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A Channel 4 show in the UK will show people using class A drugs and alcohol under medical supervision.

Dan Gould
  • 11 may 2011


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This article titled “Channel 4 to air live drug-taking” was written by John Plunkett and Jason Deans, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 11th May 2011 12.55 UTC

Channel 4 is planning to air live footage of people taking class A drugs and alcohol to show their effects on the body as part of a drive to “bring a sense of mischief” back to the broadcaster.

Science series Drugs Live will take place under strict clinical conditions, with programme makers working “closely with leading research institutes from around the world to bring much-needed clarity to a social issue often mired in controversy or confusion”, according to Channel 4.

“The issue of class A drugs is something that I think is incredibly important and an area of social policy that Channel 4 can be on the front foot about and provide some interesting and useful data,” said Jay Hunt, Channel 4’s chief creative officer.

Hunt added you “can legally test class A drugs on an individual” but warned there were “huge duty of care and legal issues” surrounding the show.

“It will involve people taking drugs in a clinical environment live on TV,” she said.

The broadcaster is billing the four-parter as a “radical new science series”, which aims to examine “the claims and counterclaims made about the effects of recreational drugs by testing them on live television”.

“Under strict medical supervision and in a controlled clinical environment, individuals will be filmed as they use different substances. Their physical and psychological effects will be monitored, as will their social interaction with others as the drugs enter their systems,” Channel 4 said.

Drugs Live is being made by independent producer Renegade Pictures, with Alan Hayling executive producing.

“This subject is fraught with controversy and confusion – this series will provide viewers with unmediated access to a live drug trial. Viewers will be able to see for themselves the actual effects the drugs have in scientific detail. We will work closely with the leading research institutes from across the world. The aim is to bring new clarity to the facts of illegal drug use,” said David Glover, specialist factual commissioning editor and the Channel 4 executive responsible for the show.

Drugs Live is one of a number of new commissions unveiled on Wednesday by Hunt, in her first major announcement about programming strategy since joining the broadcaster in January.

“I believe Channel 4’s future lies in pieces that take risks. Risks on new talent, risks on difficult subject areas, risks with style and execution. It’s more important than ever that Channel 4 is prepared to challenge the status quo, to provoke debate and, above all, to be brave,” Hunt said.

End of Britton’s empire

Hunt also revealed that The 5 O’Clock Show, Fern Britton’s Channel 4 daytime show broadcast in 2010, would not be returning for a second series.

She described Britton as a “fantastic daytime talent” but admitted the show had not worked. “I think she is a fantastic daytime talent and the audience love her but at the end of the day it really didn’t cut through with viewers. We have to learn from that. Sometimes things don’t work, let’s own up to that. The show is not coming back in that format.”

Other new Channel 4 shows include, Coup, a four-part political thriller based on former Labour MP Chris Mullin’s novel A Very British Coup.

Coup explores the relationship between government, big business and the City and is being adapted for TV by Robert Jones, whose writing credits include Party Animals, Buried and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

Camilla Campbell, head of drama at Channel 4, commissioned Company Pictures and Newscope Films to make the drama. Ed Fraiman is directing, with Johann Knobel producing.

Fraiman will also share executive producing duties with Jason Newmark, George Faber and Charlie Pattinson.

Brooker back in black

Charlie Brooker, creator of E4 zombie drama Dead Set and a co-presenter of 10 O’Clock Live, has scripted Black Mirror, a “darkly comic drama series” expected to be broadcast on Channel 4 later this year.

Billed by Channel 4 as a “hybrid of The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected”, the series consists of three, hour-long standalone dramas dealing with 21st century techno-paranoia, “some comic, some shocking”.

“Growing up, I always loved The Twilight Zone and shows of that ilk. Black Mirror won’t be anything like those, but on the other hand, it’s closer to them than, say, Downton Abbey,” said Brooker, who also a columnist for the Guardian, part of the group that publishes MediaGuardian.co.uk.

“It combines satire, technology, absurdity, and a pinch of surprise, and it all takes place in a world you almost – almost – totally recognise. It changes each week – like the weather, but hopefully about 2,000 times more entertaining. If you don’t like it, you will be beaten about the face and neck by Channel 4 executives.”

Black Mirror was commissioned by Shane Allen, Channel 4 head of comedy, and is being made by Endemol UK subsidiary Zeppotron. Barney Reisz will produce, with Brooker and Annabel Jones executive producing.

Channel 4 has also acquired the US version of Danish crime drama The Killing, which was broadcast in the UK on BBC4 earlier this year.

The US version is being broadcast on AMC, the cable channel responsible for Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead.

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