The UK’s Sky Arts, which earlier this year announced it would triple its budget, has commissioned a series of one-off original TV dramas and comedies that will fall under the Playhouse Presents label. Among the notable projects, Walking The Dogs sees Emma Thompson play Queen Elizabeth in a comedy-drama about an intruder who made his way into her bedroom in 1982. Walking The Dogs is based on the night Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace, entered the Queen’s boudoir and chatted with her for a while until the police took him away. The title refers to Fagan’s window of access – a guard who was supposed to be positioned outside the Queen’s door was out walking her dogs. Eddie Marsan (Tyrannosaur, Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows) and Russell Tovey, who has a role in the Emma Thompson-penned Effie, are co-stars. Other shows just announced by Sky Arts, part of the BSkyB group of channels, will include such British talent as David Tennant, Olivia Williams, Stephen Fry and Hayley Atwell along with some non-Brits like Stellan Skarsgard and Harry Shearer. The latter is starring in Nixon’s The One, a verbatim account of Richard Nixon’s time in the Oval office based on more than 198 hours of recordings made between February 1971 and 1973. Sky Arts commissioned Hat Trick Productions, Sprout Pictures, Tiger Aspect and Warp Films to produce the series. Playhouse Presents kicks off in April. A full list of the new projects follows:
• KING OF THE TEDS Drama by Jim Cartwright. Tina works part time as a cleaner. Ron’s been made redundant by the bottle factory. The lives of this long-term married couple are turned upside-down with the surprise visit of their best friend from the fifties and deep feelings are rekindled. With Tom Jones, Alison Steadman and Brenda Blethyn.
• NIXON’S THE ONE Comedy-drama starring Harry Shearer (This is Spinal Tap, The Simpsons) as Nixon. This is a verbatim account of Nixon’s time in the Oval office, based on more than 198 hours of recordings made between February 1971 and 1973. This brilliant film is a fascinating account of his controversial and often farcical time in office. Also stars Henry Goodman as Henry Kissinger.
• THE MINOR CHARACTER Drama written by Will Self and starring David Tennant as Will, the artist, who observes life in minute detail, providing a witty and acerbic critique of his life. When a tragedy occurs, Will is forced to reconsider the trust he has in the urban-suburban, middle-class landscape of his middle-aged friends.
• CITY HALL Riding a wave of popular opinion after footage of her defiant stance against London rioters becomes an internet hit, an ordinary woman finds herself as the capital’s first female Mayor. With Olivia Williams, Rhashan Stone, Lucy Punch and Martin Shaw.
• CARE Stars Gina McKee as Natalie, a nurse whose relationship with an elderly patient and other residents on the notorious Byker Estate forces her to confront her own fears and isolation.
• NELLIE AND MELBA Melba teaches ballroom dancing and likes to play whist. Her 51 year-old son still lives at home working at the dreaded social security office. His dream is to go onto the stage which, despite a catalogue of disasters, he triumphantly does – with a little help from his mother. Co-written by Paul O’Grady and Sandi Toksvig. Starring Paul O’Grady, Sheila Hancock, Rosie Cavaliero and Jonathan D. Ellis
• THE SNIPIST Drama by Matthew Holness and starring Douglas Henshall and the voice of John Hurt. Set in a post-apocalyptic Britain, a lone sniper (Henshall) must fend off plague carriers and rescue stranded communities in order to survive. But is this landscape of a destroyed civilisation all that it seems?
• WALKING THE DOGS An intruder breaks into the Queen’s bedroom at dawn. They discuss love, family and personal freedom before the police arrive to take him away. With Emma Thompson, Eddie Marsan and Russell Tovey.
• THE MAN Hidden in an exclusive hotel, a cabal of powerful individuals debates international politics, economics and war. A chilling look at how an unelected few control the fate of the masses. Written by Sandi Toksvig. With Stephen Fry, Hayley Atwell, Zoe Wanamaker and Stellan Skarsgård.
• THE OTHER WOMAN Life imitates art as a successful TV writer and his actress wife’s failing marriage is mirrored in the show he writes and she stars in. But can they work out their problems on screen or is their relationship doomed to fail? With Geraldine James, Richard E Grant, Trevor Eve and Tom Ellis.
• PSYCHOBITCHES Psychobitches takes famous females from history and puts them in the psychiatrist’s chair. Our therapist is tasked with trying to help these celebrated women through various issues they may have from Lady Godiva with her obsessive compulsive stripping disorder to Beatrix Potter who believes the animals really do talk to her to Eva Braun who has trouble finding Mr Right. Psychobitches is about celebrating outstanding women from history and all their gloriously bonkers issues.
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