Channel 5 is expanding its horizons with its first space series, presented by British astronaut Tim Peake, as it seeks to challenge rival channels with star-studded, high-end shows.
Peake is to explore the mysteries of our solar system and the galaxies beyond in his first TV presenting role in Tim Peake: Secrets of Our Universe.
The series is part of a season of new shows announced by C5, including a provocative domestic task series about “chore wars” between couples called Wife on Strike and the return of Anneka Rice-fronted series Challenge Anneka, along with new shows from Jay Blades , Ruby Wax and Alexander Armstrong plus dramas including thriller Blindspot – which features Ross Kemp’s return to TV acting after a hiatus of 15 years.
Having been the first Briton to live on the International Space Station, Peake will draw on his experiences in the show, as well as using CGI and archive footage to explore the cosmos.
Peake said: “Space is a lifelong passion for me and to be able to share my personal experiences and the knowledge I have gained with the Channel 5 audience is beyond exciting.
“There is always so much more to learn and uncover – we will never truly know all there is to know about the universe – but it is endlessly fascinating to me and to people worldwide, and I am delighted to continue my journey into uncovering its mysteries .”
The show is likely to be seen as a move into the space occupied on the BBC by Brian Cox, something acknowledged by Ben Frow, the UK chief content officer at C5’s owner Paramount.
However, he said Peake would bring something new to C5 viewers: “BBC Two have done programs on the universe, but not through someone like Tim. Channel 5 is of the people for the people and he’s not elitist; he’s worked very hard to explain the mysteries of space.”
Although Yorkshire-based so-called “pastoral-idyll porn” shows such as Our Yorkshire Farm have been hugely successful for the channel, it was axed recently and the emphasis has moved away slightly from the country – although C5 will continue to air hits such as drama All Creatures Great & Small.
Frow said rural programs proved popular during lockdown as people moved to the countryside but that said “the zeitgeist and the mood of the nation” seems to be moving towards space.
“We’ve been successful in getting the right things at the right time and I’m always searching for what’s next,” he said, pointing to Sam Ryder’s 2022 Eurovision hit Space Man as one of the signs of the UK’s increased interest in space . C5 has also commissioned a show about the moon, fronted by Dara Ó Briain.
Ó Briain is one of a number of presenters who made their name on other channels but who are now working for C5. Frow said the channel is now more “upmarket”, thanks to the presence of famous faces such as Blades and Michael Palin.
“Talent is really important,” he said, adding that having a trusted face fronting a series “helps with press and marketing”, bringing in new audiences and explaining to viewers the tone of a show. He said C5 is “very hands-off”, which is why talent likes working on the network.
The strategy appears to be paying off as C5 announced earlier this month it has grown audience share for the fourth consecutive year, and claims it is “the only public service broadcaster to have grown over each of the last four years”.