BBC2 enlists Winston Churchill for television war

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The Independent Online

The actor Albert Finney will portray Winston Churchill in a new BBC drama focusing on the statesman's pre-War years.

The film, to be screened on BBC2, will also star Vanessa Redgrave as Churchill's wife, Clementine, and unique insights into their personal life are promised. Announced yesterday as part of BBC2's spring and summer schedules, the film has the blessing of Churchill's heirs.

Churchill – The Gathering Storm, with a screenplay by the playwright Hugh Whitemore, concentrates on the Thirties, which he spent in the political wilderness, desperate to regain power.

The film sees the return to television after a 14-year absence of Ronnie Barker in the role of Churchill's manservant.

One of BBC2's most controversial offerings will be a fly-on-the-wall look at Scotland Yard's paedophile unit. A camera crew spent two years with the unit; and viewers will see how detectives face the task of trying to infiltrate paedophile gangs. One paedophile was asked by the producer if he could be shown on television without his face being obscured. The man told the producer he would know soon enough. Three hours later the man committed suicide and left a note giving permission for his interview to be transmitted unobscured.

Jane Root, the BBC2 controller, stressed the channel's quest for seriousness. Critics have accused the BBC of drifting downmarket. Ms Root said: "Our biggest increase in audience tends to come at 9pm when we have been doing really serious and sophisticated programmes. In the summer we will counter Big Brother on Channel 4 with serious programmes, history and science and current affairs."