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BBC puts history and drama at heart of £220m season

LONDON – The BBC has put history programming at the centre of its £220m autumn schedule on flagship channel BBC One, which includes a racy drama romp about Charles II, starring Rufus Sewell.

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Launching the autumn schedule today, Lorraine Heggessey, controller of BBC One, said opening the door to a wide variety of subjects was key to the channel, and that through a range of documentaries and drama the corporation has recreated the world of yesterday for the viewers of today.

As well as the drama on Charles II, which also stars Rupert Graves and Dame Diana Rigg, the autumn line-up includes the ground-breaking 'Pompeii - The Last Day', based around the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79.

"Building on our expertise in the area of computer-generated imagery, we've pushed technology to the limits to recreate the world of ancient Italy," said Heggessey.

Another historical show, Colosseum, travels back to the age of the gladiators, investigating how they worked and lived. Using special effects and dramatic reconstructions, the programme tells the story of Verus, a man who went from being a slave to one of the biggest gladiatorial stars of his time.

Central to the programme is the reconstruction of a fight that is based on the only recorded eyewitness account of gladiators at work.

Geoffrey Chaucer's work is also being brought to life this autumn as BBC One offers six modern takes on 'The Canterbury Tales'.

The tales are updated to reflect Britain today, with themes such as the cult of celebrity, the obsession with youth and bigotry towards asylum seekers.

Written by some of Britain's best known contemporary writers -- Tony Marchant, Peter Bowker, Sally Wainwright and Tony Grounds -- as well as two writers new to television drama in Olivia Hetreed and Avie Luthra, the tales are set on the pilgrims' route to Canterbury.

The tales are 'The Knight's Tale', 'The Miller's Tale', 'The Sea-Captain's Tale', 'The Wife of Bath's Tale', 'The Man of Law's Tale' and 'The Pardoner's Tale'.

They star Julie Walters, James Nesbitt, Om Puri, Paul Nicholls, Dennis Waterman, John Simm, Andrew Lincoln, Keeley Hawes, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jonny Lee Miller.

Dinosaurs rear their ugly heads again with 'Sea Monsters: A Walking with Dinosaurs Special', which brings to life the dangers of the prehistoric underwater world, with Nigel Marven.

Natural history goes deeper with a follow-up to last year's ground-breaking 'Abyss Live'. 'Beyond the Abyss' offers viewers a unique day of broadcasting.

'Hunting Chris Ryan' takes the author, former SAS trooper and member of Bravo Two Zero and abandons him in three of the world's most extreme environments. He is then hunted by former special forces soldiers as he tries to make his escape.

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