South Bank Show is to be revivied
Published 01/12/2011 | 08:34
Melvyn Bragg is to revive his long-running arts series The South Bank Show, after it was axed by ITV.
The programme, which tackled an array of well-known and cult figures for more than 30 years, will return next year after being rescued by Sky Arts.
It was dropped in 2009 when ITV decided not to continue with the series when Bragg stepped down as the network's arts editor. He later said he was "baffled" by the decision to axe the show.
Sky emerged as a possible saviour last year when it agreed to continue the programme's annual awards show, plus a run of films about the winners.
It has also screened archive editions of the show, which in its day featured such diverse figures as Ken Dodd, Sir Alec Guinness, The Smiths and Penguin Cafe Orchestra.
But today Bragg announced that the show is to stage a proper return with a six-part series, which he will edit and present.
The programmes will "once again focus on the works of the greatest living practitioners across the spectrum of the arts and culture", Sky said.
Bragg said: "I very much wanted to continue to make The South Bank Show and I'm delighted that Sky Arts has given me the chance to do that."
He described the "enjoyable partnership" which he has had with the broadcaster since it revived the awards, which will next take place in May 2012.
James Hunt, director of Sky Arts, said: "The South Bank Show is synonymous with top-quality, engaging and entertaining arts programming, and we're delighted to be working with Melvyn to bring it back to screens, for both loyal former viewers and a brand new audience."
Bragg - who also has a seat in the House of Lords - has also developed shows with the BBC since his departure from ITV, alongside his work for Radio 4 which was already ongoing.
Bragg said he was allowed to take the name of the show as part of the deal when he left ITV.
And he said he was considering sticking with the familiar Andrew Lloyd Webber theme tune for the show.
"I'm going to have a think. It's a great signature tune. It's as recognisable as anything around. It would have to be something bloody good to beat it," he said.
Subjects for the programmes will be discussed over the coming weeks, with preparations only beginning today, but he said he was keen to represent figures across the arts.
But he said they were likely to be "living artists in their prime".
Bragg said although he saw ITV's decision to drop the show as "a bit of a mistake", he had been keen to continue it in a new home. Although he had a working relationship with the BBC, he said there were no discussions with the corporation to take it on.
But Bragg said he was "not surprised, not disappointed" that the BBC had not made any approaches.
And he said the "enthusiasm" and interest shown by Sky was a change after his experiences at ITV.
"We simply hadn't had that," he added.