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Channel 4 announces National Treasure

Jack Thorne’s compelling and timely new four part serial drama, commissioned by Channel 4, examines accusations of sexual misconduct against a fictional public figure and explores their impact on the accused and those most closely associated with him as he is brought to trial.

Paul Finchley is one half of a much loved comedy double act – a cherished household name with a career that spans several decades. He’s not quite as successful as he once was, but nevertheless he’s frequently recognised on the street, affectionately called upon by taxi drivers to repeat his famous catchphrase and is a familiar face in the TV schedules. He’s a bona fide national treasure.

Then he receives a knock at his door. Faced with an accusation of rape from the 1970s, the life of this adored old man begins to unravel.

Paul and all those closest to him are put under the intense pressure of the investigation and the merciless media circus that accompanies it, from his wife and family to his manager to his loyal (and more successful) comedy partner. And, of course, his accuser, now in her 50s, must run the same gauntlet in parallel.

As the investigation and criminal trial work their way towards a verdict, memories that have become muddied in the intervening four decades are dredged, doubts flourish, loyalties are tested, and truths, half-truths and lies are all exposed.

Jack Thorne, writer, says: “What I’ve always loved about Channel 4 is that it’s a place to discuss big ideas. National Treasure is a piece about doubt, about the smell of abuse, about how we as a society live in Yewtree times. Paul is a man who could be innocent or guilty. We’re going to examine him from all sides and ask that big question – how well do we know the people closest to us?”

George Faber, co-executive producer, says: “In recent years we’ve been bombarded with revelations about the historic sex offences of people in the public eye and the lives that they’ve destroyed. This fictional drama explores the emotional impact on both a family that finds itself in the eye of such a media story, and on the accuser – and tackles the complex relationship between celebrity, sex and power.”

Piers Wenger, Channel 4 Head of Drama, says: “National Treasure is a powerful drama that goes beyond recent headlines, exploring the human and emotional impact when a whole life is called into question. In Jack’s hands it’s an insightful and thought-provoking exploration of memory, truth, age, doubt, and how well we really know ourselves and those closest to us. This, coupled with its evident topicality, makes it a perfect addition to the Channel 4 drama slate.”

National Treasure was commissioned by Piers Wenger, Channel 4 Head of Drama, with Beth Willis and Roberto Troni. It will begin shooting in January 2016 to air on Channel 4 later that year. Casting is yet to be announced.

National Treasure is written by Jack Thorne, whose previous credits include Glue (E4), The Fades (BBC3), This is England ‘86, ’88, ’90 (Channel 4) and The Last Panthers (Sky). He has also written Hope and Let the Right One In for The Royal Court Theatre as well as the forthcoming Harry Potter play for London’s West End. It will be directed by Marc Munden, whose previous credits include the International Emmy award-winning Utopia, The Crimson Petal and the White and The Devil’s Whore.

This four-part serial is the second Channel 4 commission for new production company The Forge, which is also making the 8-part series The ABC for transmission in 2016. National Treasure is executive produced by George Ormond (Great Expectations, Emma) and George Faber (Shameless, The Devil’s Whore, Skins, The Village).

Channel 4’s current drama slate includes hit series Humans, the biggest-rated Channel 4 drama for two decades; Paul Abbott’s No Offence, returning for a second series in 2016; Sunday night period epic Indian Summers, returning early 2016; Shane Meadows’ final chapter in his landmark series, This Is England ’90, on air this autumn; Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong’s Fresh Meat, returning for graduation in early 2016; and two brand new British dramas for E4, Aliens and Tripped.

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