During her Meet The Controller session at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, BBC Two Controller Kim Shillinglaw unveiled raft of new commissions include a behind the scenes drama about the making of Dad’s Army, an adaptation of China Miéville’s novel The City & The City.
“I want BBC Two to give writers and directors the space to do their most creative, signature work and I’m really proud to be announcing an adaptation of China Mielville’s novel, The City And The City”, said Shillinglaw. “Mieville is one of the country’s foremost fantasy writers and I’m really pleased that we are bringing his highly original voice to the screen, adapted by acclaimed writer Tony Grisoni. And who can resist the behind-the-scenes story of the making of British legend, Dad’s Army, brought to us by a highly talented on and off screen team?
The Making Of Dad’s Army is described as being in a similar vein as An Adventure In Space And Time and tells the story of how Jimmy Perry and David Croft overcame BBC management scepticism, focus groups and cast constipation to get the series on air. The hour-long drama will track the sage from Perry’s initial idea in 1967 until the transmission of the first episode in 1968. Darlow Smithson Productions are producing from a script by Stephen Russell. Steve Bendelack is attached to direct the drama, which is received funding from Northern Ireland Screen. The executive producers are Charlotte Surtees and Emily Dalton.
The BBC and DSP have already lined up a strong cast for the drama. The Making Of Dad’s Army will star Paul Ritter as Jimmy Perry, Richard Dormer as David Croft, John Sessions as Arthur Lowe, Julian Sands as John Le Mesurier, Mark Heap as Clive Dunn, Shane Richie as Bill Pertwee, Kevin Bishop as James Beck, Keith Allen as Paul Fox, Michael Cochrane as Arnold Ridley, Ralph Riach as John Laurie and Sally Phillips as Ann Croft. Casting for subsequent roles is still underway, with production set to commence in Northern Ireland later this year.
The City & The City opens as the body of a mutilated foreign student is discovered in the streets of the crumbling European city of Besźel. Cases like this are run of the mill for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad – until his investigations uncover evidence that the dead girl had been involved in the political turmoil between Besźel and its ‘twin city’ of Ul Qoma, in a universe of parallel worlds. For Borlú to solve the case he will be required to go on an odyssey of the mind, a journey across borders that must be ‘unseen’, to the city which is both a complement and rival to his own. Tony Grisoni adapted China Miéville’s novel for television. Mammoth Screen will produce, with Rebecca Keane, Preethi Mavahalli and Damien Timmer executive producing.
Elsewhere, BBC Two has officially boarded French period drama Versailles, which was commissioned by French broadcaster Canal+ more than a year ago. From David Wolstencroft and Simon Mirren, the series, toplined by Vikings star George Blagden, is set in 1667 and tells the story King Louis XIV, a 28 year-old monarch on the cusp of greatness. A 17th century rock star and an utterly ruthless leader, he will stop at nothing to seize control of France and his enemies – and his weapon is the construction of a new seat of power and authority – the most beautiful palace in Europe and a symbol of absolute monarchy: Versailles. Eamon Hardy will executive produce for the BBC.
On the factual side BBC Two has also given the greenlight to Obama, a four-part documentary series that will tell the inside stories of Obama’s greatest successes and failures. With unprecedented access, the series will explore how he brought America out of the Great Recession faster than anywhere else; how his reform of America’s healthcare system was followed by defeat at the midterms; the inside story of the secret nuclear negotiations with Iran; and how he has thus far failed to close down Guantanamo or pass gun control.