Channel 4 opens “Dole Office,” axes “Gypsy Weddings”

UK pubcaster Channel 4 has commissioned a history series from Twenty Twenty, headed up by Dragons' Den's Hilary Devey (pictured), in which benefits claimants will experience the welfare state of 60 years ago.
August 24, 2012

UK pubcaster Channel 4 has commissioned a history series from Twenty Twenty, headed up by Dragons’ Den‘s Hilary Devey (pictured), in which benefits claimants will experience the welfare state of 60 years ago.

In Hilary Devey’s Dole Office (w/t), the 3 x one-hour series will feature a specially re-created 1949 benefits office, run by Devey, with strict rules aiming to “instill values of independence and responsibility,” according to the network. It will air in 2013.

Devey will follow the claimants’ journeys as they live within their new entitlement. Episodes will delve into different areas of the benefit system, looking at issues related to unemployment, childcare and housing benefits, as well as the sick, disabled and elderly.

“Living history formats ask the question, ‘Was the past better or worse today?’ In this experiment we’ll be applying that question to a subject of real contemporary heat and importance: have we lost our way with the welfare state?” said  Julia Harrington, commissioning editor for history, Channel 4.

“It’s the issue that everyone has a view on but that’s so hard to find ways of bringing to life,” added Meredith Chambers, creative director at Twenty Twenty. “Along the way we’ll dismantle the clichés and myths that cloud attempts to think again about the welfare state, and maybe even make some headway on new solutions. We’re so excited that Hilary passionately wants to get to grips with one of the biggest thorns in the side of public life, in a way that brings scale and attitude.”

Hilary Devey’s Dole Office (w/t) will be executive produced by Meredith Chambers, while C4′s commissioning editor for factual, John Hay, will oversee the series.

In additional C4 news, chief creative officer Jay Hunt announced at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival on Thursday (August 23) that Big Fat Gypsy Weddings would not be picked up for another season, according to reports.

Hunt said that while there were plans to air six Gypsy-focused specials over the course of next year, the series itself, which is one of the pubcaster’s biggest hits in years, will not be returning, with Hunt saying that while big audiences “can be addictive,” it was important to know “when to draw the line.”

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.