BBC Alba unveils Gaelic TV’s answer to The Killing

Bannan is set to premiere on BBC Alba later this month. Picture: BBC Alba
Bannan is set to premiere on BBC Alba later this month. Picture: BBC Alba
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THE man behind Scotland’s newest TV drama series hopes it will run for around 50 episodes, with production already under way on a full 15-part series before the pilot for the Gaelic show has even been screened.

BBC Alba’s first major drama commission, which has already been heralded as the Hebridean answer to cult Scandinavian series The Killing or US crime drama Breaking Bad, is the headline attraction in the channel’s autumn season, which will also feature a new comedy series inspired by online dating.

Producer Chris Young, who is also set to turn the story of Donald Trump’s battle with environmental campaigners into a feature film, said he envisaged at least three full seasons of Bannan, which will premiere with its pilot on 23 September, if it is well received.

Bannan, which is being filmed almost entirely on Skye, follows the story of Mairi MacDonald, a high-flying lawyer based in Aberdeen who returns to her home island for a funeral, eight years after leaving and cutting all ties with her birthplace.

The show, which will feature a cast of 12 main characters, is the first major drama series to be commissioned by BBC Alba since it launched six years ago.

Young told The Scotsman: “I think we’ll make it [Bannan] as long as we can.We are rolling it out very carefully. We are shooting five episodes now, so the idea is that they will be ready for transmission in Easter. Hopefully at the end of them, people will think, ‘But what happens now?’

“I’m always keen on quality over quantity. I don’t really want to be making more than 15 [episodes] a year. I was a big fan of Homeland, but I felt it went off slightly. I don’t want to compromise things in story terms.”

Young said he wanted to see Bannan, which features two unknown Hebridean actors in the lead roles, shown on BBC3 or BBC4 following its premiere on BBC Alba, insisting audiences are now used to subtitled programmes like The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen.

Young, the producer of hit comedy series The Inbetweeners, added: “We’ve gone for something that is based on characters and it feels like we have a very strong setting.

“The show is very much about island life and a lot of it is about relationships. You still have that situation at a ceilidh where you have everybody from three to 80. That is kind of our world.

“Once you start following the lives of these people and spice it up with a bit of sex, death and murder, you’d be amazed at how much the material can grow.”

Alba channelling comedy, music and documentary this autumn

Music, comedy, sport children’s programmes and documentaries are among the highlights of BBC Alba’s autumn programming.

A Great Adventure, 9 November: The extraordinary story of Elsie Inglis, one of Scotland’s first female surgeons, and the pioneering Scottish Women’s Hospitals she set up in France, Russia, Corsica, Romania and Serbia during the First World War.

Gaol@Gael, from 24 September: One of Scotland’s leading Gaelic singers Kathleen MacInnes swaps the stage for the comedy world as the star of a series following the efforts of match-maker Muriel to make a success of her online dating service for Gaels.

Fonn Fonn Fonn, from 29 October: An off-beat quiz show which challenges guests on their musical trivia, listening skills and playing prowess.

John Hartson: Against The Odds, 11 December: A frank interview with the former Celtic and Wales striker acts as the spine of a programme recalling the highs and lows of his career and his battle with cancer.

Na Worlds, 4 October: Highlights from this summer’s World Pipe Band Championships, which drew more than 800 musicians from 18 countries to Glasgow Green.

Na Trads, 13 December: Highlights of the annual Oscars of the traditional music world, with the ceremony heading for the first time to Inverness.

Cobhair Chloinne, 22 September: A series following the work of the Scottish Paediatric Retrieval Service, which brings sick children from across Scotland to Edinburgh and Glasgow for specialist care.