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BBC partners with Beijing production house on Life on Mars project

By Angus McNeice | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-02-19 19:17 申博娱乐注册
British actor John Simm, right, was nominated for a BAFTA award for Best Actor for his lead role in Life on Mars. [Photo provided by the BBC]

BBC Studios and Beijing-based Phoenix Entertainment Group will co-produce a Mandarin version of the popular British science fiction television series Life on Mars, the two production houses announced on Monday.

It will be the first time the BBC has joined forces with the Chinese studio. David Weiland, executive vice-president of BBC Studios in Asia, indicated that further Chinese remakes of British television dramas may be on the horizon.

"I am delighted that our first partnership with Phoenix Entertainment Group is Life on Mars, which ranks as one of the best dramas to come out of the UK and is a great example of the breadth and wealth of our scripted formats catalogue," he said. "We have a huge range of high-quality scripted titles, from Doctor Foster and Luther, to Thirteen and In The Club, shows that would captivate Chinese audiences. I look forward to viewers enjoying this local version of Life on Mars as they go back 30 years in time."

The partnership was announced from the BBC Studios annual trade fair, which this year attracted its biggest-ever Chinese delegation, according to BBC Studios president of global markets, Paul Dempsey.

Life on Mars follows a present-day police officer who mysteriously travels back in time to 1970s Manchester following a traffic accident. The audience follows the protagonist as he attempts to ascertain if he is dead, dreaming while in a coma, or has in fact time-traveled.

The show, which won both Emmy and British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards, ran for two seasons in 2006 and 2007, when it regularly received the highest viewership in its time slot with an average of 6.8 million viewers. BBC Studios has previously licensed the format to producers in Russia, Spain, the Czech Republic, and South Korea.

The Mandarin version will be based in 1990s Beijing, a time of economic growth and cultural prosperity in China, when the country became increasingly open to the rest of the world culturally.

The Chinese version will explore the conflict and challenges in this "remarkable era of change", according to the BBC. Pre-production on the series will start this year with Phoenix producing 24 episodes.

Life on Mars will be Phoenix's second police drama, following on from the huge success of Day and Night, a crime drama that has amassed more than 24 billion views on streaming service Youku.

"Life on Mars drew our interest because of its originality and superb storytelling," said Phoenix general manager Bihai Wu. "BBC Studios offers a great range of dramas that match our ambitions to produce captivating, first-class dramas for the fast-growing Chinese subscription video-on-demand market and their discerning audiences."

Kelvin Yau, general manager for BBC Studios in China, called the remake "an exciting prospect".

"Drama local adaptation is a growing business in North Asia, particularly in China, and is a key focus for BBC Studios as we continue to bring the best of British television to Chinese audiences," said Yau.

The British and Chinese governments signed a television co-production agreement in 2016 to facilitate link-ups between studios in both countries.

A flurry of co-produced movies and TV series have followed, including Jackie Chan action flick The Foreigner, romantic comedy Special Couple, which stars British actor Rupert Graves, and Watch the Skies, a science fiction animation featuring the voices of British screen stars Gemma Arterton, Asa Butterfield, and Sean Bean.

Production house Endemol Shine China is collaborating with both British film and TV production company Blue & White & Red Pictures and Chinese intellectual property specialist Cloudwood on a Mandarin version of the hit British crime drama Broadchurch. And Chinese internet company Tencent has co-produced the natural history series Dynasties with BBC Studios.

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