CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The Television Critics Association began its winter press tour this week in which the various broadcast and cable networks talk about their upcoming plans to the nation's top critics and entertainment reporters.
Here's a breakdown of the highlights of BBC America's presentation (via press release):
BBC AMERICA PREMIERES STATE OF PLAY � AN ACCLAIMED CONSPIRACY THRILLER FROM AN AWARD-WINNING WRITER
Where love, politics and journalism collide � it's not all black and white
A potent mix of love, politics and journalism combine with murder, deception and intrigue in BBC AMERICA's all-new drama that has had UK critics raving. State of Play is slated to premiere in second quarter 2004.
Dubbed, "bloody magic," "un-missable," and "mouth-watering," by the UK press, State of Play is a gripping conspiracy thriller set against the background of government and national press written by award-winning Paul Abbott (Cracker, Touching Evil, Clocking Off).
John Simm (The Lakes, Human Traffic), David Morrissey (Out of Control, Captain Correlli's Mandolin) and Bill Nighy (Love Actually, I Capture the Castle) lead an outstanding cast which includes Polly Walker, (Patriot Games, Enchanted April), Kelly Macdonald (Gosford Park, Trainspotting), James McAvoy (Band of Brothers, White Teeth) and Marc Warren (The Vice).
Stephen Collins (David Morrissey) is a high-flying, ambitious Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Government's Energy Select Committee. Cal McCaffrey (John Simm) is a well-respected investigative journalist and Stephen's ex-campaign manager. When Stephen's young research assistant, Sonia, falls to her death on the London Underground, it's not long before revelations of their affair hit the headlines.
Meanwhile a suspected teenage drug dealer named Kelvin Stagg is found shot dead. The discovery that Kelvin and Sonia shared a two-minute phone call on the morning of their deaths draws Cal into an investigation that's always one step ahead of the police. Friendships are tested and lives are put on the line as an intricate web of lies unfolds.
"It's the kind of television I like watching, and conspiracy thrillers seem to have gone by the wayside in the last few years," explains Paul Abbott.
"By creating the link between a rising star of the government and a young journalist, it looks at the way we're all fed information, the way it's laundered for mass consumption, and how that translates once it makes the front page. I fell in love with the idea of watching a tiny piece of journalistic information trigger an investigation that gradually unearths a scandal.
"It's a world that intrigues me because journalists have a different mentality from the police. The police naturally look for evidence, while a journalist naturally looks for a story. And it's in a journalist's commercial interest to keep the information away from the police. But while they have very different perspectives, both journalists and detectives rely on each other to fertilize their information.
"I also wanted to look at the world of politics, and people's growing disenchantment with modern government's reliance on spin," continues Abbott.
"There is a lack of honesty which just seems to have spiraled out of control. The fact that the two victims � Sonia Baker and Kelvin Stagg � shared a phone call on the morning they died consequently mushrooms into a huge political and public story. Then the race is on between the police investigation and the newspaper investigation and there's emotional fall-out for everyone involved as the drama unfolds."
Producer Hilary Bevan Jones, who has worked with Abbott on dramas as varied as Cracker, Butterfly Collectors and The Secret World of Michael Fry, believes the appeal of State of Play lies in its many twists and turns.
"You think you're on the right track, then something else comes along to make you think again, it's constantly changing. You can never predict what is coming next, but you can have a lot of fun guessing," she says.
Abbott, Bevan Jones and director David Yates spent time at newspapers, The Times and The Guardian, and were struck by the energy in the newsrooms they visited.
"We wanted to capture the exuberance, the rising tensions and the sheer adrenalin that we observed," says Bevan Jones, "as well as the humor that comes from working in a highly stressful environment."
Yates was hooked by the scale and complexity of the story.
"Paul skillfully interweaves the myriad worlds of press, politics and police, but his sense of the bigger picture never buries the emotional lives of his characters. He is a master storyteller and the thrill of the ride doesn't displace the fact that, at the end of it, the themes of State of Play are still pretty resonant."
State of Play is an Endor production in association with the BBC. The producer is Hilary Bevan Jones, the director is David Yates, and executive producers are Gareth Neame, Laura Mackie and Paul Abbott.
THE PACE IS FAST, THE CASES TOUGH � AND THE CONSEQUENCES CAN BE DEVASTATING - ROBSON GREEN LEADS THE CAST IN BBC AMERICA'S ALL-NEW U.S. PREMIERE LEGAL DRAMA SERIES - TRUST
The fast-paced, cutthroat world of commercial law provides the backdrop for BBC AMERICA's all-new U.S. premiere original drama series, Trust, premiering Saturdays from February 28 at 10:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. PT.
As some of the city's sharpest lawyers wrestle with a minefield of complex cases, the deals pale in comparison with the negotiations they go through in their personal lives. They may be experts in the field of law, but their success in solving their clients' problems isn't always matched by their ability to sort out their own�
Robson Green (Reckless, Touching Evil) leads the ensemble cast as senior partner Steven Bradley. A charismatic and ambitious team leader, he finds his loyalty divided between his two families: his wife and two sons and his team. His work has always been his priority and more recently his marriage has taken a back seat.
Working alongside Stephen is his long-term associate and friend, Annie Naylor (Sarah Parish), a thirty-something mother of one, who has to juggle her domestic life with her career. Fresh out of law school, Stephen's young and attractive trainee assistant Maria Acklam (Eva Birthistle), is desperately trying to make a good impression, while trying to work out what she wants from life. There's the rock of the office, Martin Grieg (Neil Stuke) openly gay, laid-back, brilliant and one of the firm's most loyal solicitors and hedonistic Ashley Carter (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dirty Pretty Things), on the cusp of turning 30, with one of the sharpest minds in the company.
The firm is run by the mildly eccentric Alan Cooper-Fozard (Ian McShane, Sexy Beast, Lovejoy), a.k.a. The P.G. ("The Power and the Glory"). He has the ability to crush anyone's career or to bathe it in glory.
Cooper-Fozard handles a wide range of corporate and financial cases including negotiations between a record label and a teen band sensation, banning them from any relationships for fear it will affect record sales. Brokering a deal between the editors of a magazine for young girls and a U.S. financier who threatens to withdraw when presented with controversial material. While a high-level corruption scandal involving a pharmaceutical company and gifts of shares, threatens the very integrity of all that they stand for.
Trust is a Box TV production for BBC and BBC AMERICA. Produced by Jake Lushington, directed by John Strickland, with executive producers Gareth Neame, Gub Neal and Johnathan Young.
ROBSON GREEN STARS IN AN ALL-NEW PREMIERE SEASON OF BBC AMERICA'S ORIGINAL DRAMA, WIRE IN THE BLOOD
- One man must connect with the twisted mind of a serial killer before it's too late -
Dark, intense, gritty and compelling, Robson Green (Reckless, Touching Evil), stars as a brilliant, complex criminal profiler in an all-new U.S. premiere series of shocking stories. Wire in the Blood, which premieres Mondays from January 19 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT, takes vivid journeys into the minds of killers and the profiler who hunts them down.
Based on characters from Val McDermid's best-selling novels, the award-winning, critically-acclaimed drama sees the psychological expertise of Dr. Tony Hill (Robson Green) called upon once again by Detective Inspector Carol Jordan (Hermione Norris) in a race to anticipate the serial killer's next step before its too late.
Intelligent and compassionate, Dr. Tony Hill is a clinical psychologist who works as a university lecturer while maintaining a practice helping convicted serial criminals. Intelligent and endearing, Tony's understanding of human behavior enables him to empathize strongly with both victim and killer. His ability to profile killers and get into the mind of criminals, shine a light into cases that would otherwise be impenetrable.
Producer Phil Leach says: "We are building on the strength of a hugely successful series. The new episodes stay true to the shock value and terror that we established first time around, and take Tony Hill and Carol Jordan into bigger investigations and ever more dangerous territory."
Set in the fictional city of Bradfield, the darker side of northern England comes to light. In the first episode, Tony's caseload comes uncomfortably close to home when a friend of one of his own university students is abducted. Bodies discovered under ancient remains, a killer apparently committing murder while behind bars and attacks by a religious murderer on vulnerable hospital patients are other difficult cases facing Tony and the police.
Wire in the Blood is written by Alan Whiting, Niall Leonard and Jeff Povey, produced by Phil Leach, directed by Andrew Grieve, Nick Laughland and Terry McDonough with executive producer, Sandra Jobling.
Wire in the Blood is produced by Robson Green's production company, Coastal Productions, for ITV1 and BBC AMERICA.