BBC America travels beyond "Doctor Who" for new hits

Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:33am EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If you thought BBC America was all about time-traveling doctors and men behaving badly in cars, get ready to adjust your TV set.

The cable network that introduced Americans to colorful British talent like Ricky Gervais, chef Gordon Ramsay and the car series "Top Gear" is making a big push into original programing in a bid to better compete with fast-growing U.S. channels.

Think "Mad Men", but with cut-glass British accents and a political thriller element, and you have "The Hour" -- a six episode new co-production beginning on August 17, that will launch BBC America's "Dramaville" block every Wednesday night.

Starring Dominic West of "The Wire", "Atonement" actress Romola Garai, and critically-acclaimed young Briton Ben Wishaw, "The Hour" is set in the fledgling world of investigative television news in 1956 London.

But "The Hour" is just a taste of things to come, says BBC America general manger Simon Perry.

Thirteen years after it was established in 1998, the cable channel has just announced its first original scripted drama

-- a series called "Copper" set in the immigration melting pot of 1860s New York and featuring a young Irish police officer. It will debut in the summer of 2012.

It has also given the go-ahead to two new reality series featuring BBC America favorites, talk show host Graham Norton and "Top Gear" presenter Richard Hammond, and the network has five other unscripted pilots in development.   Continued...

<p>Actor Dominic West, shown on a video screen via satellite from London, takes part in a panel discussion about the BBC America series "The Hour", in which he is acting, during the 2011 Summer Television Critics Association Cable Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California, in this July 28, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files</p>