BBC Four

Christopher Eccleston is to star in Lennon Naked, a major one-off drama from Blast! Films for BBC Four.

Lennon Naked charts his transition from “Beatle John” to enduring and enigmatic icon. It covers a period of wildly fluctuating fortunes from 1967-71; a time of worldwide adulation at one extreme, a combination of frustration and despair at the other.

Writer Robert Jones articulates the burden of genius, as well as issues of fatherhood and fame in this 90-minute film.

Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning says: “Securing Christopher Eccleston to play John Lennon is further testament to the calibre of drama on BBC Four. The Women We Loved season currently on air is attracting record audiences and the channel is steadily building a reputation for portraying some of this country’s best loved icons.”

Richard Klein, Controller, BBC Four, says: “BBC Four is the place where dramas look to explore that space between artists’ public works and private lives, shedding light on the artistic process while offering intelligent entertainment.”

When The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein died unexpectedly in 1967, it was a turning point in John Lennon’s life. The film focuses on the turbulent and intense period of change that followed, and how John was haunted by his troubled childhood.

The film reveals the impact of re-establishing contact with his long lost father Freddie and the events that led John to shed everything both personally and creatively – from divorcing his long-suffering wife Cynthia, to changing his name and ultimately calling time on The Beatles.

Meeting Yoko Ono was the catalyst for this new era and the film explores the development of their extraordinary relationship. Together they experimented with both the musical and artistic avant garde but in doing so become outsiders.

It looks at their growing disillusionment with Britain and what caused John to abandon the UK to start a new life in America. A process that included John harnessing the power of radical Primal Scream psychotherapy to lay the ghosts of his past and go on to record arguably the most powerful solo work of his career.

Key cast also include Christopher Fairbank as Freddie Lennon, Naoko Mori as Yoko Ono, Claudie Blakley as Cynthia Lennon, Rory Kinnear as Brian Epstein, Allan Corduner at Art Janov, Michael Colgan as Derek Taylor and Andrew Scott as Paul McCartney.

Lennon Naked is currently filming in London; the 90-minute drama is written by Robert Jones (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Party Animals) and will air in 2010. The director and co-producer is Edmund Coulthard (Tales From Pleasure Beach, Soundproof); co- producer is Katherine Lannon (The Secret Life Of Mrs Beeton, The History Of Mr Polly) for Blast! Films, and BBC executive producer is Kate Evans.

– A specially commissioned new film of Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring with the Balletboyz on BBC Three combining documentary and performance
– Contemporary choreographers celebrate Diaghilev in performance televised from Sadler’s Wells on BBC Four
– A new film looks at the artistic and cultural legacy of the Ballets Russes on BBC Four
– In a unique collaboration with the Balletboyz, BBC Three broadcasts a powerful new version of Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring specially commissioned as part of December programming on the BBC marking the 100th anniversary of the Ballets Russes.

Televised in the lead up to Christmas this joins exclusive performance from Sadler’s Wells and a new film documenting the artistic and cultural legacy of this legendary company on BBC Four.

The Balletboyz, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, handpick the most exciting talent they can find; a dynamic mix of professional and amateur dancers, all of them drawn from radically different modern dance styles including Tango, Street, Contemporary and Pole Dancing.

Following a brief selection process, the boys put together a unique company for this radical new interpretation of Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring to be shown on BBC Three.

The film traces the history for Stravinsky’s seminal work which famously provoked riots in Paris at its premiere in 1913. Presented by the Balletboyz, the film culminates in a version of the work and offers an insight into the entire creative process.

It features interviews with the choreographers Paul Roberts and Freddie Opoku-Addaie and the dancers themselves in addition to behind-the-scenes footage following the development of the project from the selection process, intensive rehearsal period and performance.

Danny Cohen, Controller of BBC Three, says: “BBC Three wants to keep building its reputation for innovative Arts events. The Balletboyz’ contemporary energy feels like a fantastic way for us to do this over the holidays.”

Richard Klein, Controller of BBC Four, says: “The combination of one of the most inventive and musically exciting ballet scores being performed by one of Britain’s foremost dance groups will doubtless ensure a great watch.

“And I am delighted that we are exploring the heritage of Ballet Russes through what promises to be a compelling documentary as well as through live performance.”

Peter Maniura, Head of Classical Music Television and Dance, says: “It was new, it was shocking, it was beautiful, it was the Ballet Russes and it was the birth of modern dance. A century on, BBC Three and BBC Four audiences will have the chance to sample this rich cocktail of emotion in a series of specially commissioned programmes which tell the story of their immense cultural legacy through both documentary and performance.”

BBC Four televises a celebration of Diaghilev from London’s Sadler’s Wells showcasing some of today’s most acclaimed choreographers.

For the latest Sadlers Wells production, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Javier de Frutos, Russell Maliphant and Wayne McGregor and have each created new works reflecting upon the collaborative influence of the Ballets Russes and evoking the essence of the ground-breaking impresario Diaghilev himself.

Each choreographer will work with all or part of their own companies for this tribute production marking the Ballets Russes centenary.

In The Spirit of Diaghilev is broadcast on BBC Four in December.

A new film commissioned for BBC Four traces the legacy of the Ballets Russes and its enduring influence on dance, art and culture. For Art’s Sake – The Story Of Ballets Russes explores Diaghilev’s role as ringmaster and brings to life the story of this extraordinary impresario whose remarkable ability to bring artists together resulted in the creation of a company whose cultural impact can be traced across 20th century design, choreography, music and art.

Contributors include Wayne Eagling, Artistic Director of English National Ballet, designer Jasper Conran and Frederic Franklin who performed with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo for 20 years and saw the Ballets Russes perform in 1929.

The Ballets Russes season includes another opportunity to see Riot At The Rite, a dramatisation of events around the notorious premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring.

Adam Garcia stars as Vaslav Nijinsky, arguably the greatest male ballet dancer of all time and Alex Jennings is the great Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev, founder of the Ballet Russes, for whom Nijinsky worked as a pioneering choreographer as well as dancer.

The cast also includes Aidan McArdle, Rachel Stirling, Emma Pierson and Griff Rhys Jones as the owner of the Theatre Champs Elysees where the premiere was staged and who was bankrupted by the event.

The Finnish National Ballet and Zenaida Yanowsky perform the ballet and Osmo Vanska directs the BBC Symphony Orchestra, in what was a new recording of Stravinsky’s work made for the drama.

Riot at the Rite was first broadcast on BBC Two in 2006.

Tonight, there’s a brace of BBC Four shows that should really tickle your pickle. First up, we have Electric Dreams (BBC Four, Tuesday, 29 September, 9pm) which sees a family being sent back to the ’70s (and next week, the ’80s).

Six TVs and seven computers are whisked away from the Sullivan-Barneses of Reading and replaced with period pieces. It’s a total retro-fit home, which tonight, will be filled with swirly orange wallpaper. Dad Adam gets to razz around in a Cortina and the ubiquitous Raleigh Chopper makes an appearance alongside Buckaroo and nylon flares and the like. It should be good fun.

Following the show, hot-on-the-heels, is a new Charlie Brooker vehicle called Gameswipe (BBC Four, Tuesday, 29 September, 10pm) which sees our man looking at the world of video games.

He looks at the various genres, how they have changed since their early conception and how the media represents games and gamers. Features interviews with Dara O’Briain, sitcom scribe Graham Linehan and Rab and Ryan from Consolevania. Ace!

All-in-all, this should make for a fine evening of TV with some laughs and nods of recognition. With any luck, it’ll look a bit like this Adam & Joe clip.

The BBC Archive is today releasing a new collection which looks back at pioneering technology programme Tomorrow’s World, ahead of BBC Four’s new technology season, Electric Revolution.

Part of the BBC’s plans to open up its extensive archives, this collection gives people a chance to see how audiences of the past were told the future may look, and lets them rediscover programmes, many of which haven’t been seen for years.

First broadcast in 1965, just two years after Harold Wilson’s famous “white heat” of technological change speech, Tomorrow’s World’s mix of quirky film reports and live demonstrations examined new inventions over nearly four decades of unprecedented scientific and technological progress.

In its earlier years, Tomorrow’s World was more likely to report on advances in industry or farming. By the Eighties, computing was a major interest for audiences, and the programme examined many new consumer technologies.

The Archive collection comes ahead of the start of BBC Four’s Electric Revolution, a season of programmes giving viewers a unique insight into how developments in technology have shaped our lives over the past 50 years and charting the rise of today’s globally-linked, instantly-gratified digital culture.

Highlights from the collection include a 1979 report on one of the first mobile phones, a 1969 demonstration of the Moog synthesiser, and another 1969 report about schoolboys who are lucky to have an early computer, but have to check its oil levels and thermostat whenever it breaks down.

With a selection of items and full programmes from the archives, the Tomorrow’s World collection also remembers some of those presenters who became household names, including Raymond Baxter, James Burke, Judith Hann and Maggie Philbin.

Richard Klein, Controller of BBC Four, said: “I have fond memories of watching Tomorrow’s World as a boy and wondering how technology would develop in my lifetime. Looking back at the new archive collection, I am astounded – and amused – by how much we have outstripped some of the predictions.

“BBC Four’s Electric Revolution season celebrates our burgeoning relationship with technology over the last 50 years and looks ahead to an exciting future of innovation and development.”

Maggie Philbin, a presenter on Tomorrow’s World from 1985 to 1994, said: “Tomorrow’s World was, without doubt, the best programme I have ever worked on. It’s a real delight to see some of these shows again.”

But Maggie also confesses: “I still can’t hear the opening title music without my stomach turning over. Cutting-edge technology came with a price: the inventions were often fragile and temperamental. They would work perfectly all morning, but they’d begin to play up during the rehearsals. It could be nerve-wracking for us presenters, we didn’t know whether these machines would actually work when the cameras went live.”

The perils of live broadcasting are demonstrated in a 1981 edition which starts with a live report about a new prototype machine – “Hissing Sid”, a robot that can play snooker. But the robot’s stage fright leaves it unable to handle its cue.

This Archive collection also provides a fascinating insight into our fear of how technology might change our lives for the worse with reports on the “office of the future” suggesting that smiling secretaries would be replaced by soulless robots.

Innovations that never made it big showcased in Tomorrow’s World reports in this Archive collection include the plastic garden – no more pruning, just dust your plants and vacuum clean your lawn – and a computer which took instructions from people speaking to it in Morse code.

Also available to view again is the 1994 edition of Tomorrow’s World which featured Trevor Baylis and his now-famous wind-up radio. Trevor shows presenter Carmen Pryce the pile of letters of rejection he had received from industry bodies and manufacturers. It was only after he appeared on Tomorrow’s World that he secured funding and the radios were produced.

In an extraordinary turn of events, BBC Four concludes a 30-year treasure hunt to solve the mystery of the Golden Hare at the launch of the channel’s new Autumn/Winter season.

Thirty years ago artist Kit Williams published Masquerade, an exquisitely illustrated children’s story which contained clues to where the author had buried a priceless bejewelled charm in the form of a golden hare.

His idea took the public by storm and catapulted him to fame.

But it also destroyed his artistic credibility, dashing his promising career as a painter, and forcing him to live as a virtual recluse. He has not set eyes on the hare since.

But today, at the BBC Four season launch, Kit was reunited with the Golden Hare.

Kit Williams says: “This was my ‘apprentice teeth’ – I did it before I was anyone. I’m amazed at how delicate the work on the hare is.

“It’s just so emotional to be reunited with an old friend after 30 years – I never thought we’d meet again.”

Richard Klein, Controller, BBC Four, says: “Kit is an extraordinary artist who broke new ground and yet was rejected by many in the artistic community.

“I am delighted that, in a life full of the twists and turns of fate, BBC Four has been able to reunite Kit with this talisman from the beginning of his career.”

Masquerade sold in its millions and was translated into eight languages. Williams was catapulted into the media spotlight and inundated with letters from people with crackpot theories.

As lawns were dug up, the hunt for the hare, for many, became something of an obsession.

The amulet was discovered in 1982 and eventually sold to an anonymous overseas bidder at a Sotheby’s auction in 1988 for £31,900.

The hunt had taken two-and-a-half years and the hare was found by someone who uncovered it through a mixture of luck and cunning.

Two Lancashire teachers, who had properly solved the puzzle, lost out by just a few days.

The makers of BBC Four’s new documentary The Man Behind The Masquerade have tracked down the current owner of the Golden Hare who has agreed for it to be temporarily reunited with Kit.

In a bizarre turn of events, the current owner, who does not live in the UK, was passing through London and happened to hear an interview which Kit had given BBC Radio 4.

Attempting to get in touch with Kit, she called the BBC and was put in touch with the makers of the BBC Four documentary.

The Man Behind The Masquerade asks whether it’s time to reappraise the work of a very British artist, who was arguably just ahead of his time, and is part of the BBC Four’s new Autumn/Winter season unveiled today.

A new documentary featuring never-heard-before fragments of conversation, along with interviews and rare footage of The Beatles in the studio, will form the centrepiece of a season of programming as BBC Two and BBC Four join forces for Beatles Week.

The joint season, celebrating the Fab Four’s enduring legacy and continuing influence, begins on BBC Two on Saturday 5 September 2009.

Kicking off an evening of programming on BBC Two on 5 September, The Beatles On Record offers a concise history of The Beatles in the studio and sits alongside other highlights including the first TV showing of The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit, the Maysles brothers’ film charting the Fab Four’s arrival in America in 1964.

BBC Four’s programming includes Storyville’s extraordinary story of how The Beatles’ music may have contributed towards the collapse of the USSR; a documentary on the making of The Beatles’ First U.S. Visit; and a new compilation of archive footage featuring an eclectic range of artists who have covered Beatles songs over the decades.

In 1962 an unknown group from Liverpool entered Abbey Road Studios to record their debut single. During the next eight years they created what is arguably regarded as the greatest collection of studio recordings of the 20th century.

The Beatles On Record, directed by Bob Smeaton, charts The Beatles’ extraordinary journey from Please Please Me to Abbey Road and reflects on how they developed as musicians, matured as songwriters and created a body of work that sounds as fresh in 2009 as the time it was recorded.

Narrated entirely by John, Paul, George, Ringo and their producer Sir George Martin, the documentary features more than 60 classic songs, rare footage and photos from The Beatles’ archives and never-heard-before out-takes of studio chat from the Abbey Road recording sessions.

This is followed on the same evening on BBC Two by The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit.

It is 1964, Beatlemania is beginning in America and from airport to hotel to TV studio, the pioneering Maysles brothers are at The Beatles’ shoulders on their first US visit. This is the inside story of the two remarkable weeks when Beatlemania first ignited in America.

BBC Two will also be reshowing Timewatch: Beatlemania, the inside story of the rise and fall of Beatlemania. By 1966 the Beatles had played more than 1,400 gigs, toured the world four times and sold the equivalent of 200 million records. At the height of their popularity, and without warning, they pulled the plug and never toured again.

There’s also another chance to see the action adventure spoof Help!, directed by Richard Lester.

The season continues with a week of programming on BBC Four from Sunday 6 September.

Storyville: How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin tells the extraordinary unknown story of how The Beatles’ music may have contributed to the collapse of the USSR.

In August 1962 director Leslie Woodhead made a two-minute film in Liverpool’s Cavern Club with a raw and unrecorded group of rockers – The Beatles. He arranged their first live TV appearances on a local show in Manchester and then watched as the Fab Four phenomenon swept the world.

Twenty five years later, while making films in Russia, Woodhead became aware of how – even though they were never able to play in the Soviet Union – The Beatles legend had soaked into the lives of a generation of youngsters.

This film meets the Soviet Beatles generation and hears stories about how the Fab Four changed their lives.

Other programming throughout the week on BBC Four includes Sings Beatles, a new compilation of archive footage featuring a diverse range of artists – from Sandie Shaw to Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Carpenters to Candy Flip – who have covered Beatles songs over the years.

Plus there’s an opportunity to see Filming The Beatles’ First U.S. Visit: Albert Maysles, which takes viewers behind the scenes with the legendary documentary director of The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit that screens on BBC Two on 5 September.

George Entwistle, Controller, Knowledge Commissioning, says: “This is a chance for viewers to enjoy some rare footage and fascinating insights into the career of the greatest pop group of all time.

“Through BBC Two and BBC Four’s close working relationship we will be inviting our audience to join us on a rich and colourful journey across two TV channels, through new and archive content, shown in just one week in September.”

This summer, BBC Four presents a season of programmes looking at the complex biological war that rages beneath our skin.

The season of biology programmes – a mix of dramas, documentaries and archive footage – provides a fascinating look at the biological discoveries that have shaped the modern world.

Biology is one of the most influential sciences in the world. Through the years, our understanding of biological matter and life has shaped our attitudes towards religion and the enduring question of where we come from.

Medical discoveries and global pandemics have changed millions of human lives, for the better and the worse.

The biology season delves into this captivating subject with a documentary series examining the building block of all life in the universe, Cell.

In two moving dramas, the season explores the little-known stories of two medical heroes.

Spanish Flu – The Forgotten Fallen, starring Bill Paterson (Criminal Justice), Mark Gatiss (Doctor Who) and Kenneth Cranham (Rome), pays tribute to the public health pioneer Dr James Niven and his efforts to protect the people of Manchester from the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, while Breaking The Mould, starring Dominic West (The Wire) follows the work of Professor Howard Florey and his team, who persevered against all odds to make penicillin an applicable medicine.

From the archives, BBC Four draws on Casualty 1906, Casualty 1907 and Casualty 1909, which explore the historical stories of life on the wards early in the 20th century.

Finally, a Horizon special charts 40 years of documentary footage on the science of viruses and pandemics.

Richard Klein, Controller, BBC Four, says: “BBC Four has dedicated a season of programmes to a complex subject that has yielded life-changing discoveries and changed the way we look at ourselves.

“By exploring the importance of the cell – the basis of all life – and the social impact of two of the most important biological events in history, the season will offer us a richer understanding of the impact that biology can have on our lives.”

War Beneath The Skin will be shown on BBC Four from July 2009.

Programme highlights

Spanish Flu – The Forgotten Fallen

Bill Paterson (Little Dorrit and Criminal Justice), Mark Gatiss (League Of Gentlemen and Doctor Who), Charlotte Riley (The Take and ITV’s forthcoming Wuthering Heights) and Kenneth Cranham (Rome and The Lavender List) star in Spanish Flu – The Forgotten Fallen, a new drama illuminating one doctor’s pioneering efforts to protect the people of Manchester from the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic.

Set against the background of the Armistice in November 1918, as millions of exhausted soldiers return home from the Great War, the film tells the little known story of Dr James Niven (Bill Paterson), Manchester’s Medical Officer of Health for 30 years, and his heroic efforts to combat a second wave of fatal influenza as it spreads across the city of Manchester and the UK.

Dr Niven has built his career protecting the welfare of Manchester’s most vulnerable people, from the factory workers to the slum dwellers. But, just as Manchester’s fighting heroes are returning home and crowds of men, women and children gather to celebrate the end of the Great War, Niven realises that it will take all of his energy and expertise to limit the spread of this mysterious infection.

Facing resistance from both the city and his fellow medical officials, Dr Niven, statistician Ernest Dunks (Mark Gatiss) and their secretary Peggy Lytton (Charlotte Riley) struggle to understand the evolving virus; to communicate the urgent need for action to the establishment and the media; and to pull together scarce resources to alleviate its impact on the poorest in society.

And as they battle against complacency, inertia and red tape, the gravity of the unfolding crisis hits home when Peggy’s family start to succumb to the virus.

Inspired by Dr Niven’s own accounts and documented facts, the film pays a rare tribute to the estimated 70 million forgotten fallen who died from Spanish influenza across the world.

Dr Niven’s heroism continues to resonate today with many of his conclusions, instructions and discoveries echoed by modern advice and procedures for pandemic flu.

Spanish Flu – The Forgotten Fallen is written by Peter Harness (Is Anybody There?, City Of Vice), directed by Justin Hardy, and produced by Susan Horth, for award-winning history specialists Hardy Pictures (The Relief Of Belsen, City Of Vice).

The drama was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, the commissioning executive for the BBC is Patrick Spence and the BBC executive producer is Jenny Frayn.

Breaking The Mould

Dominic West (The Wire, The Devil’s Whore) will star as straight-talking Australian scientist Professor Howard Florey in Breaking the Mould.

Whilst it is widely recognised that Alexander Fleming was the man who discovered penicillin, the truth is a bit more complicated than that and the extraordinary story of Professor Florey is hardly known.

Set against the background of the early years of the Second World War, this factually-based drama shows how it was Professor Florey and his team who persevered against incredible odds to make penicillin an applicable medicine, whilst refusing to patent it for commercial gain.

A revealing, poignant and witty character-driven account of a miraculous scientific breakthrough, Breaking The Mould tells the little known story of Professor Florey and the team of unsung heroes from the prestigious Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford University who were behind the discovery of penicillin, that changed the world of medicine forever.

Joe Armstrong (Robin Hood) will play Norman Heatley, the most junior member of Florey’s team. John Sessions (Margaret, Oliver Twist) will play Alexander Fleming, who first discovered penicillin in 1928.

Breaking The Mould was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, and Richard Klein, Controller, BBC Four; written by Kate Brooke; directed by Peter Hoar and produced by Pier Wilkie. The Executive Producers are Michael Mosley and John Yorke and Jamie Laurenson is the Commissioning Editor.

Cell

Cell delves deep into the history of science to tell the story of how we unlocked the mystery of all life on Earth.

Science journalist Adam Rutherford takes BBC Four on a compelling journey through 350 years of scientific research to reveal the secrets of the cell, from its discovery to its role in shaping our future.

Cell explores how the discovery of the cell challenged centuries of religious and scientific dogma and then examines how scientists have come to manipulate and exploit the cell for the benefit of modern medicine and science.

Finally, Adam meets with US scientists keen to turn science fiction into science reality and create living cells from scratch. Adam takes viewers on a journey through the cell.

Cell is a BBC Scotland production and is Executive Produced by Marcus Herbert.

www.bbc.co.uk/tv/comingup/breakingthemould

www.bbc.co.uk/tv/comingup/spanishflu
www.bbc.co.uk/tv/comingup/cell

Martin Freeman (The Office/Hot Fuzz) and Alexander Armstrong (Armstrong & Miller/Mutual Friends) lead the cast in Syntax Era (working title) a single drama from Darlow Smithson for BBC Four.

Syntax Era provides an affectionately comic account of the Eighties race for home computer supremacy. The drama documents the lengthy rivalry between maverick visionary Sir Clive Sinclair (Armstrong) and his former colleague Chris Curry (Freeman) as they go head to head to achieve domination of the growing home computer market.

Richard Klein, Controller of BBC Four, says: “Those of us that lived through the Eighties will remember the sense of excitement when gadgets and technology started to appear in our homes, but not many of us will know the fascinating stories behind their arrival. Alexander Armstrong and Martin Freeman are excellent choices to portray Sir Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry at a time when battling to have the UK’s most loved home computer was their number one priority.”

Written by Tony Saint, this 90-minute drama uses archive footage to help illustrate the buzz around Sinclair and Curry’s inventions. Classic clips from programmes including John Craven’s Newsround showcase the likes of Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum, the infamous Sinclair C5 and Curry’s triumphant BBC Micro computer demonstrating the influence these men had on Eighties’ life.

Key cast also include: Derek Riddell (Ugly Betty/The Born Identity) and Colin Michael Carmichael (I Want Candy/Coupling) as part of the team of the hard working technologists working round the clock to make their bosses dreams become reality. Syntax Era also features a cameo from James Fleet as former Minister for Education Kenneth Baker.

Currently being filmed, this original 90-minute comedy drama is being made by Darlow Smithson. Written by Tony Saint, directed by Saul Metzstein and produced by Andrea Cornwell. The Executive Producer for BBC Four is Jamie Laurenson.

Syntax Era was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning.

The BBC is set to challenge the concept of beauty in modern art in a new season of programmes due to transmit this autumn.

The Modern Beauty Season will examine the perception of beauty both in modern and classical art forms through a collection of films on BBC Two and BBC Four.

Mark Bell, Commissioning Editor for Arts, says: “This short season of films takes the temperature of art now.

“We look forward to shedding new light on the big questions: Has modern art lost touch with the public? Are classical values still possible in the modern era? And what do we mean when we talk about beauty?”

BBC Two will open the debate on modern versus classical art with two authored films.

The first is from art critic Waldemar Januszczak who will fly the flag for modern art in Ugly Beauty, arguing that art today is as interested in beauty as it always has been.

The second film, from writer and philosopher Roger Scruton, will argue for the principles of classical art in Scruton On Beauty.

Also on BBC Two, art critic and broadcaster Matthew Collings will present a mischievous guide to beauty from the earliest points in history through to the present day in This Is Beauty.

With BBC Two and BBC Four continuing to work in partnership to offer viewers a richer viewing experience, BBC Four adds more context to the Modern Beauty Season with a documentary from historian and art expert Gus Casely-Hayford, who will take a journey to discover the state of British art today.

The documentaries will broadcast around the centrepiece to the Modern Beauty Season – the forthcoming Saatchi’s Art Stars on BBC Two, a four-part series following the search for the next generation of new British artists.

BBC Director-General Mark Thompson today reported a rise in network production from Scotland as it was announced that a Scottish season is to run on BBC Four and that three network comedies, Life Of Riley, The Old Guys and Rab C Nesbitt, have each been commissioned for a new series.

Alan Cumming, Peter Capaldi, Rory Bremner, Andrew Marr, Kirsty Wark, A.L. Kennedy and Charles Kennedy are all set to take part in a special Scottish season on BBC Four.

The month-long season, due to transmit in the autumn, will include a broad sweep of programming celebrating and dissecting aspects of Scottish culture, art, film-making, heritage, landscape and psyche.

Meanwhile it was confirmed that the BBC One sitcoms Life Of Riley, starring Caroline Quentin and Neil Dudgeon, and The Old Guys starring Roger Lloyd Pack, Clive Swift, Jane Asher and Katherine Parkinson, will be returning to BBC Scotland’s studios in Pacific Quay, Glasgow. Rab C Nesbitt, played by Gregor Fisher, has also been commissioned for another run on BBC Two and all three series go into production in Glasgow later this year.

Today’s season launch and commissioning announcements coincide with an appearance by Mark Thompson at the All Party Scottish Broadcasting Group in Westminster.

The Director-General reported network production growth in Scotland from 3.3% in 2007 to 3.7% in 2008 and forecast a further rise to between 5% and 6% by the end of this calendar year. The projected increase indicates the target, of delivering network production equivalent to Scotland’s proportion of the UK population by 2016, is on track.

Mark Thompson said: “The Scottish season will explore and celebrate the enormous cultural contribution Scotland has made and also bang the drum for Scottish creativity.

“I’m also delighted that the three network comedies, Life Of Riley, Old Guys and Rab C Nesbitt, are going back into production in Scotland. I am sure they will be given a warm welcome back by our audiences.

“The BBC is making good progress in delivering irreversible changes that will increase the production and commissioning of network programmes in Scotland.

“Whilst this will not happen overnight, it will bring about a fundamental change in the make-up of the BBC and move an increasing volume of network production closer to the audiences we serve in Scotland.”

Rebecca Papworth, Executive Producer, Comedy, said: “The BBC Comedy department are delighted at the recommission of Old Guys, Life Of Riley and Rab C Nesbitt, three sitcoms which all came out of Glasgow and collectively reached millions of viewers on BBC One and BBC Two.

“Their recommission is an example of the support and commitment the Comedy department has had from BBC One and BBC Two Controllers and schedulers in pursuing programmes that connect and entertain large mass audiences, whilst simultaneously growing a sustainable comedy production community inside Scotland. We look forward to more comedy coming out of Scotland in 2010.”

On the new season, BBC Four Controller Richard Klein added: “In the year Scotland marks a decade of devolution, it seems a good time to take a fresh look at perceptions of Scotland both north of the border and across the UK.”

Other contributors during the Scottish season will include film-makers Bill Forsyth, David Hayman, Peter Mullan, Andrew MacDonald and Gillies MacKinnon and artists Peter Howson, Alison Watt, John Byrne, Alexander Moffat, Calum Colvin, and Roddy Buchanan. Essayist Jonathan Meades, former politician Michael Portillo and geographer Nicholas Crane will also feature in the season.

Among the highlights is a documentary, A Portrait Of Scotland, with Peter Capaldi taking on his first presenting role in this feature-length special. Capaldi encounters the artists and paintings that have reflected the changing face of Scotland since the Reformation.

Peter Capaldi, a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, says of his time there: “What gift I had was for drawing faces, so I’d come to the right place to learn about that most Scottish of arts – the portrait. But then punk rock happened and I abandoned my army surplus greatcoat in favour of peroxide hair and PVC trousers. I turned my back on painting.

“With this programme I’ve been offered a second chance to learn about the great traditions and history of Scottish painting. And this time I’m delighted to take it.”

International movie star Alan Cumming presents Scotland On Screen looking at some classic movies and how their Scottish locations contributed to their iconic status – ranging from The Wicker Man in Dumfries and Galloway, Gregory’s Girl in Cumbernauld and I Know Where I’m Going in Mull, to a contrasting cinematic view of Edinburgh via Trainspotting and The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie.

Contributors include Edward Woodward, star of The Wicker Man, and a wide range of noted Scottish film-makers and actors.

Says Alan: “I wanted to do Scotland On Screen because I am endlessly fascinated by both how Scotland is perceived and how we (literally in this case) project ourselves to the world. And also I never tire of driving around our beautiful country!”

Jonathan Meades takes a quixotic tour of Scotland, a country which has intrigued him since he first encountered lists of towns only known from football coupons. The three-part series is entitled Jonathan Meades: Off Kilter.

Another documentary looks at the hold Calvinism is perceived to have had over the psyche of Scots.

Born 500 years ago, John Calvin was a radical thinker who challenged the primacy of the Catholic Church. He never visited, but his teaching took root in Scotland with a fervour which exceeded other parts of the UK.

Andrew Marr, Kirsty Wark, Jack Vettriano, A.L. Kennedy and Charles Kennedy muse on his legacy.

Edinburgh-born Rory Bremner – a descendant of Scottish soldiers, including his father and a great grandfather – presents Scottish Soldier.

For more than three centuries, Scotland has sent large numbers of young men to fight for King and Country. Rory Bremner tells the story of Scots in the British Army and investigates why this small country has sent so many of its young men to the front.

Nicholas Crane unravels the story of how the wild Scottish mountains were tamed by Sir Hugh Munro, a little more than a century ago, and tries to understand the all-consuming obsession that has endured for a hundred years.

The season is conceived and largely produced by BBC Scotland for BBC Four, with further programming from independent producers and a special with Michael Portillo chairing a discussion on the possibility of independence for Scotland.

Programming from independent production companies includes Tweed, a three-part series made by Bellwether Media, which goes to the Outer Hebrides to chronicle an industry perilously close to extinction, weaving in the stories of designers, mill owners, weavers and lawyers.

Balmoral, from Blakeway Productions, is a one-off looking at the story behind the Royal Family’s most private residence and its connection with Scottish traditions.

Andrea Miller, Head of Factual at BBC Scotland, says: “The season as a whole takes a look at some of the perceptions of Scotland in a fresh way. It’s great that so many of Scotland’s contemporary stars have taken part, including film stars Alan Cumming and Peter Capaldi and satirist and writer Rory Bremner, because their passion and understanding bring these subjects to life.”

The three network comedies were commissioned by Lucy Lumsden, Controller of Comedy Commissioning, alongside Jay Hunt, Controller of BBC One (Life Of Riley and The Old Guys), and Janice Hadlow, Controller of BBC Two (Rab C Nesbitt). The Executive Producer is Rebecca Papworth.

Life Of Riley is written by Georgia Pritchett (Smack The Pony), The Old Guys is written by Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show) with Simon Blackwell (The Thick Of It), and Rab C Nesbitt is written by Ian Pattison.

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