BBC Takes On Competition With Major Factual Slate Including Louis Theroux, Simon Schama, Virgil Abloh, Dinosaur Graveyard Shows & Season Three Of ‘Race Across The World’

The BBC has unveiled a factual slate to take on the competition that includes more Louis Theroux Interviews, a Simon Schama personal exploration of post-1945 society, natural history series on a mass dinosaur graveyard and a third season of Race Across The World.

The slate was presented by newly appointed Director of Unscripted Kate Phillips at a press event yesterday morning in Central London, and featured a wealth of new shows and previews of pre-announced fare. Phillips was promoted in a protracted restructure following the departure of Patrick Holland to Banijay last year and she now oversees a huge brief incorporating documentaries, factual entertainment, specialist factual and arts.

Theroux’s series will see him interview the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Stormzy and Bear Grylls and press were treated to a clip in which he speaks to rapper Stormzy about his dating life.

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The BBC stressed the slate is a “British at its heart” offering that will cut through the immense non-scripted competition currently out there on a range of commercial broadcasters and streaming services. “We have to do something to bring eyeballs back to our screens and as part of that we need to make noise,” said Popular Factual and Factual Entertainment commissioning Editor Clare Mottershead. Her comments came a day after the RTS London event, where competition for eyeballs was a major talking point.

Speaking to Deadline after the screening, Phillips said the BBC’s supercharging of its iPlayer service increases the need for more regular, quality factual content at a time when the competition is stiffer than it has ever been.

“People are burning through our shows faster than ever on iPlayer and so we need something to give them,” she added. “These shows entertain as well as inform.”

Phillips said it helps for her to have a top-level view of each factual department, allowing her to bring genres together when the BBC is looking to make shows about topical issues such as the cost-of-living crisis.

The slate in depth

Simon Schama’s History of Now will see the ever-popular historian embark on his most personal project to date, revisiting the role of artists, writers and musicians in mid-twentieth century society.

Meanwhile, and in an interesting development, youth-skewing BBC Three has ordered its first arts show about fashion artist Virgil Abloh, Kanye West’s former right hand man who died late last year. Virgil Abloh: How to be Both (working title) will show how the founder of Off-White and Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton menswear was able to liberate a generation.

Specialist Factual commissioning head Jack Bootle commissioned Mission Jurassic (working title), profiling a unique dig site in Wyoming where a mass dinosaur graveyard lies. Presenter Liz Bonnin has spent three years helping uncover the secrets in the site but digging conditions are harsh, with sandstorms and thunderstorms threatening to destroy the fragile bones before they are even out of the ground.

Elsewhere, the third season of Studio Lambert’s Race Across the World was one of the first and most high profile series to shut down when the Covid pandemic struck and season three will now move from BBC Two to BBC One, as reward for high ratings. Starting in Vancouver, the show, in which pairs of travellers set off across the globe chasing a £20,000 ($21,400) prize, was described by the BBC as “the most extreme to date.”

Other shows on the slate include Parole, which has behind-the-scenes access of a British Parole Board, factual entertainment format Craft Your Own Christmas with Stacey Solomon (working title), Agatha Christie: Mystery Queen (working title) hosted by Lucy Worsley and The Secret Genius of Everything about the golden age of technology.

The press preview event also showcased clips from upcoming Cara Delevingne doc series Planet Sex (working title) and The Elon Musk Show. 

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