Channel 5 takes on BBC and ITV with new period drama charting downfall of Anne Boleyn

Craig Simpson
·2-min read
Jodie Turner-Smith has been cast in the role of Anne Boleyn, a new commission by broadcaster Channel 5  - David M. Benett /Getty Images
Jodie Turner-Smith has been cast in the role of Anne Boleyn, a new commission by broadcaster Channel 5 - David M. Benett /Getty Images

New commissions by Channel 5 are snatching prime-time fare from the more traditional producers of hit television series.  

A popular reboot, All Creatures Great and Small, was turned down by the BBC due to its lack of appeal for younger viewers but has already proven a hit for the corporation's smaller rival.

Channel 5 has now secured another mini-series, charting the relationship between Henry VIII and his second wife. The programme, Anne Boleyn, has been billed as a "major new three-part psychological thriller".

Despite dominating weekend drama viewership with programmes from Heartbeat to Poldark, the BBC will not be the broadcaster to air the innovative show, which casts black actress Jodie Turner-Smith in the role of the ill-fated queen.

ITV's weekend pedigree with Downton Abbey is also being tested by new Channel 5 acquisitions, and it is hoped the show could prove as popular as All Creatures Great and Small.

All Creatures Great and Small, Channel 5, 2020,  - Todd Antony/ViacomCBS 
All Creatures Great and Small, Channel 5, 2020, - Todd Antony/ViacomCBS

Ben Frow, of Channel 5 parent company ViacomCBS, said of Anne Boleyn:  "We know she's a proven success as a subject with factual and film audiences. It was simply too irresistible to say no to, and I'm very excited to see the finished product."

Anne Boleyn unfolds over three instalments, showing the final months of her life from her perspective in a programme Channel 5 hopes will have period appeal. It also "shines a feminist light on her story", according to producers.

Mr Frow has previously said he enjoys it when the channel can "score against the competition" after clinching All Creatures Great and Small, once a must-watch on the BBC from 1978.

The BBC turned down the reboot of its own former programme because it feared it might not attract viewers engaged by Youtube and Netflix.

The show's producer said the broadcaster "had concerns about whether it would speak to a younger audience and, I think, whether or not the show could emerge from the shadow of the first series".

But the comforting watch, based on the work of James Herriot, has "struck a chord", according to Channel 5.