BBC announces exciting new factual entertainment shows

BBC announces exciting new factual entertainment shows

A new set of commissions from BBC Factual will take audiences across the Rocky Mountains to ‘Warrior Island’ before returning to the Airport; celebrity couples’ relationships will be tested in Unbreakable and Titch Cormack returns in The Speedshop.

Catherine Catton, Head of Commissioning, Popular Factual and Factual Entertainment, says: “Factual entertainment at the BBC is in fantastic shape with an inspirational, distinctive slate of programming that speaks to the broadest possible audience.

“The new commissions I’m announcing today demonstrate the strength of the department, with exciting new shows that engage with timely issues and bring some much needed escapism and fun.

“As we emerge from the pandemic and are able to start travelling again, I’m delighted that we’re setting off to the Rocky Mountains with the brilliant Ruby Wax, Melanie Brown and Emily Atack in a revealing new travel series, and heading to a beautiful island paradise with a group of young people looking to transform their lives. Meanwhile the inimitable Jeremy Spake is back on our screens lending his expertise as the aviation industry gets back on its feet.

“Elsewhere, we are putting celebrity couples to the ultimate test in an exciting new competition format and Titch Cormack and his team are back in The Speedshop after a successful pilot.

“Factual Entertainment at the BBC should be all about making you feel a little bit better about the world and I hope that these life-affirming new shows do just that.”


Unbreakable (w/t) is a brand new factual entertainment competition from 110% Content coming to BBC One and BBC iPlayer in 2022.

Seven famous faces, paired with their real-life partners, will compete to prove that they have the strongest relationship.

The cast of couples, representing all kinds of romantic love, will put their relationships to the ultimate test by taking part in a series of mental, physical and emotional challenges specifically designed to push their bonds to breaking point.

Funny, relatable, revealing and occasionally terrifying this series will get under the skin of the competing couples, revealing these famous faces in a way the British public has never seen them before.

Managing Director Siobhan Greene and Creative Director Andy Culpin say: “We are thrilled to be producing this series and can’t wait to put our celebrity couples through their paces to find out who has an unbreakable relationship.”

Unbreakable (w/t, 6 x 60) for BBC One and iPlayer is being made by 110% Content where the Managing Director is Siobhan Greene and the Creative Director is Andy Culpin. It was commissioned by Catherine Catton, Head of Commissioning, Popular Factual and Factual Entertainment and the BBC Commissioning Editor is Michael Jochnowitz.


In this new travel format for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer, three generations of female celebrities – Ruby Wax, Melanie Brown and Emily Atack – are coming together to re-trace the footsteps of Isabella Bird, an inspiring female traveller from the 19th century who has often been overshadowed by her male counterparts.

Travelling alone, Isabella Bird crossed the American Wild West, befriending outlaws, climbing mountains, killing rattlesnakes and facing grizzly bears, in what was an often restrictive era for women in Britain.

Our famous trio are using her original 1873 book, A Lady’s Life In The Rocky Mountains as a jumping off point for their own historic American adventure.

In this fun, entertaining, and sometimes poignant adventure series, Ruby, Mel and Emily want to pay homage to a forgotten pioneer, as they explore the people, places, and customs of an ever-changing America.

They’ll challenge themselves in one of the world’s toughest terrains as they journey by any means possible through Colorado’s wild and awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains. After sharing raucous camp side tales and touching stories from their own past, the intrepid trio will reflect on how much has really changed since Isabella’s original journey.

Trailblazers (3×60) is being made by Studio Ramsay. The Executive Producers are Sebastian Grant, Lisa Edwards and Gordon Ramsay and Series Director/ Series Producer is Jill Worsley. It was commissioned by Catherine Catton, Head of Commissioning, Popular Factual and Factual Entertainment and the BBC Commissioning Editor is Max Gogarty.

Warrior Island (w/t)

Exciting new adventure challenge series, Warrior Island (w/t), follows eight young people who want to reset their mind and body.

Set on an exotic island paradise, the new series for BBC Three and iPlayer, made by Baft and Emmy Award-winning TV company Wall To Wall West, will follow eight young people who feel stuck in a rut as they are cut off from the modern world in a month-long programme of transformation aimed at improving their health and wellbeing.

Each of them will be paired with a ‘Warrior’ – experts in their specific fields of fitness and health, from MMA fighters to yogis, personal trainers to endurance athletes – who will mentor and push them every step of the way. Each will have a unique set of skills and an individual approach which they hope will push their trainees out of their comfort zone and overcome the problems they are facing in their life.

Each episode charts the highs and lows of the contributors’ time on the island as they live and train together and culminates with them taking part in a spectacular Warrior challenge inspired by the island’s beautiful but brutal terrain. At the end of 30 intense days, will all eight of the trainees make it through Warrior Island?

Executive Producer Michael Fraser says: “We’re hugely excited to be making this innovative new format for BBC Three. A month in paradise may sound like a dream, but our trainees will quickly learn that this is no holiday, as each is pushed through an incredibly tough regime by their own Warrior, taking on huge physical challenges along the way to test the strength of body and mind. It’s a series that gives a young, diverse cast the opportunity to tackle issues shared by young people across Britain, but within the shape of a brilliantly entertaining reality challenge format.”

Warrior Island w/t (10×60) is being made by Wall To Wall West for BBC Three and BBC iPlayer. Executive Producers for Wall To Wall are Michael Fraser and Gyles Neville and Head of Wall To Wall West, Emily Shields. It was commissioned by Catherine Catton, Head of Commissioning, Popular Factual and Factual Entertainment and the BBC Commissioning Editor is Ricky Cooper. The format is distributed by Warner Bros International Television Production.

Inside The Airport

In this new six-part series produced by Wonderhood Studios for BBC One and BBC iPlayer, aviation expert and television legend Jeremy Spake returns to his old stomping ground, Heathrow, to see how the airport is coping during the most challenging time in its history.

It has been an extraordinary 18 months for aviation. With planes grounding to a halt in March 2020 as the Covid pandemic swept the globe and the industry struggling ever since, Jeremy is welcomed back into Britain’s busiest airport to see how they are striving to get us back in the air, as we emerge from the crisis and the world opens up again.

Jeremy Spake was a Ground Services Manager who became the star of BBC One’s long-running Airport. Since then, he has risen through the ranks of the aviation industry, becoming a global troubleshooter and bringing his 30 years of experience to airlines and airports across the world. This series sees him return to where it all began for him – Heathrow – a place he so dearly loves and wants to see survive.

Inside The Airport: The Return Of Jeremy Spake (6×30’, working title) sees Jeremy welcomed back by Heathrow’s CEO and major airlines to discover the realities and key challenges they face. He spends time with their teams working in frontline roles throughout the airport and aircraft – from engineers to airside operations managers, lounge hosts to pilots, cabin crews retraining after redundancies to panicked passengers navigating their many passenger locator forms.

Jeremy Spake says: “While Covid has been truly devastating for the airline industry globally, it also provides a first chance in more than 20 years to reaffirm high standards, outstanding quality of service and perhaps most importantly gives us an opportunity to press the reset button, by under promising and over-delivering to customers who are eager to reconnect with others face to face. I am delighted to be back at Heathrow and of course BBC One!”

Samantha Anstiss, Chief Creative Officer at Wonderhood Studios, adds: “No one loves aviation more than Jeremy. Balancing the enormous expertise he’s gained around the world with his trademark wit and charisma, he is determined to do whatever he can to help reconnect loved ones, re-start a billion-pound industry and get Britain flying again.”

Inside The Airport: The Return Of Jeremy Spake (w/t) is executive produced by Samantha Anstiss, Emma Lorenz and Rebecca Templar for Wonderhood Studios. It is series produced by Joe Ward and series directed by Aidan Woodward. It was commissioned by Catherine Catton, Head of Commissioning, Popular Factual and Factual Entertainment and The Commissioning Editor is Max Gogarty.

The Speedshop

Following the successful pilot in 2020, this new, popular engineering and adventure series follows custom bike builder, Titch Cormack and his team as they take on a range of mechanical challenges, converting broken and battered vehicles into beautiful, bespoke machines – ready for daring adventures on wheels.

Titch left a 10-year career in UK Special Forces (Special Boat Service) where he specialised in vehicle mobility, to follow his dream, designing, building, and selling custom vintage motorcycles and cars.

In 2016 he converted a derelict former shellfish processing plant on the waterfront in Poole into his vintage workshop, using reclaimed and upcycled materials to create what he describes as a “souped-up man-cave”, where he now builds his unique creations.

Titch is joined by his team: mechanic Billy, an ex-Tank Regiment Commander, who suffered life-changing injuries following an IED explosion in Afghanistan, and John, an ex-Staff Sgt from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers – and all-round ‘guru of engineering’. Their real-life friendship brings warmth and humour to the format.

This six-part series follows this tight-knit gang as they take on an eclectic range of projects, from creating an adapted motorcycle sidecar for a quadriplegic ex Special Forces soldier, to attempting a 700km trans-Iceland ride on modified bikes fitted with hastily designed skis. One week they are refurbishing the oldest Land Rover Defender on the England and Wales Mountain Rescue fleet, the next they’re competing in a brutal, bone-breaking (literally) beach race with Titch on a restored 1974 scrambler, a machine built the same year he was born.

It’s a series filled with heart, camaraderie, and plenty of laughs as these friends and colleagues grant us access to their adventurous engineering world.

The Speedshop, a 6×60’ for BBC Two and iPlayer, is made by Grant Wardrop Productions. It was commissioned by Catherine Catton, Head of Commissioning, Popular Factual and Factual Entertainment. The Executive Producer is Grant Wardrop and the Commissioning Editor is Clare Mottershead.


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:

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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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