BBC1 spy guys hope to hit with ‘Hustle’

$1.2 mil-an-hour skein offers H'w'd prod'n values

LONDON — The makers of hit Brit drama series “Spooks,” sold to A&E in the U.S. and retitled “M15,” hope to repeat that success with a new show, “Hustle,” unveiled as part of BBC1’s £174 million ($296 million) winter lineup.

Made by Kudos Prods., the $1.2 million-an-hour skein, co-starring Robert Vaughn, recounts the adventures of a group of con artists on the streets of London.

Pubcaster drama boss Jane Tranter said “Hustle” contains all the production values of a mainstream Hollywood studio. “It’s a very different viewing experience for our audience. It’s 100% pure entertainment.”

It’s one of several new contemporary dramas at the Beeb. The most controversial is the edgy “England Expects,” whose central character, Ray, becomes involved with a neo-Nazi political party.

“Using drama is a powerful way of getting viewers to engage with difficult subjects,” said BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessey.

The winter season of BBC1, the U.K.’s most-watched web, also features new Saturday night interactive quiz “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even” and a special day of shows, collectively dubbed “Hey Big Spender,” offering advice to debt-burdened Brits.

At the launch, Heggessey denied BBC1’s decision to broadcast a pop music chart sponsored by Coca-Cola in flagship music show “Top of the Pops” was at odds with the outfit’s status as a pubcaster that’s forbidden to raise money through advertising.

“The name Coca-Cola is not verbally mentioned in the program and is only visible once during the end credits,” she said. “No one watches end credits. It won’t have any impact.”

Opponents say it represents another sign of creeping commercialism at the pubcaster. and may encourage more children to drink Coke and so add to the U.K.’s swelling child obesity problem.

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