LONDON — There’s a revivalist spirit about this fall’s TV skeds in Blighty, with webs more interested in revisiting old favorites than breaking new ground.
Nowhere is this truer than on the BBC’s flagship channel BBC1, which is spending $339 million on the autumn schedule. A new series of “Absolutely Fabulous,” starring Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley as the media hackettes, returns after a six-year break; dino docu hit “Walking With Dinosaurs” gets the follow-up treatment in “Walking With Beasts”; and veteran naturalist David Attenborough is back with “The Blue Planet,” a docu about the earth’s oceans that has taken five years to make.
Conservatism has become par for the course for the pubcaster, whose biggest recent innovation has been launching a fourth weekly episode of top-rating soap “EastEnders.” BBC1 is the channel, after all, that banished Steven Spielberg and Tom Hank’s World War II skein “Band of Brothers” to minority web BBC2 on the grounds that it is too “niche” after spending a record $10 million on it.
Factual programming as well as its staple lifestyle formats dominate BBC2’s $140 million season. New shows include the “Mind of a Murderer,” which explores the psyche of killers, and “Blood of the Vikings,” which combines archaeology and genetics to explore the Viking’s legacy in the U.K.
Different point of view
Over at ITV1, the top-rated commercial web, there are signs of greater adventure among tried-and-tested formulas, even if the web’s bosses try hard to pretend otherwise — perhaps for fear of alarming advertisers.
“2DTV,” an animated strand spoofing public figures, is the first fruit of ITV1’s $1.4 million investment to develop cutting-edge comedy. But it was presented by chief exec David Liddiment as a throwback to long-running political satire “Spitting Image.”
Headline dramas include a modern reworking of Shakespeare’s “Othello” transplanted to London’s police force in deference to ITV’s obsession with cop shows; and “Bob and Rose,” a miniseries about Christ’s arrival in Manchester from “Queer as Folk” creator Russell T. Davies.
Putting reality flop “Survivor” behind it, ITV is returning to the winning formula of “Popstars” with “Soapstars,” a quest to find new stars for the web’s popular rural soap “Emmerdale.”
Far from being absent from screens, reality will be scattered throughout skeds. Channel 4’s latest in reality programming is “Going Native,” which follows a family who must survive in an African homestead for 10 weeks, and “Lost,” in which three teams of three people are dumped in the middle of nowhere and must find their way home with only three days’ rations, a survival kit and $200.
Upstart commercial Channel 5 is returning with a new series of “The Mole,” which it hopes will up its 5.5% viewing share. Majority owned by RTL Group, C5 sold itself on its movie content when it launched in 1997.