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BBC Two brings the real world into its autumn schedule

LONDON – The reality of living in the modern world is the focus of BBC Two's £97m autumn schedule, which will include following Michael Portillo as he finds out what it's like to be a single parent on a Merseyside estate.

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As part of a series of politically sensitive programmes in the new schedule, Portillo is one of several MPs who take on the life of one of their voters in a programme called 'Life in the Real World'.

Portillo is transported away from his Belgravia home and tries to survive on £80 a week in Liverpool. Other MPs taking part include Clare Short, Alan Duncan and Peter Kilfoyle.

The channel examines the role of guns in today's world with a look at the rise of gangs in the UK. It includes the story of two teenage girl gang members growing up in a world of violence, criminal behaviour and exclusion. The show will also examine whether there is a link between urban music and guns.

The channel continues its mission to find the UK's favourite book with 'The Big Read', fronted by Clive Anderson. As the list is boiled down to the final 20, the winner will be decided by a public vote.

Twenty years after Bob Geldof organised Live Aid, following a disturbing report by Michael Buerk, the reporter goes back to Ethiopia to see if the people living there are any better off after millions have been spent to improve the famine-stricken part of East Africa.

In stark contrast, 'The Millionaire Mind' will look at how to make money and keep it. A group of millionaires are put through a series of tests to discover the characteristics that have helped them make their fortunes.

The nation's obsession with property and buying and selling houses is not being ignored. 'The Million Pound Property Experiment', presented by designers Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, looks at seven properties, ranging in value from £100,000 to £1m, to see if it's possible to make money from property.

Yesterday, the BBC announced its BBC One autumn line-up, with history at the centre of the schedule. History will also be high up the agenda on BBC Two.

Pioneers of engineering, such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who built the SS Great Eastern, and Count Ferdinand de Lesseps, whose Panama Canal linked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, will be featured in 'Seven Wonders of the Industrial World'.

The history of technology will be examined in 'Time Commanders', a game of military strategy. It will challenge some of the achievements of figures such as Julius Caesar and Napoleon to see if they could have done things differently with technology.

Performance art will be featured, with the recreation of a private rehearsal of Ludwig van Beethoven's 'Eroica' symphony in the palace of the composer's patron in Vienna.

The life of poet Lord Byron will be the subject of a drama starring Sick Boy from 'Trainspotting', Jonny Lee Miller.

Comedy will be provided by Stephen Fry in a new quiz show called 'QI' (short for Quite Intereresting). He also stars alongside John Bird as one of a pair of Machiavellian spin doctors trying to make their break into celebrity PR from politics, in what sounds like a male 'Absolutely Fabulous', known as 'Absolute Power'.

Louis Theroux returns to the channel for a one-off special in which he visits the opening of one of America's biggest legal brothels.

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