Network to bow Elizabeth special
ABC is getting the royal treatment.Alphabet net has acquired a special that’s being described as the real-life version of “The Queen,” an unfiltered view of the royal family produced by RDF USA. The project, tentatively titled “Queen Elizabeth: The British Monarchy at Work,” is being overseen by the net’s news division. It’s set to air as a primetime special in the fall. Insiders say the program will draw from hundreds of hours of footage and will capture Queen Elizabeth II and the entire royal family at both state functions and behind the walls of Buckingham Palace. RDF is currently shooting the special, with History Television International also onboard to produce. In addition to offering direct access to the royals’ day-to-day life, the special will cover the queen’s upcoming visit to the U.S., her visits with Tony Blair and the royal functions (and personal lives) of Prince Philip and the queen’s grandchildren, Princes William and Harry. The queen is celebrating her 80th birthday this year. “They’re such an iconic family and a huge presence in the world,” said RDF USA topper Chris Coelen. “What this will do is give a behind-the-scenes look that nobody has ever seen, from the unbelievable amounts of formal events that the queen has to participate in to her personal life, what she does in her off-time.” Special will depict the royals’ sheer volume of official responsibility. “(We) follow the queen through a staggering range of duties for an 80-year-old woman,” Coelen said, noting that the royal family took part in 1,250 formal meals over the last year and shook about 300,000 hands. Special likely will be introduced by Diane Sawyer or another ABC News personality. Deal is structured to give PBS a second window that will air as much as eight hours. ABC special also could be expanded beyond the two hours, pending the footage. The BBC will air the special in the U.K., with several territories already sold around the world and others being sold at Mipcom this week. While the palace draws more press scrutiny than any other institution in England, instances of direct access have been infrequent. The queen, for instance, has never sat for a formal interview. RDF produced “The Queen’s Castle,” a PBS series about Windsor Castle that helped it gain the trust of the palace and earn access for the special. Anything royals-related has been hot in the wake of Miramax pic “The Queen,” which earned $56 million at the U.S. box office as well as multiple Oscar noms. While that pic was a dramatization, execs say there is a parallel between the special and the movie, both of which sought to draw back the curtains on a very cloistered life.