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BBC America Changes Strategy and Shows as Ancier Takes Over

July 19th, 2007 · No Comments

“Hotel Babylon,” “Torchwood” and “Jekyll” highlight fall lineup for former head of NBC, Fox, WB and Dis TV

By Carmen Wong

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HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 07/19/07 – BBC America, which previously aired lots of re-runs of BBC crossover US hits such as “Monty Python” and “Dr. Who,” is shaking things up with a fall lineup which includes more new original programming straight from BBC one week after it airs in the UK, and three new shows, “Hotel Babylon,” “Torchwood” and “Jekyll.”

After just five months of running BBC America, Garth Ancier, president of BBC Worldwide America, is redesigning everything and has the track record to indicate he can make BBC mean a lot more in the US. He is the biggest piece of talent BBC has ever brought on for their US efforts, having been head of three major network entertainment divisions: NBC, FOX and The WB, as well as president of production at Walt Disney Television.

Specifically, he is creating block nights where for six nights of the week programming will be geared towards a specific demographic and will have a specific theme.

“At BBC America it has been a time of great activity, and it has somewhat redefined the channel because it offers viewers a clear sort of navigatable schedule on a cable network,” said Ancier.

BBC America has replaced library shows with contemporary, edgy content that will have the same time slot each week. Ancier specifically chose popular shows from Britain that will fit into a series format to provide consistency week after week. It makes sense as some of the top shows on US TV, such as “The Office” and “American Idol” are re-tooling of Brit series, so why not be the first network in the market for the next one to cross over.

Ancier jokes that these past five months have “actually been a very cool and exciting time, much more fun and different than what I’ve been doing with U.S. broadcasting companies,” said Ancier “I’ve learned a lot of new words, things like woolly jumper and wellies, which for those of you who want to know, it’s sweaters and galoshes.”

Every night primetime will begin at 7pm with global news, they are currently using a feed from BBC World but they will soon have a special US facing hour long news cast that will be produced by executive producer, Rome Hartman, directly from BBC World Washington DC office.

According to Ancier, BBCnews.com and BBC.com are the 5th largest website news source for Americans. “This is sort of extraordinary when you realize it’s based in London. So looking at this from a news-background standpoint, I thought this was a huge asset — to have this largest news organization in the world not really used very well on BBC America,” said Ancier “We hope to raise the profile of BBC news in this country.”

The fall line up kicks off with murder Monday’s which will feature British crime dramas. Tuesday nights will be a male-oriented night. It will include the British hit “MI-5” and “Top Gear,” a UK phenomenon car show where they blow up cars that no one likes and drive cars that everyone wish they owned at 200 miles per hour.

Wednesday nights are dubbed the wicked and glamorous with “Footballers Wives” and the new show “Hotel Babylon.” The show is based on the series by Imogen Edwards-Jones. It is about the behind the scenes lives of London’s sexy, seductive world of the five-star hotel industry where money can buy you anything. The show stars Tamzin Outhwaite and Charlie Edwards

Big Thursdays will feature Brits like Gordon Ramsay and Graham Norton in a show called “Dragon’s Den,” a real-life drama with would-be entrepreneurs pitching ferociously ideas to a panel of very mean multi-millionaires to get funding.

Crime scene Fridays will feature a block of “Waking the Dead,” a series featuring a team of CID police officers, a psychological profiler and a forensic scientist/ pathologist, and “Silent Witness,” a long-running thriller first broadcast in 1996.

And supernatural Saturdays, the highest-rated night on BBC America, will have two new shows “Torchwood,” a science fiction show starrig John Barrowman and Eve Myles. The show deals with supernatural occurances. It is a glossy, sexy 13-part sci-fi drama, from the makers of “Dr. Who.” And from the creator of “Coupling” comes “Jekyll,” a drama serial inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.”

The show is not a literal adaptation but it contains the same themes and parallels many incidents and names related to the novel. Intresting to note is that the transformation into the terrifying Mr Hyde is done mostly by facial expression changes and subtle changes to other aspects of his physical appearance. The show stars James Nesbitt and Michelle Ryan.

“We’re extremely proud of “Jekyll” and also extremely proud that it’s a BBC America co-production,” said Ancier. “Jekyll will be premiering on the channel on August 4th at 8 p.m.

Ancier served as President of NBC Entertainment in 1999, became a co-chairman at The WB in September 2003 until the network became The CW.

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