New dramas about 18th century Australia and first World War planned; McKellen’s Vicious gets Christmas special; Simon Beaufoy adapts spy series.

Jimmy McGovern and Tony Jordan pen BBC dramas (full story here)

New dramas from signature writers Jimmy McGovern and Tony Jordan have been announced by the BBC’s controller of drama commissioning, Ben Stephenson.

McGovern’s untitled project is billed as an eight-part serial set in a late 18th century Australian penal colony. The RSJ Films production has been commissioned for BBC2.

McGovern said: “In 1787 when Britain banished its petty thieves, whores, orphans and highwaymen – to Sydney Cove, a place so hot and barren and hostile that very few people had ever set foot there.

“It was an audacious social experiment, unparalled before or since. Yet these rejects from Britain, accompanied by soldiers, officers, a vicar and a doctor, survived against all the odds, in spite of famine, drought, escapes, hangings and floggings, the colony thrived. This is their story.”

A title and casting will be announced in the coming months.

Tony Jordan’s latest series for BBC1 is The Great War, the story of “two very ordinary young men who enlist in a war they expect will be over within months. As the conflict unfolds, so do the boys stories, as they grow up amid the horror of war, and find love.”

Focused on the Western Front, the series embraces key events of the war including Gallipoli, the battle of the Somme, Ypres and the belated entry of America into the conflict.

The 5x30-minute drama is produced by Red Planet Pictures through BBC Cymru Wales Drama.


Vicious gets Christmas order (full story here)

ITV has ordered a special festive edition of gay sitcom Vicious - which could air in a peak time slot on Christmas Day - despite the fact the first episode is yet to air.

The special will beef up the run of the original Brown Eyed Boy and Kudos Film & TV-produced 6 x 30-minute series, ordered by the broadcaster in November.

Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi star in what has been described as a “bold sitcom” by ITV’s comedy commissioning editor, Myfanwy Moore.

Set to launch on ITV at the end of April, the series features two ageing partners, Stuart and Freddie, who live in London’s theatre district and have been together for almost 50 years.

Clerkenwell to adapt Deighton spy novels (full story here)

Clerkenwell Films has begun developing a major 18-part series based on Len Deighton’s spy novels featuring his Bernard Samson character.

Slumdog Millionaire and The Full Monty writer Simon Beaufoy is working on the TV adaptation of the Cold War books, which have sold more than 40 million copies.

The books – nine in total, grouped as three trilogies – tell the story of Samson, an ex-MI6 agent who finds himself drawn back into service. He visits multiple locations around the world including the US and Berlin, while trying to find out the truth about this wife’s defection to the KGB.

Deighton will work alongside Beaufoy on the project and Clerkenwell is in advanced discussions with UK broadcasters and distributors. It will take the idea to international co-production partners later this year.