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Award-winning Alma’s Not Normal to return for second series on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer

Award-winning Alma’s Not Normal to return for second series on

Following the multiple award-winning first series, which was met with huge critical and audience acclaim, Alma’s Not Normal is set to return to BBC Two and BBC iPlayer for a second series.

Created, written by, starring, and Executive Produced by Sophie Willan, Alma’s Not Normal (6 x 30) centres on Boltonian wild-child, Alma Nuthall and her family of eccentric, unruly women and was the creation of Sophie in 2018 when she was the inaugural winner of the BBC’s Caroline Aherne Bursary Award.

The series, produced by Expectation, offers a bitingly funny and unflinching take on class, sexuality, mental health and substance abuse. It celebrates women dealing with the hands they’ve been dealt while doggedly pursing their dreams.

The first series has swept the awards lists since Sophie won BAFTA Best Comedy Writer for the pilot in 2021. Since then, Sophie and the series has been recognised by no less than four national awards and has been nominated for three categories in the forthcoming BAFTAs 2022.

Sophie Willan says: “I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to the show – people seem to really love and relate to the Nuthalls which means a lot and to get the chance to continue that story is beyond what I could have hoped for.

“That on the back of the awards we’ve received is a bit mind-blowing if I’m honest. To be recognised by BAFTA, Broadcast Awards, The Royal Television Society, peers and our audience in such a way is a real honour. I’m thrilled to get back in the writing room to see where Alma’s journey takes us next.”

Nerys Evans, Executive Producer and Expectation’s Creative Director, Scripted, says: “Sophie Willan is one of the most naturally gifted comedy writers I’ve had the pleasure of working with. It’s been so wonderful seeing the response to Almas not Normal. Viewers have connected so instantly to Sophie’s characters. Like everyone else, I can’t wait to see what Alma and her brilliant family do next.”

Jon Petrie, BBC Director of Comedy Commissioning, says: “We couldn’t be prouder to commission the Award-winning Alma’s Not Normal for a second series. It’s a privilege to work with Sophie and her brilliantly bold and original comedy brain. Sophie embodies everything that you can achieve with the unique opportunities BBC Comedy can offer exciting new voices.”

Alma’s Not Normal is an Expectation production for the BBC, written and Executive Produced by Sophie Willan. It is commissioned by Jon Petrie, Director of Comedy Commissioning. The Executive Producer for Expectation is Nerys Evans and the Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Tanya Qureshi.

Broadcast details will be confirmed in due course.

The first series of Alma’s Not Normal is available on BBC iPlayer and can also be seen on Britbox in Australia and CBC Gem in Canada.

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Strawberry Blond TV wins double commission for Channel 4 and More4

Strawberry Blond TV wins double commission for Channel 4 and

Strawberry Blond TV has been commissioned to make two new series for Channel 4 and More4.

Huge Homes with Hugh Dennis sees the actor and comedian unlock the doors to some of the largest domestic dwellings across the UK. In a celebration of everything massive, Hugh explores a variety of gigantic homes from the colossal Broughton Hall with its own private railway to a jaw-dropping island fort off the coast of West Wales.

Over four episodes, Hugh will see astonishing conversions and meet eccentric owners as he journeys through a gargantuan domestic wonderland. Along the way, he’ll tell the stories of each immense property and he’ll also be getting his hands dirty with some of the tasks needed to keep the huge homes in full working order – including cleaning chandeliers and a marathon six hours of hoovering.

Strangers on a Plane is a new stripped daytime format that sees five strangers compete to prove they can holiday better than anyone else. At the start of the week, five holiday-hungry Brits jet off to the same popular holiday destination for a five-day getaway, with each traveller taking control of the group’s activities for 24 hours.

As each holidaymaker takes their turn to plan their perfect day, they must make the key decisions: what accommodation everyone stays in, where they all eat, what activities the group does and what the evening entertainment is. The sky’s the limit on imagination but the budget is set and if they overspend, they could soon end up with a holiday nightmare.

At the end of each week, the group votes on who planned the best day, with the winner enjoying another week in the sun with a friend or family member. Everyone has a different idea of what makes a good holiday and these strangers on a plane will need to please more than just themselves if they’re to emerge a holiday hero.

Gill Brown, commissioning executive for Channel 4, said: “I’m thrilled to have commissioned two hugely entertaining series from the team at Strawberry Blond. Hugh Dennis is the perfect tour guide around an eclectic mix of fantastic, not to mention gigantic, homes that I’m sure our More 4 audience will find fascinating, while Strangers on a Plane is set to be a wild and raucous daytime delight on Channel 4. I can’t wait to see what our holidaymakers get up to.”

Steve Wynne, CEO, Strawberry Blond TV, said: “We’re now only pitching shows that involve going on sunny holidays or looking around massive houses – luckily Channel 4 loved both ideas. It’s a dream to be making two original series for More4 and Channel 4 – they both have the humour and warmth that runs through Strawberry Blond.”

Huge Homes with Hugh Dennis is a 4×60’ peak series for More4 and Strangers on Plane is a 20×30’ daytime series for Channel 4. Both series were commissioned by Jo Street, Head of Daytime and Features and Gill Brown, commissioning executive for Daytime and Features at Channel 4. The series are made by Strawberry Blond TV’s Scotland base. Steve Wynne is executive producer of Strangers on a Plane and Audrey Neil is executive producer of Huge Homes with Hugh Dennis.

Huge Homes with Hugh Dennis will air on More 4 later this year and casting for Strangers on a Plane is underway now. To apply to take part, visit: strangersonaplane.co.uk.

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BBC examines the work of T.S. Eliot at the centenary of The Waste Land

BBC examines the work of T.S. Eliot at the centenary

Programmes across TV and radio examine the life and work of one of Britain’s most influential writers.

This year the BBC marks the centenary of T.S. Eliot’s groundbreaking work The Waste Land with a range of programming across the BBC looking at his life and work.

Beginning on 10 July on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds, He Do The Wasteland In Different Voices will see the poem performed for the first time as if an audio drama, the text unchanged from the original, but with a focus on the collection of voices within it. Permission was granted from the Eliot estate to mark the centenary with this new adaptation.

Recorded word for word, the performance features an ensemble cast including the likes of Paul Ready (The Terror; Motherland), Maggie Steed (Ten Percent); Adrian Edmondson (The Young Ones) and David Haig (My Boy Jack; Killing Eve) as they bring the characters from the poem to life. They include the mysterious Madame Sosostris who, in a seedy room, turns the cards; a poet and his wife, both miserable in their marriage, waiting for something to happen, and a street prophet with visions of the future finding his faith tested.

Capturing the slipperiness and unease of the post-war period, the performance will also feature the work of award-winning sound designer David Thomas. Carefully created to evoke a sense of fractured time, with haunting whispers of catastrophes to come, the sound remains faithful to the themes of anxiety, loss and anger found within the text as well as the uncertainty of the modern age we currently live in.

The programme will be preceded by a feature about the poem, with leading Eliot scholars Dr Lyndall Gordon, Professor Mark Ford, Professor Seamus Perry, Professor Stephen Connor and Nancy Fulford, archivist for the T S Eliot Estate. Taking listeners into the Eliot archive, the feature will contextualise the text and provide insight into Eliot’s own inspirations as well as the story behind the Waste Land.

Later this year on BBC Two and iPlayer is T.S. Eliot: Into ‘The Waste Land’, a new documentary uncovering the hidden personal story behind Eliot’s creation of his celebrated poem, directed by Susanna White.

For decades, Eliot actively discouraged biographical interpretations of his work, developing an ‘impersonal theory’ of poetry in which the private life of a poet was deemed irrelevant. But in 2020 there were dramatic new revelations which uncovered that, behind Eliot’s mask, there was a much more personal story to be found within The Waste Land.

In January 2020, more than 1000 of Eliot’s private letters were unsealed at Princeton University Library, 60 years after they were first deposited there. These letters to his confidante and muse Emily Hale have finally unveiled Eliot’s hidden heart, and the personal breakdown behind the creation of his most famous work. Eliot’s letters illuminate what appears to have been a complex yet unspoken emotional triangle within the poet’s life in which he was pulled between his troubled relationship with his first wife Vivien, and his enduring feelings for his first love, Emily Hale.

Both women appear to have played key roles in the genesis of the poem.

Moving through all five sections of the poem, the documentary explores many different facets of The Waste Land, from Eliot’s state of mind during each phase, to the different places where it was composed. Featuring contributions from actor and director Fiona Shaw and composer Max Richter; poets Hannah Sullivan and Daljit Nagra; Eliot’s biographer Lyndall Gordon, Vivien’s biographer Ann Pasternak Slater and Faber Poetry Editor Matthew Hollis. Simon Russell Beale performs specially recorded readings of the poem, in conjunction with Eliot’s own hypnotic reading of his work.

In October on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer, Ralph Fiennes’ exquisite performance of T.S. Eliot’s poetic masterpiece Four Quartets is translated from stage to screen by director Sophie Fiennes. Early in the Covid pandemic, Fiennes set himself the challenge of committing Four Quartets to memory. Written by Eliot in the shadow of the Second World War, the poem is a searching examination of who – and what – we are. Four Quartets offers four interwoven meditations on the nature of time, faith and the quest for spiritual enlightenment in one of the poet’s final great works and the questions, imagery and emotions it produces still bear powerful relevance today.

On Radio 4 and BBC Sounds in November is Hold On Tight: The Women Of The Waste Land, arts writer and broadcaster Jude Rogers immerses herself in the worlds and the voices of the women inside and outside T.S. Eliot’s extraordinary poem. Blending historical and literary insight with radiophonic and aural magic and imagination, Jude’s explorations are arrestingly sound designed by producer Steven Rajam.

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Channel 4 appoints Charlie Perkins as Head Of Comedy

Channel 4 appoints Charlie Perkins as Head Of Comedy

Channel 4 has appointed Charlie Perkins as Head of Comedy. Charlie will report directly into Chief Content Officer Ian Katz and will manage a team comprising newly promoted Commissioning Editor Laura Riseam and Commissioning Executive Joe Hullait. Charlie will also oversee the appointment of a new Senior Commissioning Editor.

Ian Katz, Chief Content Officer, Channel 4 said: “Channel 4 comedy has always been about betting on brilliant and iconoclastic new talent and Charlie is squarely in that tradition. She has an unerring ear for funny, has nurtured and collaborated with some of Britain’s most exciting and distinctive comedy talent and had an ambitious and original vision for the future of Channel 4 comedy. With a succession of wonderful shows from Derry Girls to We are Lady Parts and Big Boys, Fiona McDermott has delivered a purple patch for Channel 4 comedy and, along with Laura and Joe, I’m convinced that Charlie will continue that success.”

Charlie joins the multi-award-winning Channel 4 Comedy department from Blink Industries where she was Head of Comedy, having begun her career working on shows such as Little Britain, French & Saunders, Benidorm and Mock the Week, moving on to become a Producer at the infamous alternative comedy venue The Invisible Dot, BBC Radio Comedy and Cave Bear Productions. In 2009, Charlie founded the Bristol Revunions whose alumni during her time included Jamie Demetriou, Charlotte Ritchie, Ellie White and Joe Hampson. In 2013, Charlie founded The Paddock comedy collective, an experimental, new material platform for performers and filmmakers. She is also one of the Co-Founders of the Live Comedy Association and Founder of the Free-Free Movement.

At Blink Industries, Charlie Produced cult comedy series Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared which will air on Channel 4 later this year and during her time there the company has been behind the hit Netflix 2D animated series Dead End: Paranormal Park as well as E4 short-form animated format Blind Love on a First Date Island; and C4 Blap Sam Campbell: Get Real Dude.

Charlie Perkins said: “Creating platforms and opportunities for people to develop and thrive in their work has been the primary focus of my career to date – prioritising creative freedom, originality, tenacity and passion. I’m unbelievably honoured to now get to do this at scale at Channel 4; the place where all of our favourite comedy shows come from, a place which has vitality, risk-taking and art at its very core. Comedy is tattooed on my soul and I cannot wait to get started.”

Charlie joins later this year. Recruitment is underway for the new Senior Commissioning Editor role.

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