ITV Commissions New Episodes of 'Scott and Bailey'

ITV has ordered a new three-part special series of popular detective drama Scott & Bailey.

Stars Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp are back as Rachel Scott and Janet Bailey, the odd couple-ish crimefighting partnership forged over four previous series. This new season will feature a single crime story told over the course of all three installments, and will be “one of the biggest and darkest cases” that the detective duo has ever had to face.

The new three episode order marks a fairly significant format switch for the show, whose previous seasons clocked in at between six (Season 1) and eight episodes (Seasons 2-4) each. Of course, those episodes were all standalone installments in the sense that they lacked an overarching case between them – though I’d argue that many thematic and character beats carried over each week – instead of a serialized narrative.

Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi Set to Star in Vicious for ITV

Two of the all-time British acting greats – and two of my personal favorites, generally – are joining forces in a new comedy sitcom for ITV. Legends Sir Ian McKellen (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, X-Men) and Sir Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius, Cadfael, Doctor Who) are teaming up to star in gay comedy Vicious, a six-part series written by former Family Guy and Will & Grace producer Gary Janetti.

Formerly titled Vicious Old Queens (a title that I admittedly loved to pieces and wish that they’d kept), the sitcom will feature McKellen and Jacobi as an elderly gay couple who have lived together in the same Covent Garden apartment for nearly fifty years. Long retired, the duo spends most of their time on boring arguments and petty bickering (and, one must assume, just being generally awesome.) Frances De La Tour (Rising Damp, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) will play their best friend Violet. Plot details are fairly sketchy at the moment, but apparently the lives of Freddie (McKellen) and Stuart (Jacobi) will be turned upside down by the arrival of their new upstairs neighbor, Ash.

Just to give you a hint at my excitement level about this: Vicious is now basically my most anticipated series for next year, barring only the third season of Sherlock. There is simply no way that this isn’t going to be brilliant, with this kind of talent attached. Both McKellen and Jacobi are simply fantastic actors and one has to assume that getting them both agree to do a TV series (short a season as it is) is a pretty huge coup for ITV.

The existence of this sitcom at all is also a pretty bold choice for the network, despite the star power attached. While ITV soap operas Coronation Street and Emmerdale have both featured gay characters, greenlighting a show with gay leads is pretty rare. A sitcom such as this isn’t entirely groundbreaking, but it’s certainly uncommon and the network is justifiably proud of it. "ITV is thrilled this exciting and bold sitcom, with stellar performers and writing talent is to join the increasing slate of new look comedy shows on the channel," said Myfanwy Moore, ITV comedy commissioning editor.

Both McKellen and Jacobi are openly gay themselves and both have lived with long-term partners for years. McKellen himself has stated that his orientation has helped him be a better actor, because he spent years “pretending to be someone else.” It will be interesting to see how much the actors own personal stories end up coloring their performances.

There’s little to go on out there that might indicate what sort of comedy Vicious will turn out to be – the press release calls it “wicked,” but will it fall in the dry and biting intellectual camp or lean more toward the campy side? Will it be an average situational comedy or more of a drama hybrid? We simply don’t know yet, but it’s hard to imagine that two actors of this caliber would have signed on if they weren’t confident of its likely quality.

No word on when Vicious will film, but internet rumors suggest an airdate at some point in late 2013. Countdown clock: on.

Andrew Scott, Martin Clunes and More to Star in ITV’s New Drama The Town

Sherlock star Andrew Scott is set to headline a new three-part contemporary drama for ITV called The Town. Scott will star alongside what looks to be a truly outstanding ensemble cast, which includes many names you’ll recognize, including Martin Clunes (Doc Martin), Julia McKenzie (Miss Marple), Charlotte Riley (DCI Banks), Gerard Kearns (Shameless) and Kelly Adams (Holby City).

Scott, who recently won a BAFTA for his portrayal of Holmes’ nemesis Moriarty, will play Mark Nicholas, a man who returns to his hometown after ten years away and struggles to reconnect with those he left behind – including his family, friends and former sweetheart, who is now married with a child. MacKenzie plays his grandmother Betty, Riley is his first love Alice, and Clunes is the town’s alcohol-soaked mayor, Len.

The Town is being written by Laurence Olivier award-winning playwright Mike Bartlett and produced by Big Talk Productions, the company behind Rev, Friday Night Dinner and Him & Her. (All of which are outstanding programs, so this bodes well!)

“We’re thrilled to be making our first original drama series for the fantastic team at ITV. At the heart of The Town will be a family struggling to come to terms with change,” said Big Talk’s CEO and The Town’s co-executive producer Kenton Allen. “It’s also our hope to paint a picture of contemporary Britain through the magnifying glass of an ordinary market town.”

“These communities are desperate for a sense of purpose and direction. They face the same challenges we all do. A shrinking economy, under-employment, crime and a struggle to educate our children. Mike's real skill is to craft a compelling and entertaining drama at the heart of such a world,” added co-executive producer Simon Curtis.

Filming on the three-part series began this week. No word yet on possible screening dates in the UK, nor whether this series will be broadcast internationally. Here’s hoping that US Sherlock-mania will help bring this drama across the pond!

Inspector Morse Prequel Endeavour Commissioned for a New Four-Part Series

Earlier this year, UK broadcaster ITV aired a one off TV-film prequel to the beloved Inspector Morse mysteries. Called Endeavour, the drama features Shaun Evans stepping into the role made famous by John Thaw for a look at the beginning of the detective’s career. The prequel, set in 1965, chronicles Endeavour Morse’s early days on the force in Oxford, when he is given the career making opportunity to investigate the murder of a fifteen year old girl.

Those of us in America haven’t even seen Endeavour for ourselves yet – it’s slated to air this summer on Masterpiece Mysterybut, even so, all the Morse fans out there can breathe an early sigh of relief. The one-off film proved so popular for ITV that the drama is already set to return for a full series. Four two-hour episodes have been confirmed, to be filmed on location in Oxford later this year, presumably for a 2013 broadcast. Roger Allam will also return as young Morse’s senior partner Inspector Fred Thursday, as well as James Bradshaw who plays Dr. Max Debryn. Thaw’s daughter, Abigail, will also make further guest appearances in the new episodes.

“It was fantastic that the audience responded so warmly to Endeavour,” said Sally Haynes of the ITV Drama Commissioning team. “Shaun’s portrayal of a legendary character was captivating and Endeavour thoroughly deserves a series – there’s so much more we can do with the character."

Source: ITV Press Centre

ITV Announces a New Edwardian Drama in Wake of Downton Abbey’s Success

UK network ITV will follow up the success of costume drama Downton Abbey with another period piece set during the Edwardian era. The drama – provisionally titled simply Mr. Selfridge – will tell the story of visionary American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge who transformed Oxford Street with the store that still bears his name.

Per the official press release, “The drama will be set in 1909, at a time when women were reveling in a new sense of freedom and modernity. Harry wanted to indulge, empower and celebrate these women and so opened the doors of his lavish department store, on London’s famous Oxford Street. Click through if you'd like a few more details on the upcoming series' plot!