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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Critics cautious over BBC line-up
By Tom Bishop
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Hard Spell
National spelling contest Hard Spell has been welcomed by critics
Critics have given a cautious welcome to BBC One's autumn schedule, featuring new documentaries, dramas and a live edition of Rolf on Art.

The 221m schedule follows public concern about BBC programme quality.

"BBC One seems to be making more of an effort to be serious and responsible," said Robert Hanks, television critic for The Independent newspaper.

"Nothing particularly stands out but the odd show could be an unexpected hit," said Heat magazine's Boyd Hilton.

'Mindless tat'

"BBC One will be offering some very big programmes such as British Isles: A Natural History and costume drama North and South," said Hanks, "but that has never been the problem.

"The concern is that during the week at prime-time, BBC One has become the place to turn for mindless tat."

Hanks welcomed new documentaries Dirty War and The Brighton Bomb, which he would have previously expected to have found on BBC Two.

The current affairs drama Dirty War looks as if it will have a big impact
Leigh Holmwood, Broadcast

"However, I would be more impressed if they had announced they were putting Panorama back on a prime-time slot on BBC One."

Rolf Harris' attempt to recreate The Haywain in record time would be "a couple of hours of entertainment," but Hanks said he would be concerned if that proved to be the highlight of the BBC's autumn arts coverage.

"There are very encouraging signs in the schedule but at the moment they are just dots - it's how the dots are joined up that counts."

'Glossy drama'

Leigh Holmwood, deputy editor of Broadcast magazine, believes the schedule has the correct mix of programmes.

"Autumn is an important time for broadcasters, as viewers tune in again after the summer holiday," he said.

"The current affairs drama Dirty War looks as if it will have a big impact while major glossy dramas such as North and South should also do well."

My Dad's The Prime Minister
My Dad's The Prime Minister will be moved to prime-time slot
Viewers will be encouraged to participate in major programmes Rolf on Art - The Big Event, British Isles: A Natural History and Fat Nation.

"It is part of the BBC's wider push to encourage people to use all of its services, including interactive elements.

"It adds breadth to the programmes and adds value to the licence fee."

Hilton said the autumn schedule "is about BBC One proving it is a public service channel", having previously come under fire for chasing ratings.

'Reality spin'

"This time the emphasis has been put on impressive factual programmes and away from shows such as last year's Fame Academy."

"Fat Nation could be a big prime-time hit, and the BBC can say it is putting a spin on the reality television format by encouraging viewers to join in the diet," Hilton added.

He welcomed the return of French and Saunders and My Dad's The Prime Minister, saying they should tackle BBC One's current "awful" comedy output.

"The best idea in the schedule is the national spelling contest Hard Spell, following the success of the brilliant film Spellbound.

"It is a great idea that should become a big hit, and is exactly what BBC One should be doing."



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