BBC to make 'Question Time - The Opera'

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The Independent Online

Move over Jerry Springer, the next talk-show host to be immortalised in song could be the Question Time presenter David Dimbleby as part of a BBC deal to develop six made-for-television operas.

Move over Jerry Springer, the next talk-show host to be immortalised in song could be the Question Time presenter David Dimbleby as part of a BBC deal to develop six made-for-television operas.

The BBC has commissioned the team behind the award-winning West End musical Jerry Springer - The Opera to write and produce a series of bespoke comic operas based on different television formats.

Question Time, the long running BBC1 political discussion show hosted by Mr Dimbleby, is one of the programmes earmarked by the creative team. BBC2 has also secured the rights to televise Jerry Springer - The Opera . The show will be broadcast in early January - after the 9pm watershed on account of its explicit content.

Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas, who created the West End musical show, and their producer Jon Thoday of Avalon Television, will spend the next year developing the BBC operas - which are expected to be half an hour in duration.

The deal is part of a broader process within the BBC to modernise its arts output. It follows on the heels of BBC3's hugely popular Flashmob: The Opera event. This unannounced opera performance took place at London's Paddington station in October, members of the public were invited to attend by text messages sent earlier that day.

Franny Moyle, head of arts commissioning at the BBC, said the new commissions were part of a wider brief to "revive and reinvigorate the arts, to make them more accessible".

"We've been after Jerry Springer for quite a long time because it felt so fresh and modern, cheeky and witty," she said. "We're delighted we can capture that. But I'm particularly concerned that we develop stuff that's bespoke to television - informed by classical tradition, but reinventing it in television's own terms. The BBC hopes the series will introduce a new generation of viewers to opera. What they are proposing is something that feels comedic and relevant to a television audience and may well draw on recognisable TV formats in the way that Jerry Springer does, but taking that on. Question Time is down as a current culture format that they might want to parody."

David Soul, who played Hutch in the 1970s television show Starsky & Hutch and who is currently starring as the American chat-show host in the West End, will also play the part of Jerry Springer in the BBC version, which will be recorded later this month. Jerry Springer - The Opera is inspired by the US chat show in which guests discuss personal and sexual affairs, often in very heated language.

The West End show came close to closure last month as a result of poor audience figures and a rising legal bill from a dispute with the Daily Mail over an article which wrongly said it was losing money "hand over fist".

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