BBC Two's blog

The BAFTA award-winning comedy series The Thick Of It returns for a new series on BBC Two.

Once again, the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications, played by Peter Capaldi, is ready to fight fires caused by The Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship for eight brand new episodes of the acclaimed political comedy.

This time, after a reshuffle – the last one before the General Election – he has a new Social Affairs Secretary to deal with, in the form of Nicola Murray, played by Rebecca Front.

Nicola Murray will be in charge of regular cast members including Ollie, played by Chris Addison, James Smith who plays Glenn and Joanna Scanlan as the ineffectual Departmental Press Secretary, Terri.

And, with the government at a low ebb, and an election looming, the opposition are also in Tucker’s sights. The new stories welcome back Her Majesty’s loyal opposition in the form of Peter Mannion, played by Roger Allam, as they try to steal the initiative from the government.

The new series was commissioned by BBC Two Controller Janice Hadlow.

She says: “The Thick Of It is one the cleverest, sharpest and funniest political comedies on television and I’m delighted that it is moving to BBC Two.”

Armando Iannucci says: “Fresh from the international arena of In The Loop, Malcolm Tucker will be brought back to British basics in this new series, and I’m delighted to have Rebecca Front, one of our funniest actresses, play his new nemesis, Nicola Murray MP. I can’t wait to start shooting.”

The series was devised by Armando Iannucci and written by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Sean Gray, Ian Martin, Will Smith, Roger Drew and Tony Roche.

The Thick Of It is now in production and will be ready for transmission on BBC Two later this year.

Mary sets her sights high as she comes up with some big ideas that can make a difference to every charity shop on the high street. First up is launching an innovative campaign to convince the public to donate quality items. Undeterred by last week’s failure to get better donations she takes her grey army into big businesses to target fashion-lovers in their workplace in a bid to get them to part with the designer threads languishing at the back of their wardrobes.

Her challenge sees Mary throwing open the doors of her retail academy to transform an army of dedicated volunteers from across the charity sector into sales machines. However, it’s been half a century since many of the attendees have sat in a classroom and they’re more like naughty school kids than mature students.

Meanwhile, big changes are underway at Mary’s shop. She’s convinced head office to pay for a shop manager and a radical shop fit, but in return they want Mary to double the weekly takings. Some of the ideas bring dissent in the ranks as Mary struggles to convince some of the more stubborn team members that the changes are for the better.

Things look up when Mary’s campaign results in some fantastic donations, the new manager arrives and the new-look shop opens for business, but can Mary meet the new target of £2,000 a week in the midst of a crippling recession?

Mary Portas is a woman on a mission – a mission to transform the humble charity shop. And what better way to get to understand the nitty gritty of charity shop life than to roll up her sleeves, put on a pinny and get stuck in?

First stop is Orpington and a poorly-performing Save the Children outlet. Mary works on developing the shop throughout the series in a bid to increase profits and prove that charity shops can be as hot as the best retailers on the high street. If her ideas succeed they could be rolled out across the entire chain.

After introducing herself to the volunteer work force – many of whom are pensioners with up to 30 years’ service – Mary tries to teach them how to overhaul the sad and tired clothes and bric-a-brac that gets dumped at her shop door.

Gobsmacked by the appalling quality of the donations, Mary and her trusty volunteers descend on West London’s glossiest shopping centre armed with sacks of dirty knickers and moth-eaten jumpers to see what think the Great British public think of them.

With the help of volunteer and former football coach Graham, Mary launches a local campaign to get better donations into her shop, but her first attempt to appeal to the people of Orpington’s charitable side fails and Mary’s left wondering if she’s bitten off more than she can chew.

In two series of BBC Two’s Mary, Queen Of Shops, retail guru Mary Portas turned around the fortunes of struggling independent fashion boutiques across the UK. Now Mary’s taking on her toughest challenge yet, turning her steely gaze to a much neglected sector of the fashion market: charity shops.

Mary believes charity shops represent a key part of the future of shopping: a vast number of consumers worry about ethical shopping and the environment and charity shops provide a route to a greener way to shop where everybody wins.

But by getting to grips with the likes of MIND, Barnardo’s, The North London Hospice and Save the Children, will she be able to work her magic on places more famous for the smell of their clothes than the smell of success? We’re about to find out.

All but the top three charity shops are struggling to grab the attention of shoppers in a climate where they should be cashing in. A recession and the environmental crisis mean customers are counting the pennies and trying to live greener lives, yet they’re ignoring these shops, despite their low-cost stock and a free recycling service to anyone that wants to clear out their homes or wardrobes.

Mary believes the time has come for charity shops to become a serious contender on the high street but most are crying out for help.

In Mary’s words: “They’re where clothes and bric-a-brac go to die and I’m making it my mission to breathe new life into them and to make them a shopping destination.”

In Mary, Queen Of Charity Shops, a three-part series for BBC Two, Mary has five months to change the nation’s attitudes and prove that charity shops can be as good a place to shop as the nation’s favourite high street retailers and to do it she’s going to be donning a tabard and running her own charity shop.

And she’s promised to help every charity on every high street by solving the biggest problem facing them today – the terrible donations we land at their doors.

BBC Sport will provide live coverage of Wimbledon’s Centre Court Celebration which will launch the new Centre Court roof, on BBC Two, Sunday 17 May, from 3.30pm to 5.00pm.

Tennis stars Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Kim Clijsters and Tim Henman will play a combination of men’s singles, women’s singles and mixed doubles for an increased capacity crowd under the new Centre Court roof.

Sue Barker will present live from Wimbledon with Andrew Castle and John Lloyd providing expert commentary on the matches.

Extended live coverage of the matches, as well as live music from Katherine Jenkins, Faryl Smith and Blake, will be available on the BBC Red Button and BBC Online at bbc.co.uk/tennis between 2.30pm and 6.00pm.

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