New original series featuring Graham Norton and Top Gear's Richard Hammond have been greenlit at BBC America as the start of the network's first development slate.
Network general manager Perry Simon said in a release that the pickups of Would You Rather with Graham Norton and Hard Drive with Richard Hammond (working titles) are "just the start. Our development team, Richard De Croce, Rachel Smith and Erin Jontow, is already working on the next raft of titles including BBC America's first original scripted series."
With ratings on the rise (up 30% in primetime, year over year, in the second quarter) at BBC America, channel overseer Herb Scannell, the president of BBC Worldwide America, had previously indicated investment in new original programming was coming.
Simon's first original series pick-up on the unscripted side features well-known host and comedian Graham Norton. Would You Rather with Graham Norton (13 30-minute episodes) is a new original comedy game show that tests the wits of the best U.S. comics. Shot in New York, it's produced by So Television and executive produced by Norton, Graham Stuart and Jim Biederman. It will premiere later this year as part of BBC America's recently launched comedy franchise, The Ministry of Laughs.
Top Gear host Richard Hammond will star in a brand new original series called Hard Drive with Richard Hammond (6 one-hour episodes). Produced by BBC Worldwide Productions and based on the BBC format, World's Toughest Driving Tests, it features Hammond traveling the U.S. and competing with local experts driving some of America's toughest and most extraordinary vehicles. Executive producers for BBC Worldwide Productions are Rob Fox, Elli Hakami and Jane Tranter, .
In development, BBC America has a pilot with another Top Gear presenter, James May. James May's Man Lab U.S. is produced by Plum Pictures and based on May's successful British format of the same name. In the U.S. version, May comes to America and teams up with an American sidekick in order to help his transatlantic brethren rediscover and relearn the skills that define what "being a man" is all about. Executive producers for Plum Pictures are Will Daws and Stuart Cabb.
AUTO Biography (working title), produced by Reveille, takes a ride down memory lane to track down the lost history of an exceptional vintage car. The host traces a vehicle's family tree and meets the previous owners along the way while the vehicle is simultaneously restored and refurbished by our resident garage. The restored car will be reunited with one unsuspecting previous owner. The executive producer for Reveille is Heather Schuster and co-executive producer is Matt O'Brien.
Battlemodo, produced by True Entertainment in association with Gawker Media and its tech site Gizmodo.com, is a field-based, hosted hour that takes Gizmodo's recommendation and testing techniques into the real world with epic battles between two cutting edge products that reveal once and for all which is best. Executive producers are Glenda Hersh and Steven Weinstock from True Entertainment and Gaby Darbyshire from Gawker Media.
On the competitive food front, BBC America is building on its successful Gordon Ramsay programming with No Kitchen Required. This single-episode format drops four chefs into some of the world's most remote locations and challenges them to create a meal for the local community, putting their own unique spin on native ingredients. Produced by Notional, it features award-winning New York chef Michael Psilakis, who also serves as producer. The on-screen talent includes chefs Madison Cowan, Kayne Raymond and Dominque Crenn. Executive producers for Notional are Chachi Senior, Dave Noll and Cleve Keller.
The channel has also ordered a one-hour special/back-door pilot of Shock Therapy, produced by BBC Worldwide Productions and adapted from the BBC UK format, Fat & Fatter. The special aims to help addicted young people by pairing them with an extreme version of themselves in order to "shock" them to change their lives and habits for the better. Izzie Pick Ashcroft and Jane Tranter are executive producers.