They are at first glance, strange bedfellows. So how did Amanda Holden end up presenting Sex: A Bonkers History - a specialist factual TV series for Sky History?
Well first, there’s Bridgerton to thank. As soon as that show launched on Netflix, we immediately thought what would the factual documentary be to accompany the show? It had to be the real sex lives of the Georgians. And we had a title, Sex & Sensibility…but who to be our own Lady Whistledown?
Finding our own Lady Whistledown
I had wanted to work with Amanda for a while. She is populist and smart and I wondered what she would do with specialist factual content. Her agents were looking for something different for her to do and looked favourably on a previous treatment in which she told the real story of Grease on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the show. So… her name was attached to Sex & Sensibility. Sadly, UK commissioners all passed on the idea as none carried Bridgerton, but equally (and unusually) all got back saying they thought it was a neat idea.
Then Covid hit. We had a staff team of shooters, directors and editors, so we took the decision (with a very small advance from the distributors Blue Ant) to make the show anyway (although not with Amanda).
Sex & Sensibility sold immediately and – significantly for us – to Sky History. So, we followed up with a meeting with commissioners Dan Korn and Di Carter. It was clear from previous shows they had commissioned that they liked headline-grabbing, counter-intuitive talent to present series with attitude. We went in with three shows to pitch. All were led by well-known UK celebrities, all of whose agents had said we could attach their names and none of whom you would think of as specialist factual talent. Sex: A Bonkers History was our Amanda Holden vehicle (working title: Back in Time for Sex).
Meeting Amanda Holden
Dan and Di liked the idea. Now all we had to do was turn an expression of interest from Amanda and the team at YMU into a firm commitment. I was dispatched to London for a face-to-face meeting. And, I am delighted to report, that Amanda was as delightful and engaged with the subject matter as I had hoped. There were discussions about the portrayal/objectification of women throughout history and plenty of belly laughs about some of the subject matter as we decided we are more buttoned-up now than we ever have been in history. Best of all… we got on.
We were in production. And what a joy it has been.
Together with historian Dan Jones, there have been bizarre stunts, plenty of dressing up and a whole lot of chewy history. As hoped, Amanda has seen the show generate headlines in everything from The Daily Telegraph to The Sun…from Radio Times to Heat Magazine. Now we need (appropriately enough for the content) bums on seats. Available as a boxset from Monday September 18th. Take a look!