TVNZ turns to BBC for drama and docos

By Claire Trevett

Television New Zealand is to bring new BBC drama and documentaries to local screens.

The package includes supernatural dramas Torchwood and Primeval, and historical and art documentaries.

The deal with BBC Worldwide Australasia includes 40 hours of television ranging from the Dr Who spin-off Torchwood to Galapagos, a three-part series on the Galapagos Islands and their wildlife, produced by the BBC's Natural History Unit.

There is also the dramatised documentary Ancient Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire and art history programme The Power of Art, in which Simon Schama looks at the impact of eight works such as Vincent van Gogh's Wheatfield with Crows and Picasso's Guernica.

News of the deal was welcomed by media buyer Michael Carney, who wrote on his website that the deal could indicate a return to the days when TV One's programming featured a significant amount of BBC material.

The British input was watered down in favour of increasing American content in recent years.

He also noted that some of the programmes were spin-offs of those which Prime Television has taken on recently, including Torchwood.

"The new BBC/TVNZ deal is bound to be a big disappointment to Prime Television, who have been bringing a wide range of BBC content to our screens since Television NZ cooled its relationship with the Beeb in recent years," Mr Carney said.

"Do we detect the hand of new TVNZ CEO Rick Ellis in the rehabilitation of the BBC as a significant TVNZ content supplier, or is this just belated recognition of the renewed creative sparkle of the Brit pubcaster these days?"

The deal also includes drama Primeval, made by the creators of Walking with Dinosaurs which was partly filmed in New Zealand and screened on Prime in 2003.

It tells of the chaos after prehistoric creatures are found alive and well in modern Britain.

In Torchwood, a spin-off from the Doctor Who series screened by Prime last year, investigators use technology scavenged from aliens to solve crimes.

Primeval and Torchwood were touted by Melanie Owen, BBC Worldwide's sales manager in New Zealand, as "a new direction in UK drama".

They follow a trend toward dramatising the supernatural, started in the United States and which includes shows such as Lost.

TVNZ programme acquisitions vice-president Lisa Clements said Primeval and Torchwood were likely to screen on TV2, while Galapagos fitted with TV One. It is not known when the shows will be screened.

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