BBC One's blog

Martin Shaw returns to Sixties Northumberland in Inspector George Gently in four feature-length films written by Peter Flannery (The Devil’s Whore, Our Friends In The North) and Mick Ford (William and Mary) – the first two films to be shown on BBC One in May 2009.

The series throws Chief Inspector Gently into a maelstrom of murders and mayhem, whilst lovingly recreating the Swinging Sixties as it finally hits the North-East of England, in perfect and nostalgic detail.

Chief Inspector George Gently is the classic unsung hero of detective fiction and in Martin Shaw’s expert hands he becomes a passionate, growling, ex-army boxer.

With his sidekick, the ambitious and undisciplined Detective Sergeant John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby – Place Of Execution), they make the perfect police partnership, full of warmth and humour.

But even the closest partners can come to blows when Gently and Bacchus enter the boxing ring, to raise monies for the police widow’s fund – but who will be knocked out for the count of ten?

In the England of the early Sixties, society is on the cusp of change: homosexuality, abortion, and even prescribing the pill to unmarried women are all illegal, and hanging for murder is still the law.

But the first strip clubs are just opening, teenagers, drugs and The Beatles are just round the corner, and Gently has to police a society where old values clash with new, and generations are at war with each other.

The series also gives a fascinating insight into the difficulties that the police had to face in the Sixties to investigate and solve their crimes – without the help of modern technology.

Gently and Bacchus have to tackle, amongst others, cases involving prostitution and rape in a time when the argument “she was up for it” was acceptable; local corruption, when it was the norm to sweep it under the carpet; racism in a world before political correctness; and paedophilia in a children’s home, when the notion of organised sexual abuse was unheard of.

In the first two films Shaw and Ingleby are joined by a strong cast of guest stars including: Sharon Maughan (Holby City), Jill Halfpenny (EastEnders), Mark Williams (The Fast Show, Harry Potter), Paul Copley (The Lakes), Mary Jo Randle (EastEnders), Tracey Wilkinson (Bad Girls), Nicola Burley (Souled Out) and Brendan Coyle (Lark Rise To Candleford) as suspects and victims.

Guest stars in the second two films include: Andrew Lee Potts (Primeval), Tariq Jordan (Law And Order), Tim McInnerny (The Devil’s Whore, Blackadder), Tom Goodman-Hill (The Devil’s Whore) – and, at last, we meet Mrs John Bacchus played by Melanie Clark Pullen (EastEnders, A Dinner Of Herbs).

Peter Flannery says: “The joy of writing the Gently stories lies in the period and the place. The place because it’s where I grew up; the period for the same reason, plus it gives me a chance to write about a country on the cusp of change.

“Each issue I look at the heart of a crime – abortion, sexuality, youth gangs, child abuse, race, terrorism – was seen differently in the early Sixties compared to today. As LP Hartley said, ‘The past is another country. They do things differently there’.”

BBC Commissioning Editor, Polly Hill, says: “I’m delighted that Inspector George Gently is returning to BBC One for four more films. Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby have created a unique partnership and I know that drama fans will welcome their return.”

Inspector George Gently is made by Company Pictures, whose other recent productions include: The Devil’s Whore (Channel 4), Wild At Heart (ITV1), Shameless (Channel 4), Generation Kill (HBO/FX) and Skins (E4).

The series is executive produced by Peter Flannery, George Faber, Suzan Harrison and Charles Pattinson for Company Pictures, Andrew Lowe for Element Films, and Polly Hill for BBC One.

Produced by Johann Knobel (Shameless, Holby City); dramas one and two are directed by Daniel O’Hara (Paddywhackery, The Clinic) and three and four by Ciaran Donnelly (The Tudors, Robin Hood).

Inspector George Gently is filmed entirely on location in Dublin.

Danniella Westbrook is set to make a dramatic return to Walford almost 20 years since she first stepped out into Albert Square as Sam Mitchell in 1990.

Although Danniella hasn’t appeared in BBC One’s EastEnders since 2000, her character Sam Mitchell was last seen on screen in 2005 (played by Kim Medcalf) before she bolted off to Brazil, a suspect in Dirty Den’s murder.

What is it that makes Sam decide to leave the land of sunshine and samba knowing she faces possible arrest as she lands back in Blighty? What will the regulars in the Queen Vic make of her reappearance? Who will welcome the original Mitchell Sister back with open arms? Who would rather see her board the first flight back to Rio?

Danniella says of her return to Walford: “I’m really happy to be coming back, it feels just like coming home. I’m really looking forward to working with Barbara, Steve, Sid and Patsy and I’m over the moon to be working with the new boss Diederick Santer.

“I can’t wait to get the scripts to see what Sam Mitchell has been up to since she was last in the Square.”

EastEnders Executive Producer, Diederick Santer, added: “With all the turmoil facing the Mitchells this year, it feels like a great time to bring back Sam, the original Mitchell Sister.

“What will Ronnie and Roxy make of her? Will Peggy and Phil be pleased to see her? And will Ricky’s eternal devotion to Bianca be tested by the reappearance of his glamourous ex-wife?

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Kim Medcalf for her great work playing Sam Mitchell for three years and welcome Danniella back to pick up the baton once again.”

Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller, Michael Gambon, Tamsin Greig, Robert Bathurst and Jodhi May will star in Sandy Welch’s four-part adaptation of Austen’s comic masterpiece Emma, a BBC Drama Production for BBC One, it was announced today.

Romola Garai (Atonement, Daniel Deronda) stars as the “handsome, clever and rich” Emma Woodhouse.

The drama follows the dire consequences of Emma’s failed matchmaking schemes in this witty, clever comedy of realisation and self-discovery.

Michael Gambon (Cranford, Gosford Park) plays Emma’s affectionate, neurotic father who unusually allows her to be mistress of their household.

Jonny Lee Miller (Byron, Eli Stone, Trainspotting) plays Mr Knightley, Emma’s shrewd and attractive neighbour, whose strength of character is in sharp contrast to her father, providing a welcome counterpart to the headstrong protagonist.

Jodhi May (Einstein And Eddington, Friends And Crocodiles) plays Miss Taylor, Emma’s former governess who marries the good-humoured Mr Weston played by Robert Bathurst (Cold Feet, White Teeth, My Dad’s The Prime Minister).

Tamsin Greig (The Diary Of Anne Frank, Green Wing) plays the incessantly chatty, well-meaning Miss Bates whose poverty draws the pity and goodwill of all of Highbury.

Jane Fairfax, the beautiful and talented but quiet niece of Miss Bates, hides a dark, romantic secret beneath her polished exterior.

Emma will be screened in serial form for the first time since the Seventies.

BAFTA-winning Sandy Welch (Our Mutual Friend, Jane Eyre, North And South) has brought a fresh, witty and perceptive take on a timeless tale. The four hour-long episodes give Welch a chance to provide a rich insight into one of Austen’s most complex characters.

It has been created by BBC Drama Production for transmission on BBC One in Autumn 2009.

Kate Harwood, Controller Series and Serials, BBC, says: “I am very proud to announce such a strong and wonderfully talented line-up who will bring both youth and experience to Sandy Welch’s creative vision of Austen’s Emma, a wonderful mix of comedy and romance.

“In Emma, Austen has created a fascinating heroine, and our four-hour canvas allows us to explore this multi-faceted character in detail. Emma was Austen’s last novel to be published before her death, written when she was at the height of her craft.”

Emma was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller, Drama Commissioning, and Jay Hunt, Controller, BBC One; written by Sandy Welch, directed by Jim O’Hanlon and produced by George Ormond; the executive producer is Phillippa Giles.

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1