award-winning composer Mark Anthony Turnage in Anna Nicole – The Opera, to be screened on the channel early next year.
In other areas of performance, BBC Four goes behind the scenes of one of the country’s most respected arts institutions in a documentary celebrating 60 years of the English National Ballet, and examines the impact of traditional dance on our cultural heritage as Charles Hazlewood stages the UK’s biggest clog dancing event in Get Your Clogs On.
The best in drama writing and performance
BBC Four is committed to championing the very best screen-writing, dramatic performance and hosting drama of significance. Two of Britain’s best-loved actresses take centre stage in two original screenplays. In a remarkable display of acting, Jessie Wallace stars as Pat Phoenix playing the role of Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street – A Star is Born. The drama examines how one writer defied convention and Granada TV’s management when he wrote the first Coronation Street script 50 years ago this year, bringing northern working class kitchen sink drama into people’s homes for the first time.
In Hattie, Ruth Jones is magnificent as one of Britain’s most adored comediennes, Carry On queen Hattie Jacques. Far from the matronly woman she so often portrayed, the drama reveals the secret romance between Hattie and a younger man.
In Dirk Gently, we see the celebrated character’s first ever on-screen appearance. The hapless detective stumbles upon more than he bargained for when he sets out to solve the disappearance of a cat from an old lady’s house.
Also this season, BBC Four combines its reputation for inspiring knowledge and providing an alternative view on a subject in Michael Wood’s Story Of England. Utilising a completely new approach, Michael embarks on his most ambitious television project to date as he convinces an entire village to dig up their back gardens, resulting in the discovery of 2,000 years’ worth of fascinating artifacts and real-life stories. By taking a seemingly ordinary village and turning it, literally, upside down, he creates an incredible living, fluid picture of how Britain has changed, complete with Tudor teachers, highwaymen, Suffragettes and First World War soldiers, along with discovering an entirely unique way of bringing history to life on the channel.
Reassessing great arts and artists
BBC Four is also committed to re-calibrating and reassessing some of our greatest arts and artists. And early next year, as part of that commitment, the channel will bring together DH Lawrence’s two great works of early modern erotic fiction, Women In Love and The Rainbow. Originally written as a single novel, Billy Ivory’s script is an ambitious reinterpretation, reuniting the two stories to form one stunning drama for the first time. Starring Rosamund Pike, Women In Love is part of a season exploring love and sexuality in 20th-century literature, which also includes Amanda Coe’s adaptation of John Braine’s celebrated rite-of-passage novel Room At The Top.
Classical and contemporary music
In all of its music offerings, BBC Four strives to provide not only the widest range of content spanning classical and contemporary artists, but unique insight about the musician behind the melody. This season it goes even further as Tony Palmer returns to BBC Television after 40 years with the first feature-length biography of Gustav Holst, including unseen footage in which his daughter explains how Holst wrote The Planets during weekends and school holidays.