- ITV has unveiled a richer diet of comedy and a strong drama line-up for the winter, as it gears up to make the most effective use of peak viewing time without News at Ten.
News at Ten itself will be replaced by a 6.30pm bulletin fronted by Trevor McDonald called The Evening News, and The Nightly News, an 11pm programme presented by Dermot Murnaghan.
David Liddiment, ITV's director of programmes, said the winter season placed more emphasis on comedy and brought forward major initiatives in news and current affairs since the decision to move the main evening news.
On the comedy front, Martin Clunes and Neil Morrissey from Men Behaving Badly come together again for a new series set in the 1980s called Hunting Venus, and Robson Green stars in a new bitter-sweet romantic comedy called Rhinocerous. There is also more than a hint of 70s nostalgia with the That 70s Show (w.t.) from the creators of Roseanne, and a return of The Grimleys.
"What is interesting about the new schedule is that ITV is putting greater emphasis on comedy," affirmed Carat's Dave King, "The acid test is whether Rhinoceros and Hunting Venus will deliver the size and quality of audience we are looking for."
He added that the winter drama schedule, which appeared to have changed dramatically since ITV's last announcement in September, looked equally strong, with new series of Kavanagh QC and An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. New productions planned include The Vice, set in the vice unit of the Metropolitan police, a dramatisation of the struggle by the Lawrence family to bring their son's killers to justice, and a new film adapted from Ruth Rendell's novel, Lake or Darkness.
Movies include the terrestrial premiere of Goldeneye and The Bridges of Madison County, while TV's love affair with docu-soaps continues with Cop Shop, following a group of police officers and Trauma Team, which covers the work of Britain's only on-site 24 hour consultant-delivered trauma service.
The winter also sees Esther Rantzen join ITV for the first time in a new campaigning programme That's Esther.