BBC looks to the past in its autumn line-up

The BBC unveiled an autumn schedule yesterday dominated by history programmes, including drama documentaries set in ancient Rome.

Two programmes will cover the destruction of Pompeii and the lives of the gladiators while others will explore the reigns of Queen Victoria and Charles II.

But the corporation has come up with no big ideas for cracking the enduring problem of attracting viewers on Saturday nights.

A question mark was placed over the future of Top of the Pops. Andi Peters, the former children's television presenter, has been hired to revamp the corporation's long-running chart show and make it relevant at a time when singles sales have collapsed. Lorraine Heggessey, the channel's controller, did not rule out the possibility of Top of the Pops being shunted to the digital channel BBC 3. She said: "When I was a kid it was really big news 'what's got to number one on a Sunday'. Now it's not big news."

Ms Heggessey denied she had presented a worthy and educational schedule because of concerns over the renewal of the BBC's charter. "This is not a schedule for charter renewal," she said. "We are trying to build a channel that would have enduring success. We are not trying to pump short-term profit out of it."

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius AD79 has been recreated in minute detail using computer graphics, and featuring a cast of actors, in a 90-minute drama documentary called Pompeii - The Last Day. Ailsa Orr, the producer, said the programme would counter the long-standing myth that the people of Pompeii were killed by molten lava rather than the 4 million tons of rock and ash that rained down on the city.

Colosseum, an hour-long drama documentary, similarly aims to correct misrepresentations made in the Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator which starred Russell Crowe.

Jonathan Stamp, the drama's executive producer, said gladiators were not the underclass portrayed in the movie, but were the professional footballers of their day, commanding transfer fees and enjoying a good standard of living. He said: "The other misconception we are trying to correct is that all bouts ended in a fatality. That's not the case. Gladiators were too rich a commodity for their owners to allow that to happen."

Mr Stamp, also produced Looking for Victoria, a portrayal of the former Queen of England by the actress Prunella Scales. "Victoria was anything but prudish," he said. "She had a big appetite for everything and she loved living the high life."

Other programmes on the schedule include the relaunch of the sports entertainment show Superstars, once famous for the sight of the former England football player and manager Kevin Keegan falling off his bike.

A new series, The Crouches, will be BBC1's first sitcom centred on a black family.

An underwater version of the highly successful Walking with Dinosaurs series will use sophisticated computer images to create prehistoric sea monsters.

There will also be shows on the veteran rock star Rod Stewart and a tribute to Rolf Harris for 50 years in showbusiness.

The BBC said a full-time host for the quiz show Have I Got News For You had yet to be found after the departure of Angus Deayton. A spokesman said that the show would continue with guest presenters.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Programmatic Business Development Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: As the Programmatic Business Dev...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Trainee Recruitment C...

European Retail Sales Manager, Consumer Products

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: My client is looking for an...

Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

£60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album