In a raft of new commissions, the BBC has teamed with Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson for the literary adaptation “Conversations with Friends,” and has ordered four new dramas that confront subjects of race, class and sexuality from four first-time television writers.
With several youth-skewing programs on the docket, the new commissions attest to the public broadcaster’s aim to develop new voices in order to win over younger viewers.
Adapted from Sally Rooney’s novel of the same name, “Conversations with Friends” centers on a pair of sharp-tongued university students who fall into a love-quadrangle with a married couple in their thirties. Though casting details have yet to be announced, the source material offered an urbane take on modern-day relationships that earned comparisons to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag” and Lena Dunham’s “Girls.”
Directors Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”), writer Alice Birch (“Lady Macbeth”), and Irish outfit Element Pictures will handle production efforts. That same team recently mounted the upcoming BBC/Hulu drama “Normal People,” which was also adapted from a Sally Rooney novel.
“I’m particularly happy that my connection to Sally and her work is set to continue,” said Abrahamson, who will split directing duties with Hettie McDonald for the 12 episode series. “Making ’Normal People’ has been a singular pleasure and I’m excited to be working with the same brilliant team again on ‘Conversations with Friends’.”
Other youth-skewing commissions include the thriller “Chloe” from “Sex Education” director Alice Seabright, and the sex-work drama “Superhoe,” adapted from creator/star Nicôle Lecky’s one-woman show. Both shows are six-part series anchored around strong female lead and with pointed focus on social media.
Created, written and directed by Seabright and executive produced by Mam Tor Productions, “Chloe” centers around young woman trying to solve the mystery of her social media obsession’s death, while “Superhoe” follows a wannabe rapper who moves in with a hard partying cam girl. Lecky will write and star, with Bonafide Films executive producing.
The public broadcaster has also commissioned the Martin Freeman-led cop drama “The Responder” and the one-off film “My Name Is Leon.”
Created by ex-police officer Tony Schumacher and pulling from his own experiences, “The Responder” follows a beat cop over the course of six nights in Liverpool. “The Hobbit” and “Sherlock” star Martin Freeman has already signed on to play the lead, with Dancing Ledge Productions executive producing and Fremantle handling distribution.
Finally, the BBC will team writer Shola Amoo and director Kibwe Tavares for the made-for-TV film “My Name in Leon,” which follows a mixed-race boy trying to keep his family together in 1980s Britain. Produced by Douglas Road Productions, the film is adapted from author Kit de Waal’s prize-winning novel.
Both screenwriter Shola Amoo and director Kibwe Tavares have previously explored themes identity and belonging in the work, with Amoo’s 2019 film “The Last Tree” earning comparisons the Academy Award winner “Moonlight.”
“We are continuing our commitment to producing the best British drama there is, with four new drama commissions – each a first in its own right,” says BBC Drama chief Piers Wenger.
“Finding new talent, developing then making their ideas, sits right at the center of what we do. We have all seen the incredible career trajectory that British talent can have internationally after just one or two writing gigs… [And] it is important to us to be able to show the part we played in bringing these brilliant minds in to public view.”