PBS has inked a co-production deal with BBC and BBC Worldwide, PBS’s president and CEO Paula A. Kerger announced during Monday’s Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena.
Additionally, the broadcaster has ordered a new Civil War drama series produced by Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”) and two new “Masterpiece” series. Also, PBS will produce two new documentary specials focusing on nuclear weapons.
Under the BBC pact, the companies plan to produce eight to 10 new specials to begin premiering as early as this summer.
The programs will span a wide range of topics including natural history, science, history, religion and the arts. The specials will air as standalone programs, as well as part of current series such as Thirteen/WNET’s “Nature” and “Great Performances” and WGBH’s “Nova.”
Titles already planned include “Earth’s Natural Wonders,” which will take a tour of landmarks around the world and how they intersect with nature, animals and humans that live there. Also, “Super Nature: Flight Revealed,” a three-part series using the latest technology to reveal the secrets of flight. And also “Waking Giants,” produced by Sir David Attennborough, which will explore history’s biggest dinosaur findings.
The untitled Civil War medical drama is based on a true story of two volunteer nurses on opposite sides of the conflict. Executive-produced by Scott, David W. Zucker (“The Good Wife”) and Lisa Q. Wolfinger, the series will be written by David Zabel (“ER”).
Currently ordered for six episodes to debut in Winter 2016, the series will shoot in Virginia and join the PBS Sunday night drama lineup.
Additionally, the two documentary specials focusing on nuclear weapons are titled “The Bomb” and “Uranium — Twisting the Dragon’s Tail.” “The Bomb” covers a history of nuclear weapons and how they shaped our world. And “Uranium” takes an in-depth look at the chemical element used in nuclear weaponry, hosted by physicist and YouTube star Dr. Derek Muller. The documentaries are timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the first explosion of an atomic bomb and the bombing of Hiroshima, universally recognized as the dawn of the nuclear age. Both programs premiere in July.
Earlier on Monday, PBS announced that it has added two new series to its “Masterpiece” lineup for 2015: “Arthur & George” and “Home Fires.”
“Arthur & George” stars Martin Clunes (“Doctor Martin”) as world-famous author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A three-part adaptation of Julian Barnes’ acclaimed novel follows the separate but intersecting lives of a half-Indian son of a vicar who is framed for a crime he may or may not have committed, and Doyle, who investigates the case. It is a co-production of Buffalo Pictures and “Masterpiece” for ITV. It’s distributed internationally by ITV Studios Global Entertainment.
“Home Fires” stars Samantha Bond (“Downton Abbey”) and Francesca Annis (“Reckless”) as part of a remarkable group of women living in a small rural village during World War II. Separated from husbands, fathers, sons and brothers for years at a time — some permanently — they find themselves under extraordinary pressures in a rapidly fragmenting world. It is a co-production of ITV Studios and “Masterpiece” for ITV, and is distributed internationally by ITV Studios Global Entertainment.