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PBS' "Mastepiece" and BBC Worldwide Sign Co-Production Deal

PBS' long-running (and recently rebranded) Masterpiece has signed a co-production deal with BBC Worldwide that will encompass several international co-productions.

These will include a new production of beloved period drama Upstairs, Downstairs, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' modern take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and Rupert Graves), and three mysteries based on Michael Dibden's Aurelio Zen novels starring Rufus Sewell.

"I'm so proud of this particular group of programs," said Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton in a statement. "These three series say everything about what Masterpiece aims to be: iconic, rich with wonderful actors, witty, literate, and timeless. I can't wait to see them all."

"These three co-productions offer a new spin on well-known, treasured stories and we're thrilled to be working with Masterpiece to bring them to life," said Matt Forde, EVP Sales & Co-Productions, BBC Worldwide, Americas. "A valued, long-standing production partner, our past collaborations with Masterpiece produced a number of critically acclaimed, award-winning-series--a testament to the success of our partnership."

As for me, I can't wait to see each of these. Upstairs, Downstairs will reunite Jean Marsh with Dame Eileen Atkins, Moffat will take on Sherlock and Watson in the present day, and Sewell will set off to solve crimes in sun-dappled Italy. Sounds like we're in for a real treat on all accounts.

The full press release from PBS can be found below.

MASTERPIECE AND BBC WORLDWIDE ANNOUNCE DRAMA CO-PRODUCTIONS, INCLUDING NEW UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS

Modern-Day Sherlock and Aurelio Zen mysteries starring Rufus Sewell also slated for production

Brighton, England--February 22, 2010-- MASTERPIECE on PBS and BBC Worldwide Sales and Distribution, Americas have announced a major co-production deal that includes a new production, with the BBC, of Upstairs Downstairs--one of the most-loved and honored television series of all time. Upstairs Downstairs will air in the U.S. in 2011 as part of MASTERPIECE 's 40th anniversary season on PBS.

The deal also includes Sherlock, a 21st-century spin on Arthur Conan Doyle's classic Sherlock Holmes novels, and three Aurelio Zen mysteries, adapted from the best-selling novels by Michael Dibden set in Italy.

"I'm so proud of this particular group of programs," says MASTERPIECE executive producer Rebecca Eaton. "These three series say everything about what MASTERPIECE aims to be: iconic, rich with wonderful actors, witty, literate, and timeless. I can't wait to see them all."

"These three co-productions offer a new spin on well-known, treasured stories and we're thrilled to be working with MASTERPIECE to bring them to life," says Matt Forde, EVP Sales & Co-Productions, BBC Worldwide, Americas. "A valued, long-standing production partner, our past collaborations with MASTERPIECE produced a number of critically acclaimed, award-winning-series--a testament to the success of our partnership."

An enormous success worldwide, the original Upstairs Downstairs won seven Emmys® during its run on MASTERPIECE THEATRE in the mid-1970s--including Best Actress for Jean Marsh, who will reprise her role in the new three-part series as Rose, the parlor maid. Dame Eileen Atkins, the co-creator of the original program, will also star. Screenwriter Heidi Thomas (Cranford) is setting the new Upstairs Downstairs in the same house at 165 Eaton Place in 1936, during the period leading up to World War II.

The thrilling new Sherlock series is a fast-paced, witty take on the legendary crime drama, now set in present day London and starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement, The Last Enemy) as the eponymous detective. Martin Freeman (The Office UK, Hot Fuzz) plays his loyal friend, Doctor John Watson, and Rupert Graves (God on Trial, The Forsyte Saga) is Inspector Lestrade. Co-created by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Coupling, Jekyll) and Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen, Crooked House), the iconic details from Arthur Conan Doyle's original books remain: same address, same names--and somewhere out there, Moriarty is waiting.

Rufus Sewell (The Eleventh Hour, Middlemarch, John Adams) will star as Italian detective Aurelio Zen in three episodes based on the popular mysteries by Michael Dibden. The series is being shot on location in Italy by Left Bank Pictures, the production company behind the acclaimed Wallander television series.

Upstairs Downstairs is a BBC/MASTERPIECE co-production; Sherlock is a Hartswood Films (Jekyll, Coupling) and MASTERPIECE co-production; Aurelio Zen is produced by Left Bank Pictures for the BBC in association with RTI (Mediaset Group), MASTERPIECE and ZDF with additional funding from BBC Worldwide, Ingenious and Lipsync.

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