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article imageChannel 4 acquires UK rights to Chris Chibnall’s Camelot

By Mathew Wace Peck     Nov 10, 2010 in Entertainment
Channel 4 has purchased the UK broadcasting rights to Camelot, the new fantasy drama series chronicling the life of Merlin, from Starz/GK-TV.
The new series – described by Radio Times as a “sexy, starry version of the Arthurian legend” – is the brainchild of Chris Chibnall (Torchwood), and is scheduled for release in early 2011.
Camelot entered production in Ireland over the summer, with a cast that includes Joseph Fiennes (FlashForward) as Merlin, Jamie Campbell Bower (New Moon) as Arthur, Eva Green (Casino Royale) as Morgan, Tamsin Egerton (St Trinians) as Guinevere, James Purefoy (Rome) as King Lot, and Clive Standen (Robin Hood) as Gawain.
The news comes hot on the heels of an announcement that the BBC has commissioned a fourth series of its own take on the Arthurian legend, Merlin.
Merlin was first commissioned by the BBC in 2006. It is co-produced by Shine and BBC Cymru Wales, and stars Colin Morgan (Doctor Who) as the boy wizard, Bradley James (Lewis) as Prince Arthur, Angel Coulby (As If) as Guinevere, Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as King Uther, Richard Wilson (One Foot in the Grave) as Gaius, John Hurt (The Naked Civil Servant) as the voice of the Dragon and Katie McGrath (The Tudors) as Morgana.
Chibnall had been developing his own project based on the Arthurian legend for the BBC, which was aimed at an adult audience. However, ultimately, the corporation chose the “family-friendly” Merlin, as, at the time, and following on from the success of a revived and reinvigorated Doctor Who, the then Controller BBC 1, Peter Fincham, was keen to see more “three-generation TV” drama on the channel – that is, television that children, parents and grandparents could all watch together.
TBI Vision reports that Camelot will also air next year in the US – on Starz itself – France, Germany, Isreal, the Netherlands and Spain, as well as having been picked up for transmission in Asia and Latin America.
Starz’s co-production partner, GK-TV – the international television production and distribution arm of the US film studio, Initial Entertainment Group (IEG), set up by Graham King, OBE (The Departed) – is run by Craig Cegielski. Octagon, in Ireland, and Canada’s Take 5 Productions are also involved as production partners in the project.
Colliding myths and legends
In a recent interview with Collider, Chibnall said that Camelot takes its inspiration from Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. He hopes that the series will run to a number of seasons, and promises that it will present a realistic take on the Arthurian legends. However, as with Merlin, Camelot will still portray magical elements.
Digital Spy has published a condensed version of the interview, which includes the following:
We have a grand plan, which . . . will allow for multiple seasons. We’re starting right from the birth of Arthur, and we’ll go through and try to tell the truth that lies behind the myth.
The magic is very much a part of our storytelling. What powers Merlin has, how much he can control them [and] how that plays into his character, is really [an important] part of the story.
As with the fourth series of Merlin, the first series of Camelot will consist of 10 episodes.
Chibnall tells Collider that Camelot will bring a fresh approach to the epic story.
We are telling the story [using] Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur as our source and base material. We’re starting right from the birth of Arthur, and we’ll go through and try to tell the truth that lies behind the myth.
[The] magic is very much a part of our storytelling and what powers Merlin has, how much he can control them, how that plays into his character and who he is, is really part of the story that you will see.
Where Merlin, however, is produced for a “family audience”, Chibnall confirmed that Camelot was meant for an adult audience.
The great thing [. . .] is that it is an adult drama. You can talk about political pursuits, great agendas and a king bringing hope to a turbulent kingdom [. . .] it’s all about the romance and the passion.
[My] job is to deliver the best, most cinematic, rich, exciting, surprising and emotional version of Camelot.
Chibnall boasts a solid television pedigree. He has written for a number of British dramas, including Life on Mars and Doctor Who. He was the first series showrunner of Russell T Davies’s Torchwood – the spin-off drama from Doctor Who – before moving to ITV to develop Law & Order: UK, which was adapted from the US police procedural and legal drama series, Law & Order.
The legend of Merlin
Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur – which is Middle French for “the death of Arthur” – was first published by William Caxton – as Le Morte Darthur – in 1485. It relates romantic tales of the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Sir Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table, combining existing French and English stories about these figures with some of Malory’s own original material. Chibnall isn’t the first writer to use Malory as their principal source. Both Idylls of the King – written by the British Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in the mid- to late 1800s – and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King (1958) used Mallory’s work as a basis.
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