Jordan creates new family drama to fill Doctor Who teatime slot

Exclusive: Red Planet Pictures, the production company founded by ex-EastEnders writer Tony Jordan, is creating a major new family drama series for BBC1′s all-important Saturday evening teatime slot.

Jordan said he hoped the series – which has the working title of The Ministry – would replicate the success Doctor Who and Robin Hood have had at that time in the schedule.

The slot is a crucial part of the broadcaster’s weekend line-up and is designed to provide programming for all of the family.

Jordan said the series would be 13 or 14 episodes long, with each lasting 45 minutes. Doctor Who writers Stephen Greenhorn and Gareth Roberts are on board to develop scripts for the show.

“It’s a really cool show for the BBC1 early evening slot on Saturdays, which we are really excited about,” Jordan said. “We have really high hopes for it. It’s an anything goes-type show that we hope the whole family will sit down together and watch in the way they do with Doctor Who.”

Although unable to reveal much detail about the series’ plot, Jordan described the show as one in which “you can tell any kind of story”.

He claimed it was important to create new dramas for the Saturday night teatime schedule, rather than bringing back old ones.

Jordan said: “There is always temptation to bring back old formats like Robin Hood, but I thought it would be interesting to create a new one for that slot. We are giving the TV producers of 2028 something to bring back.”

Red Planet Pictures, which is behind BBC1′s HolbyBlue and is co-producer of ITV’s Moving Wallpaper/ Echo Beach, is also developing a period drama, an animation series and a “high-end, tough, contemporary police drama”, which Jordan said would be similar to Prime Suspect and consist of 90-minute specials.

The production company is also working on a comedy series with The League of Gentlemen’s Mark Gatiss and Nighty Night’s Julia Davis, who have been brought in to write the new show.

Jordan, who was the co-creator of Hustle and Life on Mars, said: “There is no script. All we have is a basic concept and we are locking them away and letting them develop whatever they want to do. That is a really exciting way of working.”

Red Planet Pictures recently announced the winner of its inaugural Red Planet Prize to discover new writing talent in the UK.

Joanna Leigh, who wrote a script called Sam J, about writer Samuel Johnson and how he came to produce his famous dictionary, won the competition, beating more than 2,000 entries. Jordan said he was looking to have the script developed and said he would be working with Leigh on other projects.

The producer is also planning to meet with around 30 other entrants from the competition who showed promise, in a bid to build relationships with up and coming talent.

A spokeswoman for the BBC confirmed that The Ministry was in development.

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