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Celebrity trial and comedy fills BBC Two winter schedule

LONDON - Celebrities including former Tory MP Michael Portillo will sit in judgment on a fictitious trial in 'The Verdict', part of BBC Two's winter/spring schedule in which broadcaster Louis Theroux and 'Absolutely Fabulous' star Jennifer Saunders return.

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Due to be shown early next year, this fictional court case involves an internationally famous footballer and his friend who are on trial for rape.

Portillo will be joined by former Liverpool striker Stan Collymore and Ingrid Tarrant.
The unscripted show will be improvised by actors, drawing on evidence and examples from real life.
Roly Keating, controller of BBC Two, said: "This is a hugely ambitious project, which brings the law to life in a completely new way.


"It will be fascinating to follow the twists and turns of the case, see the dynamics and power struggles within the jury, learn about the jury system with its inherent flaws and strengths."
BBC Two stalwart Louis Theroux will return with a new series, taking an overview of some of life's more intriguing characters.
In 'Louis and The Casino', the award-winning film-maker visits the casinos of Las Vegas and meets people prepared to gamble their life savings for the thrill of the win.
To mark his return, there is also a special programme looking back at some of the best moments from his 25 films.
'Absolutely Fabulous' star Jennifer Saunders also returns to the channel in 'The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle'.  In her latest comic creation, set in the world of confessional daytime television and co-written with Dr Tanya Byron, she plays an agony aunt addressing the big issues on the talkshow circuit. 

Graham Norton presents a brand new talk show for BBC Two, 'The Graham Norton Show'. The show will be based on the "people, trends, stories and aspects of celebrity culture", according to BBC Two.
In 'The Truth About Food', presenters -- including Colin Jackson, Fiona Bruce and Vic Reeves -- take viewers on a journey of discovery to find out what food can do for them, using innovative methods and the latest technology. 
Reality programming continues with documentary 'Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS?', where Sir Gerry Robinson, one of the UK's most successful businessmen, takes on arguably his greatest challenge yet, when he spends six months in a Yorkshire hospital to try to slash waiting times from three months to two weeks.
New documentary 'The Conspiracy Files' investigates the facts behind theories that have circulated on the internet and begun to enter the mainstream. The series examines some of those surrounding the events of 9/11 and the Oklahoma bomb, exposing inconsistencies in official accounts.
Music programming will include 'The Seven Ages Of Rock', described by the channel as "the definitive history of the emergence and rebirth of rock". 
The series explores the seven eras of musicians who have shaped rock, with exclusive access, interviews and rare performance archive.
The channel is also set to court controversy with a new series 'Party Animals'. From the makers of 'This Life', 'Party Animals' is described as a drama about love, sex and ambition, starring Andrew Buchan from the BBC's adaptation of 'Jane Eyre' and Matt Smith from the BBC drama 'The Ruby in The Smoke', which follows the social life of a group of 20-somethings who work in the corridors of power. 
The winter/spring season will also herald the return of 'Top Gear' presenter Richard Hammond just months after his near-death crash. He will join fellow presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May in a new series of the hit motoring show. 
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