Channel 5 announces return to original British drama - putting further pressure on its rival Channel 4

Director of Programmes says commissions will 'add texture and diversity'

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The Independent Culture

Channel 5 announced a return to original British drama after an absence of eight years yesterday, putting further pressure on its commercial rival Channel 4.

Evidence will be a ten-part police procedural drama which will use filming techniques normally associated with fly-on-the-wall documentaries.

Channel 4 yesterday raised the bar with its own drama output by announcing Blackout, a groundbreaking project which will portray the likely effects of a cyber attack on the national electricity grid, fusing real footage of power cuts with pictures shot by actors on mobile phones and laptops.

Nick Mirsky, Channel 4's deputy head of Factual programming, said: “This is a completely new and innovative way to dramatize our total dependence on electricity by asking what would happen if Britain were to be plunged into darkness - not for a few hours, but for five days.”

Ben Frow, Director of Programmes Channel 5 said the return of drama, along with some other original programme commissions from the Richard Desmond-owned network, including a drama documentary on Sir Francis Walsingham, would “add texture and diversity” to Channel 5 and “play nicely alongside the rest of the schedule”.

Channel 5 recently claimed a victory over its older broadcasting rival when it momentarily overhauled Channel 4 in the ratings, thanks to interest in its Ashes cricket highlights and the enduring popularity of its reality show Big Brother.

Drama is one of Channel 4’s outstanding suits and the return of Channel 5 to the genre will place it under further pressure, even if the work is unlikely to be of the same standard and ambition. Channel 4 is currently enjoying a strong run in drama with acclaimed productions including The Mill, Southcliffe and Top Boy.

The network yesterday announced a raft of new dramas of its own. As well as Blackout, Channel 4 has commissioned from Warner Brothers International a remake of the original UK television series The Tomorrow People, a science fiction drama about a group of humans with paranormal powers. Another futuristic drama, The 100, set in an era after the Earth has been subjected to a nuclear apocalypse, has been commissioned by Channel 4 from the same producer. Both shows will be screened on E4.

Evidence is being produced for Channel 5 by Fremantle Media and the series if being executive produced by Paul Marquess, known for his work on The Bill, Footballers’ Wives and Hollyoaks. Donna Wiffen, Head of FremantleMedia’s Worldwide Drama division, said: “Innovation is a big part of our strategy right now and we are confident that this unique drama format will have universal appeal and will attract further local commissions.”