Grand Theft Auto coming to TV in behind-the-scenes drama

The story behind the game will be made into a feature-length drama by the BBC this year.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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Grand Theft Auto is a record-breaking -- and controversial -- gaming phenomenon. Rockstar

A new drama is set to look under the hood of Grand Theft Auto. The feature-length TV programme from the BBC will tell the behind-the-scenes story of the popular but controversial video game series created by British developers Rockstar.

According to one of the people involved, games journalist Guy Cocker, the as-yet-untitled GTA show will be a 90-minute drama "focusing on the people behind its creation".

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Former CNET and GameSpot editor Cocker has been developing the drama, the script of which is being written by another writer. Further details of plot, casting and transmission are yet to be revealed.

The BBC calls it "the story of arguably the greatest British coding success story since Bletchley Park" in a statement to Videogamer. "Grand Theft Auto tells the story of how the game was conceived and created and the subsequent fallout as various groups objected to its violent gameplay."

It's possible that gaming fans in the US will be able to enjoy the GTA show on BBC America, home of the Beeb's other hits shows, such as "Doctor Who" and "Top Gear".

Gamers first hit the streets of Liberty City in the original Grand Theft Auto in 1997. Rockstar

The first Grand Theft Auto game was released for the PlayStation and PC in 1997 by the gaming studio then known as DMA Design. Founded in Scotland, DMA had already had a hit with Lemmings when GTA exploded onto the scene, causing controversy with its depiction of car theft and scattering pedestrians. DMA later became a part of multinational game company Rockstar. According to Cocker, Rockstar is not directly involved with the production.

The original game was followed by assorted GTA sequels, including Vice City, San Andreas and Liberty City Stories. The series culminated in the most recent release, 2013's Grand Theft Auto V.

The BBC announced the drama today as part of its new Make it Digital scheme. The publicly funded broadcaster will create a range of digital-themed shows, including documentaries about computing pioneers Ada Lovelace and Bletchley Park codebreaker Gordon Welchman. And in an echo of the 1980s BBC Micro computer that introduced a generation of Brits to computing, Auntie Beeb will dole out 1 million free Micro Bit programmable devices to all 11-year-olds starting secondary school this autumn.

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Update 13 March: Added quoted statement from BBC.