BBCAmerica has been a channel in a constant state of flux in recent years. At one time, it was the premiere destination for British imports, but recently it has become preoccupied with picking up the slack for the SyFy channel (which in turn has become like a genre version of its sister channel USA) by bringing viewers a wide variety of genre series, many of them American made. That was good news for SciFi fans, perhaps, but disheartening for everyone else. Thankfully, that’s all about to change.
According to a press release, BBCA has ordered its first original scripted series, Copper, set to debut Summer 2012. The series will follow an Irish cop as he works his beat in 1860’s New York, and it comes with an impressive pedigree thanks to co-creators Tom Fontana (Oz, Homicide: Life on the Street) and Will Rokos (Southland). In addition to Copper, the channel also announced it had picked up two original reality series from brand-friendly stars Graham Norton and Richard Hammond, with five more original reality series currently in development.
After years of filling their schedule with imports and classic American series, BBCA is now officially joining the original programming race and if Copper is any indication, they’re positioning themselves to become a prestige destination on par with AMC.
That doesn’t mean the channel is turning its back on genre viewers or fans of quality British television, it seems just the opposite is true. BBCA is finally restoring some semblance of order and diversity to their schedule with new themed programming blocks focusing on Drama, Comedy and SciFi series.
The “Dramaville” block, hosted by Emmy-nominee Idris Elba, debuts August 17, with the ‘50s era newsroom drama The Hour, followed by season two of Luther in the fall and new series Whitechapel in the winter, is sure to help BBCA compete with PBS’s Masterpiece series and lure back viewers looking for more serious fare than the channel has become known for showing in recent years.
The already established “Ministry of Laughs” comedy block is getting an infusion of new blood on July 30, thanks to family-centric series Outnumbered and Friday Night Dinner. Britcom fans were perhaps the group hit hardest by BBCA’s growing pains, but the comedy block’s new schedule is a step in the right direction, bringing American viewers a variety of popular sitcoms that have never been available on our side of the pond before.
Finally, genre fans need not worry about BBCA outgrowing its stalwart “Supernatural Saturday” block. The last half of Doctor Who season six debuts on August 27, and when The Doctor completes his run in October, new series Bedlam will be there to take his place. This is of course, in addition to the near endless Battlestar Galactica and The X-Files reruns already populating the schedule.
These blocks, along with the robust and ever-growing reality line-up and a new season of Law and Order: UK, are a clear sign that the BBCA brand is getting a much needed makeover. The channel’s focus on a cohesive, ordered schedule as well as a new found interest in the original programming game could put it in a position to be a forced to be reckoned with in coming years. Either way, the news is terrific for fans of quality British programming—especially for the ones who happen to be American.