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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine