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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 July, 2003, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
History dominates BBC One line-up
The days of gladiators are recreated
History programmes are to form the backbone of BBC One's 220m autumn schedule for 2003.

The line-up includes two big budget documentaries: Colosseum, about Roman gladiators, and Pompeii - The Last Day, a recreation of the last hours of the doomed city which was smothered by a volcano.

"I'm prepared to bet that viewers will come to a schedule that is as rich as this is," said BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey.

The schedule includes historical dramas such as Charles II, starring Rufus Sewell as the king, alongside Dame Diana Rigg and Rupert Graves.

The drama is described as a "dynamic romp through history".

Ms Heggessey added: "We've become the nation's favourite and I intend to keep it that way."

Other highlights include:

  • Canterbury Tales - a modern reworking of six of Geoffrey Chaucer's classic tales

  • Looking for Victoria - Prunella Scales plays the English monarch in a new factual series

  • The Crouches - a six-part series focusing on the lives of the Crouch family in south east London

  • Born to Win - a six-part series following teenagers who have demonstrated sporting talent

  • Fungus the Bogeyman - a TV adaptation of Raymond Brigg's popular children's book as it hits its 25th anniversary

    Rufus Sewell
    Rufus Sewell stars in Charles II
    Ms Heggessey denied that she was filling the channel with public service programmes designed to bolster the BBC's bid for charter renewal in 2006.

    "You can't have a strategy that's right for only one year on BBC One," she said.

    "What you're talking about is a strategy for the channel that will last well into the 21st Century."

    She also raised the possibility of a radical revamp for chart show Top of the Pops.

    It would remain on BBC One "for the moment" but new executive editor of popular music, former children's TV presenter, Andi Peters "will be looking at [it] and has new ideas for it", she said.

    "We have to evolve. The question is, are the charts as valid as they once were?

    "We will be trying to think, what should a pop music show be?"

    SAS hunts

    Later this year, BBC One viewers will see a Walking With Dinosaurs special that will bring to life prehistoric sea monsters.

    Beyond The Abyss will be a day of broadcasting taking viewers to the ocean depths.

    Former SAS soldier and best-selling author Chris Ryan features in Hunting Chris Ryan, which finds him abandoned in three of the world's most hostile environments as Special Forces soldiers try to track him down.

    "I wouldn't feel that I was doing my job properly if all I was doing was putting in more soaps and light factual programmes," said Ms Heggessey.

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