Abi Morgan won an Emmy on Sunday night for writing The Hour, a co-production from BBC America and Shine-owned Kudos, which aired on the UK’s BBC Two. With The Hour cancelled last season, some of the partners are coming back together for new drama, River. Commissioned by flagship channel BBC One, the six-part series is created and written by Morgan and produced by Kudos; BBC America is not currently involved. It centers on John River, a brilliant police officer who walks a professional tightrope between a pathology so extreme he risks permanent dismissal, and a healthy state of mind that would cure him of his gift. Morgan says, “River is a fractured mind navigating a brutal world. And he does it wearing a police badge. I can’t think of a better home for it than the BBC. The chance to tell big stories in a bold way on a channel that embraces so many writers, directors and actors I admire and respect is a huge treat.” Shooting starts in London in next year for air in 2015. Casting is underway. This could go some way to appeasing fans of The Hour, the 1950s-set newsroom drama that ran for two seasons and was cancelled by the BBC in February. Ratings had dropped, but fans were stalwart in attempts to challenge the network’s decision.
Andrew Davies, who wrote the script for The Three Musketeers and a slew of BBC period dramas, is adapting Lindy Woodhead’s nonfiction bestseller Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge for ITV Studios. I’m told that ITV hopes the story of how brash American retailer Harry Gordon Selfridge –”The Showman of Shopping” — opened the world’s first purpose-built department store in London in 1909 will repeat the success of Downton Abbey. That NBC Universal production has been a huge hit over here for ITV. Certainly there’s a plum role for the American actor playing Selfridge, who blew his fortune on mistresses and gambling before dying destitute. Selfridge’s girlfriends included famed dancer Isadora Duncan and Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. His massive overspending ultimately cost him control of Selfridges.
The second series of Downton Abbey, meanwhile, started shooting on location at Highclere stately home in Berkshire in March. Filming continues until July. PBS Masterpiece will premiere the second series on Jan. 8, 2012, following its ITV run starting this fall.
But that’s not the only bonnet-on-bonnet action coming your way on Masterpiece.
The second series of the BBC’s Upstairs Downstairs, a sequel to the original 1970s ITV show that chronicled the lives of the Edwardian Bellamy family, goes into production in September. The BBC originally announced its Upstairs Downstairs remake at the same time ITV unveiled Downton Abbey. “Upstairs Downstairs is elegantly entertaining but doesn’t reach the same heights as Downton Abbey,” sniffed the Daily Telegraph. Still, BBC1 controller Danny Cohen was pleased enough with the average 8.4 million viewers to commission another 6×60-minute series. There is no U.S. transmission date for Series 2 yet.
BBC America has come on board to co-produce the new six-part drama series The Hour, announced in November by BBC Two. The series, which will premiere in the summer on BBC America, was created and written by BAFTA-winning Abi Morgan (White Girl). It is a spy thriller set behind the scenes …