The South Bank Show returns to Sky Arts for a second series of six programmes on April 18, starting with a biography of Tim Minchin, the songwriter and comedian who composed and wrote the lyrics for Matilda the Musical, followed by the first television interview for 30 years with playwright David Hare, whose Judas Kiss starring Rupert Everitt is also running in the West End.
Sky Arts director James Hunt, launching the new run, said he hoped that the three-year relationship with the South Bank Show and Melvyn Bragg would develop and expand further to become “the spine” of Sky Arts. “He brings such credibility. Melvyn is a force for good. We are very glad to be working with him,” he added.
Melvyn Bragg said he was “delighted” to be discussing a further two-year contract for the South Bank Show, made by his production company, and added an expanded role may also include interviews with leading artists.
He said the BBC, which recently announced it was reducing The Review Show to once a month and shifting it to BBC4 from BBC2 “isn’t doing enough”. He said: “I just want more high quality arts, it is really important, it changes people’s lives”.
Hunt also confirmed that Mariella’s Book Show, presented by Mariella Frostrup, one the original bedrocks of Sky Arts, was being cut back, to four programmes from 20 a year, but that there would be extensive coverage from the Hay on Wye festival this May.
He noted that review shows have a limited shelf life for a channel built on multiple repeats, compared with more timeless performances and profiles of great artists. “The channel is moving on, growing,” he said. Frostrup will be presenting a new series, Objects of Desire.
There is no intention to make a a second series of The Nation’s Best Am Dram, a reality series about amateur dramatics.
Bragg criticised the BBC for mocking the low audiences of around 20,000 obtained by Sky Arts for some shows.
He said: “They had better be careful. I was there at the beginning of BBC2 and Channel 4 , and they now have strong identities and are doing well. We are on fantastically safe ground here, what matters is quality programmes, and that they are done well. The quality of the thing matters, and getting them out (to the public). It is about memorability and accessibility”.
The other four programmes feature trumpet soloist Alison Balsom, tenor Alfie Boe, artistic director of the English National Ballet Tamara Rojo, and an interview programme about the revival of drawing and painting in Britain, partly drawing on an archived interview with Francis Bacon.