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Channel 5 commissions history series from Voltage, ITN Productions, VIS

Channel 5 has bolstered its stripped event history program slate with four specialist factual series. Those include Tsunami, which examines the details of the 2004 natural disaster in Southeast Asia, and Costa ...
April 16, 2021

Channel 5 has bolstered its stripped event history program slate with four specialist factual series.

Those include Tsunami, which examines the details of the 2004 natural disaster in Southeast Asia, and Costa Concordia, about one of the worst maritime disasters in living memory; in addition to World War II-focused documentaries Countdown to War and The Great Escape.

All of the series will air in 2021, with episodes shown on consecutive days of the week.

Tsunami (3 x 60 minutes) will track the natural disaster that struck shorelines across Southeast Asia on Boxing Day in 2004, claiming 230,000 lives, including 149 Brits. The three-part series will incorporate scientific methods to explain how one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded gave rise to the deadliest tsunami in history, with each episode tracing the course of its devastating impact and lasting aftermath for survivors, hour-by-hour.

Countdown to War (3 x 60 minutes), meanwhile, will follow the events that took place over the course of the three days leading to World War II, beginning with the moment that Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. The series will take a forensic look at these 72 hours, following UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s troubled attempts at peace and the last-minute plans made by civilians and military alike as the war drew closer.

Voltage will produce both Tsunami and Countdown to War.

Costa Concordia (2 x 60 minutes) will be produced by ITN Productions — the prodco’s  first history strip for Channel 5. Combining first-person testimony from survivors, rescuers and victims’ families, with footage, graphical reconstruction and expert insight, the two-parter will reveal what happened when the Costa Concordia sank in great detail.

Finally, Viacom International Studios (VIS) is set to produce The Great Escape (3 x 60 minutes), also marking the studio’s first history strip for Channel 5. A series that recounts the iconic Second World War prison escape (famously turned into a narrative feature of the same name, starring Steve McQueen), scenes will be brought to life by reconstruction, archive footage and intimate anecdotes from relatives of those who were there.

“As we continue to broaden our original factual slate, our stripped event history programming will play an increasingly key role in the primetime schedule. This box set approach to narrative history played over three nights resonates really well with our viewers,” Lucy Willis, commissioning editor, Channel 5 said. “Our history strips have performed well to date with their strong emphasis on dramatic unfolding storytelling and I hope these new commissions, with their deep dive into well-known historical stories, will keep viewers hooked in the same way that a new drama series would.”

Countdown to War and Tsunami have been commissioned by Willis for Channel 5; The Great Escape by Greg Barnett; and Costa Concordia by Dan Louw.

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