One by-product of the streaming revolution is that TV has become more international. The demand for content has led to foreign-language shows like “The Killing” or “Borgen” becoming international phenomena, as well as an increasing tolerance for subtitled drama in series like “Narcos” or “Sense8.” But English-language shows are always going to be the easiest to catch on, and the British TV industry has been the biggest beneficiary of that.
There’s been a wave of successful UK comedies like “Fleabag” and “Chewing Gum” (so much so that we dedicated an entire feature to it, in fact), but it’s paid off for drama as well with shows like “Peaky Blinders,” “The Fall” and “Happy Valley,” among others. They’ve found healthy audiences on Netflix, not to mention the success of “Downton Abbey,” “The Crown” and similar costume dramas. And the BBC look to take full advantage of this, unveiling new dramas this week catering to every taste.
One that’s already in production, and that we’ve been anticipating for a while, is a new co-production with Starz – a four-part miniseries take on E.M. Forster’s, “Howard’s End.” Previously memorably adapted to Oscar-winning effect by James Ivory and starring Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham-Carter, and Emma Thompson, this new take is written by Oscar-winning “Manchester On The Sea” writer/director Kenneth Lonergan – though he doesn’t direct – “Doctor Who” helmer Hettie Macdonald takes that job instead.
It focuses on two sisters (Hayley Atwell and Philippa Coulthard), the former of whom is wooed by an older widower (Matthew MacFayden), the latter of whom attempts to help a young bank clerk (Joseph Quinn). Julia Ormond, Tracey Ullman, Alex Lawther and Miles Jupp also star, and Deadline have unveiled a first look at Atwell and MacFayden in the series.
Otherwise, the BBC’s slate, not yet in production for the most part, include a new TV version of “The War Of The Worlds” written by “Doctor Who” and “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell“‘s Peter Harness, which is likely to retain the Victorian setting. Intriguingly, there’s also a remake of Powell & Pressburger’s “Black Narcissus,” or more accurately, a new version of Rumer Godden’s book. A three-parter from “Ex Machina” producers DNA Films (keeping it in the family, it’s set up Pressburger’s grandson Andrew Macdonald), it’s written by Amanda Coe.
Stephen Frears will direct a three-part political drama based on real events, “A Very British Scandal,” about the leader of the UK’s Liberal party accused of murder. Meanwhile, Ruth Wilson will star in “The Wilsons,” in which the “Luther” actress will play her own grandmother, who discovers that her late husband was a bigamist.
And there’s more: Vikram Seth’s, “A Suitable Boy” will be the first BBC period drama with an all non-white cast; a new three-part take on “Little Women” is in the works; and the very talented Joe Barton (“Humans”) has penned thriller “Giri/Haji,” produced in conjunction with Netflix about a middle-aged Japanese detective who travels to London in search of his brother. Seems like a solid line-up to us.