documentaries

Channel 5's Ben Frow swaps Big Brother for "life-affirming" shows

Ben Frow

It’s a good time to sit down with Ben Frow, Channel 5’s director of programmes. A purple patch that started with the station winning Channel of the Year at the Edinburgh TV Awards last August has just been topped with the station’s best Christmas since 2005 – and all this after Frow’s “carnage” assessment of the first half of the year.

From his now much more comfortable perch, the executive is happy to reel off a catalogue of titles that, in those first months of 2018, passed most of the nation by.

Channel 4 promises more distinctive content for 2019

Ed Stafford will explore homelessness for Channel 4 (Credit: C4)

The new shows are part of a deliberate drive by the channel to offer distinctive content, in a bid to beat competition from streaming services and other broadcasters.

At the launch of the new slate, Ian Katz, the channel’s Director of Programming, said he wants to focus on “entertaining, mischievous and innovative shows about the big issues and arguments in Britain today.”

He added: “Many of the shows [launching in 2019] are not ones that the global digital giants, even as they plough billions into new content, would be remotely interested in making.”

Reggie Yates’ diversity documentary among new BBC commissions

Reggie Yates (Credit: BBC/Ellis Parrinder)

The BBC Two documentary will be joined by a host of specialist programmes that range from the artistry of dance to new series The Novels That Shaped Our World (w/t), which will mark the 300th anniversary of Robinson Crusoe and the origins behind the British novel.

“This year we’ll be giving you a front-row seat to the best in arts and culture from celebrating the novel and the art of poetry with landmark programing, to encouraging participation in the arts with the return of Get Creative,” said Jonty Claypole, Director of Arts at BBC.

Comedians head home for Comedy Central

Tom Allen hosting the RTS Craft & Design Awards 2018 (Credit: RTS / Richard Kendal)

The Comedy Bus (w/t) will follow six comedians as they travel to each of their hometowns to see how they have changed over the years.

Joining Dommett and Stirling for a trip down memory lane are Mock the Week regular Tom Allen, Suzi Ruffell, Darren Harriott and Kiri Pritchard-Mclean.

The series will be produced by Sacha Baron Cohen and Andrew Newman’s company Spelthorne Community Television

So you want to work in observational documentaries?

Havana Marking, Peter Beard, Lizzie Kempton and Peter Dale (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)
At an RTS Futures event in early November, National Film and Television School head of documentaries  Peter Dale chaired a debate on what it takes to be a great observational documentary film-maker. 

One of the panel, Lizzie Kempton, was the assistant producer on the Grierson Award-winning BBC Two film, How to Die: Simon’s Choice, which tells the story of a man with an aggressive form of motor neurone disease who chooses to end his life.

SO YOU WANT TO WORK IN OBSERVATIONAL DOCUMENTARIES...?

He’ll be joined by some of the top filmmakers in the country including Peter Beard of Story Films whose 2015 film My Son The Jihadi  won a Bafta for best Documentary and whose other work includes landmark series 24 Hours in A&E24 Hours in Police Custody, and Kids on The Edge and  Havana Marking, Sundance winning director of Smash and Grab and Afghan Star and Executive Producer of O