`Living history' inspires C4 schedule

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THE SUCCESS of Channel 4's programme The 1900 House, in which a family volunteered to live in turn-of-the-century conditions, has spawned a new "living history" television genre. The first follow-up series, provisionally entitled Escape from Colditz, will be screened on Channel 4 later this year.

A spokesman for the channel said that the three-part production would take Colditz veterans back to the prison castle to relive their experiences, while young army recruits would perform replica escape attempts on site.

The recruits taking part in the series, as with the family in The 1900 House, have to deal with the dilemmas and conditions of the time. In Escape from Colditz that will include working out how to forge keys, smuggle maps and make replica German uniforms.

The new series, launched as part of Channel 4's winter schedule, will also send an archaeology team to look for evidence of tunnels, hide- outs and false ceilings erected by prisoners at the castle.

The 1900 House has become Channel 4's most popular show, breaking a duopoly long held by Brookside and Friends. The programme's success made it inevitable that other "living history" programmes would be commissioned. One show, still in development, will challenge scientists to replicate great scientific breakthroughs using the equipment and scientific source material of earlier generations.

Overall, the channel's winter schedule signals a return to longer, more serious factual programmes. Channel 4's director of programmes, Tim Gardam, said: "ITV's decision to move News at Ten has provided us with an opportunity to deliver demanding, edgy and ambitious factual programmes at that time of the evening."

He said that the channel would be running many more one-hour serious factual programmes in the coming season than have been evident over the past year or so.

Although new shows about sex are uncharacteristically absent from the schedule, Mr Gardam says that "death is the new sex", and Channel 4 will broadcast a six-part series, Great Undertakings, looking at "death, mourning and the human condition through the eyes of funeral directors".

Channel 4 also confirmed yesterday that its controversial drama Queer as Folk is to have a second run and will give rise to a spin-off late- night gay soap series.