Exclusive: seven-part TV series will involve weekly challenges and aims to tap into rising interest in apiaries
Last modified on Fri 29 Oct 2021 12.33 BST
It has made The Great British Sewing Bee and spelling bee series Hard Spell but now the BBC is focusing on actual bees – by launching the UK’s first competitive beekeeping TV show.
Show Me the Honey! features five children and their families taking part in a series of weekly challenges to create the best hive and tastiest honey, with the winner taking home the beekeeper of the year trophy.
During the seven-part series, the novice beekeeping families learn about their charges in bee school and try to earn the weekly golden bee prize.
From portraiture to pottery, craft reality shows have become a staple of British television programming in recent years. And following a surge of interest in arts and crafts prompted by the pandemic, broadcasters are banking on the genre with a raft of new seasons.
• Portrait Artist of the Year, on Sky Arts, opens its eighth series next month since launching in 2013. The show, presented by Stephen Mangan and Joan Bakewell, searches for a new star portrait artist by asking them to paint different famous people with their work judged by artist Tai Shan Schierenberg, curator Kathleen Soriano and art historian Kate Bryan. Subjects confirmed to take part include Mercury prize-nominated musician Celeste, creative director Alexa Chung and Alastair Campbell. The winning artist will get £10,000 and a commission to paint violinist Nicola Benedetti for an exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
• The Great British Bake Off returns to Channel 4 for a 12th series on 21 September. This year’s contestants on the show – presented by Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding – include a police detective, retired midwife and a psychology student.
• Earlier this month, C4 announced it had commissioned a new show, The Great Big Tiny Design Challenge presented by Sandi Toksvig, in which participants will compete to create the best doll-sized home. The eight-part series for More 4 will be judged by design expert Laura Jackson and world-record holding miniature sculptor Willard Wigan.
• And then there’s pottery. The Great Pottery Throw Down, presented by Derry Girls actor Siobhán McSweeney, in which 12 amateur potters compete to be named champion of the wheel, was a hit on C4 earlier this year after being cancelled by the BBC in 2018. Other craft reality shows include the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee, presented by Joe Lycett, and HBO series Full Bloom, broadcast in the UK on More 4, where florists compete to win $100,000.
With the appetite for apiaries on the rise as people try to tackle the climate crisis by reversing the decline in bees, Show Me the Honey! taps into the buzz around beekeeping and gives viewers tips on how to help all pollinating insects.
One of the judges on the show is the chef Ainsley Harriott, who makes a dish from the winning honey.
He said: “We all love to eat honey but Show Me the Honey! gives us all an incredible insight into how it’s produced, what it takes to look after a hive, the amazing role bees play in the food chain and just how important they are for the environment.”
Presenter Maddie Moate, who got into beekeeping by helping her mother during university holidays, said the show is a “wonderful … way into the subject [of the environment] that feels hopeful.
“After the release of the first Blue Planet, plastic pollution became an entry into the subject a way of talking about the problems going on with the ocean and environment on a larger scale. I think bees do a very similar thing when it comes to biodiversity and the way we’re managing land.”
The Bafta award-winning presenter added: “Yes there’s an overall winner of the show but in each episode we include little challenges such as creating a pollen paradise to make your garden bee-friendly or how to make a bee hotel. Even putting a couple of flowers on a windowsill helps bees to get from one large wildflower meadow to another because they need these little stop-offs – like diners or service stations – to get them from A to B.”
Despite the trend for bucolic broadcasting, as seen by the success of Amazon’s Clarkson’s Farm and Channel 5’s Our Yorkshire Farm, Moate thinks nobody has made a programme like Show Me the Honey! before due to the innate challenges of beekeeping.
She has never been stung during her 15 years of beekeeping but acknowledged: “There are lots of things that can go wrong and are out of our control, which might explain why this hasn’t been done before.”
Despite that, and thanks to safety measures such as beekeeping suits, only two contributors and a dog were stung during the four months of filming.
With the number of beehives in London more than doubling over a decade to an estimated 7,400 and membership of the British Beekeepers Association at 25,000, there is a thriving UK “beeconomy” with ventures such as Beevive’s bee-reviving keyring and Selfridges’ new honey-based restaurant Hive.
The BBC show’s contestants are assisted by professional beekeeper Curtis Thompson, who left his investment banking job to set up bee-based business Local Honey Man. He became interested in the environment and insects through his uncle and realised “there was space for an innovative honey producer”.
Thompson said: “Everyone now is a lot more conscious about the environment and wants to help, so what better way than starting with the pollinators that are responsible for so many of our food crops? It also makes for a great hobby; it’s a real de-stresser.”
Although Show Me the Honey! has been made for CBBC it will air on iPlayer and Thompson thinks a grown-up or celebrity spin-off could work: “There’s a lot of demand and interest in bees so why not do an adult version,” he said.
Show Me the Honey! will air on CBBC on 30 September