On the Slate: Twofour & Lion Productions

From a UK fast food institution to the US education system... it's the new productions from Twofour Broadcast and Lion Productions.
November 13, 2008

Many people have that one restaurant that reminds them of their childhood. For me it’s Webers. It is a hamburger place along the side of a highway that leads to many a cottage in Central Ontario. It’s a place that reminds me of my youth and the exciting, albeit long, trip away from home for a week or so in the summer. The burgers themselves weren’t great (while I’m sure many other Ontarians will argue I’m wrong) but it was a regular part of the car ride along Highway 11.

I’m told that for those who grew up in the UK, the equivalent is Little Chef. Though, unlike my Webers, Little Chef is a chain and not a single location, Brits hold fond childhood memories of the fast food chain they would visit while heading down the motorway, going on holiday. At least this is what Melanie Leach, MD of Twofour Broadcast assures me.

The London-based producer is working on a program about the beloved fast food pit stop for Channel 4. The restaurant chain has been under financial strain over the past few years and was saved from bankruptcy this past year by venture capitalist RCapital. The 4 x 60 minute series in production by Twofour, Big Chef, Little Chef (w/t), will see chef and ‘gastronomic alchemist’ Heston Blumenthal (Kitchen Chemistry with Heston Blumenthal and Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection) tackle the menu at the 50 year old chain to revamp the cuisine and revive the brand. Blumenthal, like Leach, holds nostalgia for the restaurants, but his style of cooking is very different from what these restaurants currently offer. ‘Why I think this has gripped people in the UK is the idea of taking somebody who’s so far removed from fast food that it’s hard to imagine, and then putting him in an environment that is completely alien to him, that type of fast food turn around, and getting him to give them what he thinks is the solution is proving to be a really interesting experiment,’ says Leach. The program is due for delivery in spring 2009.

In the meantime, the prodco is also working on a follow-up program to 2006′s Through Hell and High Water. On Thin Ice again follows presenter Ben Fogle and triple gold medal winning rower James Cracknell as they embark on a race to the south pole. While their last challenge made a fair amount of sense, given Cracknell’s experience as a rower, neither have any experience in the artic and a race like this hasn’t been held in nearly 100 years. So they have their work cut out for them.

This time they’ve recruited a third team member to join them: a doctor from Bristol. Leach estimates that it will take the trio 40-50 days to complete the race, which starts in December 2008. The 5 x 60 minute series for BBC Two should be ready by spring 2009.

It’s well known that many people escape their home countries for a better life in America. Many of these people leave their home with only an image based on rumors of what to expect when they reach the States. Director Irina Mihu, a Romanian immigrant living in the US, decided to create a documentary series to show her countrymen what the US is really like.

The 11 x 26 minute series from Lion Productions (not to be confused with London-based Lion Television) documents the many elements of day to day life in America. In each episode the Boston and Bucharest-based prodco focuses on a different subject, from the first which examines the process of immigration through the eyes of people who have experienced it first hand, to the American education system, American democracy, real estate in the States and the American dream. The program will be ready for delivery in February 2009.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.