Nutopia is thrilled to announce that the episode “Clean” from our series ‘How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson’ has been nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy award:
Outstanding Science and Technology Programming
How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson
Steven Johnson, Peter Lovering, Jane Root
VP, Programming and Development (For PBS)
Executive in Charge of Production (For OPB)
Monday 14th July 2015
“The 2000s: A New Reality,” National Geographic Channel’s two-part, four-hour survey of politics, technology, pop culture, international conflict and revolutionary social change over the past 15 years, will grip you far more than you might assume”
David Wiegand, Houston Chronicle
On Sunday 12th & Monday 13th July National Geographic and Nutopia invited you to join them back at the start of the new Millennium and reminisce about all the decade. For the era that birthed social media it did not disappoint with viewers declaring that it was “The closest thing to time travel!” “Amazing journey down memory lane,” and “fascinating to watch”.
The special will be airing in the UK this summer.
Coming to National Geographic Channel next month; unpick the profound and epoch-shifting global story of the ten tumultuous years of the 2000s, detailing the technological and social changes that transformed the world and will determine the way we live for many decades to come. Our story begins with the saga of Elian Gonzalez and the ‘hanging chads’ controversy, and gives us fresh and unexpected perspectives on everything from 9/11, the Iraq War, the collapse of Enron, and the rise of social networks; to the secrets of the iPhone, Hurricane Katrina, the financial Crash, and the Obama election – all heaped with a big helping of pop culture nostalgia and surprising facts to relive.
We are excited to announce that series 2 of Finding Jesus is underway! See below for the official word from CNN:
The network has picked up a second season of Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery(Nutopia) coming in 2017. In Finding Jesus, which ranked number-one across cable news in its time period, an expert panel uses the latest scientific and archaeological research to discover fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus. In The Wonder List, which was also top rated in its time period, storyteller Bill Weir goes on a quest to unveil the untold stories of extraordinary people, places, cultures and creatures that are at a crossroads
It is looking to be a very exciting summer season for Nutopia in 2015 with a number of shows premiering across the months. In particular this month we have the following great news programmes:
My Million Dollar Invention premieres on Smithsonian Channel Sunday 14th June.
What was Edison’s questionable role in the development of the electric chair? Which household utensil came from the mind of a prisoner? How was the Maclaren baby buggy inspired by a fighter plane? Behind many million-dollar inventions are priceless stories of inspiration, controversy, triumph, and tragedy. Explore inventions large and small, lifesaving and life-taking, scary and playful, and meet the men and women who dedicated, and often risked, their lives to follow their vision and ultimately change the world.
My Deal With The Devil premieres on Esquire TV on Saturday 13th June.
The special documents the real-life story of Justin Paperny, a privileged and ambitious securities broker with a promising and highly compensated career as he decides to bend the rules, break the law and face his ultimate demise.
The next 2 installments of Metropolis air on Travel Channel Thursday 18th June.
Visit Rome and London & see them as never before.
We hope you get a chance to watch and enjoy!
Nutopia to co-pro Civilisation revival
29 April, 2015 | By Matthew Campelli
Jane Root’s Nutopia is to co-produce landmark BBC series Civilisation, with former BBC1 controller Michael Jackson acting as executive producer.
Speaking at a Westminster Talks event earlier this week Jackson revealed the indie, of which he is a board member, will work closely with BBC in-house production on the revival of the arts series.
Nutopia’s Peter Lovering will also exec produce with the BBC’s Janice Hadlow and Jonty Claypole.
Director general Tony Hall unveiled Civilisation, which was fronted by Kenneth Clark across 13-parts in 1969, as part of a wider commitment to arts programming from the BBC in March.
US broadcaster PBS will also act as a co-production partner.
Separately Jackson revealed that he was exec producing a five-part drama based on the novels of Cornish author Edward St Aubyn.
Interviewer John Mair suggested the show was being produced for Channel 4 but Jackson claimed the project, which is not connected to Nutopia, was not being developed for a specific broadcaster.
It has been quite a roller-coaster for Top Gear in recent weeks, a show loved by millions that is about to enter its next reincarnation.
Executive Producer Andy Wilman has written an article in the latest edition of the Top Gear Magazine all about the start of the show which features Nutopia’s Jane Root in her previous guise as BBC2 controller. You can read the full article below.
The Story of Top Gear Telly Part One: Getting to the Start Line
I can’t remember exactly when it was, but around 2000 or 2001 the Controller of BBC2, Jane Root, had had enough of Top Gear and put a bullet through its head.
She’d watched the show plod on, each series looking more and more dated alongside new and fresh factual shows like Ground Force and that one where Handy Andy did houses up, and no attempt at perking up the dear old car show was having any effect. News of the show’s demise was met with sadness by a few, indifference by many more, but with intense interest from a tall curly-haired man who’d quit that very show a couple of years earlier. When Jeremy rang me and we met in the pub that lunchtime, he was already bouncing of the ceiling with enthusiasm for resuscitating the old corpse. In fact, he’d already mapped out some of the key elements: the new Top Gear would be anchored from a central place, with an audience, so that the presenters could talk to each other instead of presenting on item after another in isolation.
This studio base would also allow us to do a news section, so that important cars could be discussed without us being forced to shoot a film about them. Jeremy, like most 40-something chaps, had devoured Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, and, if you too have read it, you’ll know how beautifully it illustrates the male brain’s love of lists and Top Fives. From there, it was only a small mental leap to having lap board, which in turn would require a track, which in turn meant we could film Italian supercars actually giving it what for instead of dithering around Cotswolds corners at 38mph. And since we had a track and a studio, why not get guests on and make them do a lap? One of us – we’d had a few by now, so I can’t remember who – then had this vision of a black-tie-clad Bryan Ferry hammering round in a small Hyundai or something equally un-Bryan Ferryish, and when we’d finished laughing at that, the Star In a Reasonably Priced Car was born.
I contributed bits and bobs as we went along, but, in truth, Jeremy had already built the structure of the new Top Gear by the time he walked through the pub door.
And as I sit here now in April 2015, in a completely empty office, I think that faraway lunch absolutely encapsulates the tragedy of what the BBC has lost in getting rid of Jeremy. It hasn’t just lost a man who can hold viewers’ attention in front of a camera, it’s lost a journalist who could use the discipline of print training to focus on what mattered and what didn’t; it’s lost an editorial genius who could look at an existing structure and then smash it up and reshape it in a blaze of light-bulb moments. Just as a small example of that latter point, I remember Jeremy insisting during that lunch that the new Top Gear should not worry about being the first to drive a new car, even if it were the Ferrari Enzo. To me, as a producer, this logic was madness, because being first meant being exclusive, but he said: “No, think about it. To be first with a new car, you have to go on the car launch, drive it abroad in left-hand drive, three or four months before it goes on sale, and it means nothing to a punter at home. Let’s wait. Let’s film a car when it’s actually on sale here, posters on the high street, in the showroom window, so that what we’re doing actually means something to viewers.” I still thought he was talking absolute bollocks, but I couldn’t have been more wrong – in the end, we didn’t lose a single viewer because we were two years later than everybody else with our Enzo film.
All we needed now was a name for our new Top Gear, and, after a few more drinks, we decided on “New Top Gear”. With that sorted, we went and pitched our idea to Jane, the BBC2 controller who, after a few minutes suffering our babbling stream of consciousness, told us to get out of her office and get on with making it. It’ll hopefully become apparent as you read on, but there’s no doubt in my mind this show wouldn’t have existed without Jane. She gave us the freedom to cock up and try again, she pushed us when we were timid, and she had real TV nous. I remember, for instance, sitting in an early meeting with her and some BBC execs, discussing what sort of stories this new Top Gear would film, and I mentioned an item Jeremy and I had once made on old Top Gear about Siamese Banger Racing, where the drivers race in two cars chained together.
Naturally, being a BBC meeting, somebody then erupted at me for having said “Siamese”, and as I was busy trying to work out how we could announce: “On tonight’s show, Conjoined Banger Racing”, Jane called everyone to order and said the point was we should forget about reporting on other people’s car events. “Make your own world,” was her advice, which when you think about it, was precisely what we ended up doing – James, Jeremy and Richard lived in their little juvenile bubble, just doing their thing. But I digress. Back then, in 2002, the first job was to find some new presenters, so we rented a small studio in Acton and started to screen test the long list of hopefuls, with the audition involving them standing next to a Renault Avantime and talking about it for a bit, and then doing some news items with Jeremy. Quite early on, a fat bloke with a Shakin’ Stevens quif called Jason Dawe walked in, cracked us up with his wit and bowled us over with his ability to make secondhand car news sound exciting.
James May then rocked up. Jeremy and I had known James for years as a motoring journalist, and he’d been hired, briefy, then fired, quickly, from old Top Gear. This audition, then, was important if he was to get another shot at the prize. So, James, being James, took one look at the Avantime, dismissed it as marketing bollocks, scanned the news stories he was supposed to go through with Jeremy, threw them to one side and proceeded to tell us how his old Rolls-Royce was costing him so much in fuel he’d had to take up Sainsbury’s offer of cheap petrol with every £200 shop, and consequently he was now a bachelor with a fridge full of rotting lettuce. Then he left, leaving some bemused BBC execs staring into the middle distance.
Back in our tiny office at the BBC, the amount of VHS tapes sent in by would-be presenters had now reached the ceiling. We got them from car dealers, students who’d run out of daytime telly to watch, classic-car nerds with real-ale beards, even lingerie models who’d blown their life savings in tanning booths. My favourite, though, was of a spirited chap whose flm consisted solely of him trying to do handbrake turns on an industrial estate in his 3-Series. He never said one word, and, from memory, he never actually managed a handbrake turn.
Then, on day one thousand and six million, a producer called Kate Shiers walked into the tiny office brandishing yet another VHS tape and said the guy on it was worth a look. He was small, energetic and doing a terrible car review while dressed for some reason as Batman…but Kate was right, there was something about the chap, so Richard Hammond was invited to come in.
On the day, he turned up in a bad shirt and waffled some old nonsense about the Avantime, then trotted through the news bits OK, but there was nothing that lived up to the promise of his tape. Then, as the audition wound up, he started to talk about his woefully unsuccessful career as a radio DJ, with the highlight being his late-night spot on Radio Cumbria, reading out the names of lambs that were up for adoption. By the end of this tragic anecdote, Jeremy, and everybody else in the room, was crying with laughter. It takes some balls to come into a hotly contested audition and roll the dice on tales of your failures, but it was the right move because self-deprecation, although we didn’t know it at the time, was going to play a big part in Top Gear’s humour.
With the auditions complete, it was time to choose. All of us were in agreement we wanted the funny little failed radio DJ, but, beyond that, it was a world of arguments. The plump car dealer, Jason, was a front runner, Jeremy was campaigning for James, but the BBC grown-ups were adamant a woman should be in the line-up. Now, I’m a big, big fan of the Beeb, but, my God, do they stretch your patience when they start “applying their marketing logic”, or to use another word, meddling. Their theory behind a female presenter was that if you want women to watch something, you need women presenting it. I pointed out many times that I was an avid viewer of What Not to Wear despite Jimmy Nail not featuring in the line-up, but my protest fell on deaf ears. The problem was that most of the grown-ups in the BBC management didn’t care about the car world, and basically there’s this weird logic whereby the less their interest is in the subject, the greater their compulsion becomes to meddle.
As it happens, we’d auditioned lots of excellent girls who were more than up to the job of presenting a car show, but Jeremy and I had already started to realise that bloke banter was going to become an important part of the show – not macho, stag-night banter, just ordinary-bloke banter that would involve a journey into that massive black hole that is the male brain.
We were never claiming that an all-male line-up would give us a superior dynamic to a boy/girl set-up, it was just what we were after. And so, hearts in mouths, with warnings from her underlings of the terrible fury that would be visited upon us, Jeremy and I went to see Jane Root to tell her we didn’t want a girl. She looked at us for a moment as we braced ourselves, then said: “Fine, do what you think’s best. I’m not fussed either way.” What we’d just experienced was a classic case of BBC management playing their favourite game of Second Guess The Person In The Bigger Office.
With Gendergate sorted, we were then free to finalise the line-up, or so we thought, but the BBC Meddling Dept wasn’t quite finished. Jeremy was campaigning for James to get the gig, but we were told a trio of Jeremy, James and Richard was a bit too “three middle-class public-schoolish type blokes of a similar age”. “And?” we replied. “Well, it’s all a bit cheese and cheese, as opposed to chalk and cheese,” came the response. We then argued Trinny and Susannah were cheese and cheese, the Two Fat Ladies were cheese and cheese, and so on, but eventually, after much cheese-related arguing, we lost, and cheesy James was kicked into touch in favour of chalky Jason Dawe, who I recall was fairly middle-class and of a similar age.
Our line-up problems were not quite over though. We still needed a real ace driver, with a racing background, and Tif Needell was not an option because the Beeb wanted a new-look Top Gear. And if we had a racing driver, he would, like Tif, have to present films, but a) there weren’t enough films in the hour to go round and b) apart from the odd ones such as Tif and Jason Plato, racing drivers aren’t known for their camera charisma. One evening, I was wrestling with this problem in the office, trying all sorts of presenter permutations on our massive whiteboard until it looked like a scene from The Theory of Everything. Then Jeremy rocked up. “You know what, I can now actually do the slidey tail-out driving like Tif did on old Top Gear,” he said. “But what I can’t do is precise laps, the kiss-the-apex stuff we need to get the lap times for the board. We still need a racing driver for that.”
“Yeah, but then we still need a racing driver, who then needs to be able to speak, and we’re back where we started,” I replied. A minute or two later, one of Jeremy’s light bulbs lit up: “Hang on, why does he need to speak?” he said. “He could just be a bloke, in a suit and helmet, and he does the lap times and he never speaks… and we never even have to see him, or know who he is! He’ll be like a thing on the show!” Clarkson was by now very excited. “He could be like The Gimp in Pulp Fiction; we could call him The Gimp!”, he exclaimed.
And, thus, The Gimp was born. All we needed now was a racing driver to fill the role, preferably someone who was discreet, a shrinking violet who didn’t like to talk too much, and so, for reasons I still don’t understand, we chose Perry McCarthy, the only man whose mouth works faster than most of the cars he’s driven. Perry also told us exactly where we could stick our notion of calling him The Gimp, so we settled on The Stig.
With the line-up now complete, it was time to film a pilot, which is a sort-of dress rehearsal where you iron out your mistakes. Full of ambition and good cheer, we had a set built that looked like the core reactor on the Death Star, and only a tiny bit smaller and somehow crammed it into the hangar we’d hired. Then, when the lighting technician said, “How many lights would you like?”, we replied, “Er… give us lots,” which he did. Next, we stuffed in an audience of several hundred, shut the doors on our metal hangar, switched on all the lights, and began filming our first show… in the middle of July.
I can’t remember exactly when, but it wasn’t long before people started fainting, and, two hours in, most of the audience was in a coma. Our guest, David Ginola, not an unfit man, just sat glumly in a lake of his own sweat, silently praying for death as we watched Jason, who by now resembled a bucket of water wearing a shirt, go gamely for his 18th stab at recording Used Car News. The recording was supposed to take a few hours but, what felt like three days later, we finally wrapped and edited together the results, which were, well, abysmal.
Jane Root watched it silently as we edged nearer the window ledge of her sixth-floor office, and then she said: “Guys, just relax. I expected to see camera cables in shot and people walking about with cups of tea.” Taking her advice very literally, we then shot a second pilot, which was so relaxed the presenters started performing before the cameras were even switched on. And when they finally were fired up, the place was in such anarchy they couldn’t actually pick out the presenters in among the crowd.
I remember Jason demonstrating the build quality on a car and, in his enthusiasm, breaking the centre console of it, which we couldn’t film anyway because the camera lens was blocked by a man in a Subaru T-shirt. At this point, Brian the Director stormed out of his special truck and told me he’d never seen such a shambles in 20 years of making top television. But, in truth, there was no time for tantrums and tears, because October 2002 was fast approaching, and in a matter of days we’d be going on air for real…