BBC Sets ‘World On Fire’ WWII Drama, ‘The Trial Of Christine Keeler’ & More


The BBC has set a lineup of new drama and comedy series which are in the works for BBC One and Two in the coming year. Among them are epic WWII drama World On Fire from The A Word‘s Peter Bowker; The Trial of Christine Keeler from Apple Tree Yard‘s Amanda Coe; and House Productions’ half-hour Trigonometry, written by Duncan Macmillan and Effie Woods. BBC Drama Controller Piers Wegner unveiled the projects at the Broadcast Commissioning Forum this morning and also confirmed Andrew Haigh’s adaptation of The North Water, which was originally announced back at last year’s Mipcom.

World On Fire is a multi-stranded drama that looks at World War II through the eyes of ordinary people from all sides of the conflict. The first seven-episode season will follow the first year of the war, starting with the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 and ending with the Battle of Britain. Mammoth Screen (Poldark) is producing. And, just in time for Mipcom, ITV Studios Global Entertainment has boarded world sales on the series that reflects one of today’s most resonant subjects.

Mammoth’s Damien Timmer says the aim is to “tell a properly epic, deeply characterful and intensely adrenalized story, shot through with Pete’s characteristic irreverence and humanity. A drama that pieces together the story of World War II from the inside, that traces the connections between allies and enemies, an epic story told on a human scale.”

Shooting starts next year in the UK and across Europe with Bowker, Timmer, Marcus Wilson and Helen Ziegler exec producing for Mammoth and Lucy Richer for the BBC.

Also at BBC One, Ecosse Films and Amada Coe are prepping The Trial Of Christine Keeler about the chain of events in the 1960s which came to be known as the Profumo Affair. The series is a behind the headlines look at the sexual and cultural politics of one of the most revealing and iconic stories of modern Britain. At the center of the storm was 19-year-old Christine Keeler – a young woman whom the powerful, male-dominated establishment sought to silence and exploit, but who refused to play by their rules.

The scandal was sparked by the brief sexual relationship between John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, and Keeler who was then a 19-year-old would-be model. In 1963, he denied any impropriety in a personal statement to the House of Commons, but was forced to admit the truth a few weeks later. He resigned from the government, but the repercussions severely damaged Prime Minister Harold Macmillan who resigned that same year. His Conservative Party was marked by the scandal, which may have contributed to its defeat by The Labour Party in the 1964 general election.

Coe calls the story of Christine Keeler “the Salem Witch Trial meets OJ Simpson — a perfect storm of gender, class, race and power that resonates into the world we’re living in today.”

She and Richer are exec producing for the BBC with Kate Triggs and Douglas Rae for Ecosse. Endemol Shine will handle international sales with shooting to start next year.

For BBC Two and produced by House Productions, Trigonometry is an eight-part half-hour comedy written by Duncan Macmillan and Effie Woods. The adult rom-com is set in crowded, expensive London where a cash-strapped couple open their small apartment to a third person. Somehow, the new addition makes the flat seem bigger, not smaller. Gradually, many things become easier, nicer, better with an extra pair of hands.

Macmillan and Woods say of the unconventional story, “At a time when we’re more divided than ever, this is a show about love.”

House Productions joint CEO’s Tessa Ross and Juliette Howell call Trigonometry a “contemporary, heartfelt, playful and grown up relationship drama that surprises at every turn.” They are exec producing with Tommy Bulfin for the BBC.

Lean On Pete and 45 Years filmmaker Andrew Haigh is also joining the BBC family, writing and directing The North Water from See-Saw Films for BBC Two. The five part thriller is set in the late 1850s and tells the story of Patrick Sumner, a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up as ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition to the Arctic. On board, he meets Henry Drax, the brutish harpooner whose amorality has been shaped to fit the harshness of his world. Hoping to escape the horrors of his past, Sumner instead finds himself on an ill-fated journey with a murderous psychopath.

The book was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. The series will be executive produced by Jamie Laurenson and Hakan Kousetta, alongside Iain Canning and Emile Sherman for See-Saw Films, and Lucy Richer for the BBC. Filming starts next summer.

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