Whilst it hits all the cliches you’d expect – Paxman down a sewer, telling Bazalgette’s story – there’s a heady mix of architecture, art, literature and social realism presented to explain who the Victorians really were. As it’s in HD, too, there’s lots of sweeping shots and helicopters, a la Britain From Above.
Posts Tagged ‘history’
The programmes made for the BBC’s new Style season seem to confirm that for some reason it’s impossible to have interesting TV about fashion. Style on Trial with a sweaty Stuart Maconie and guests like Laurence Llewelyn Bowen looking bewildered in a gloomy studio somehow lacks glamour. And does Lauren Laverne have to present everything? But this colour series from 1957 shows it can be done.
The wobbly titles – “by kind permission of the Marquess of Abergavenny” – might make it seem impossibly quaint at first, and some elements are truly bizarre, like the bloomers hung up like a ghost on a black background and Benny Hill being dressed up in a toga. But it’s “Devised, Written and Spoken by” the fantastically elegant Doris Langley Moore, who actually packs the whole thing full of facts and intelligent opinions, so you have to concentrate to keep up with her points about male facial hair, female back decolletage and other aspects of body shape and dress through the ages. Brilliantly, the BBC have put the whole series in their archive. They’ve also got some great accompanying documents, including a grumbling audience report showing that people in the Fifties didn’t know how lucky they were.
Now please can someone make a decent new programme about fashion: give us a rest from Twiggy and get someone like Diane Pernet in, to tell us something we don’t know.
What a lovely, fascinating, useful programme. Proper scholarship (from Mica Nava, a clever historian who was once, in the distant past, my boss for a short while), great stories and really interesting and relevant insights into the translation of Britain from 19th Century manufacturing powerhouse into 20th Century shopaholic paradise.
The two big names featured were both Americans but, between then, transformed Britain: FW Woolworth and Gordon Selfridge. The sad part is that Selfridge lost everything and died a bitter onlooker and Woolworth’s, already long gone in the US, looks like it’s about to do the same here, which makes me wonder what’s going to happen to the amazing Woolworth Archive featured in the programme (and to its passionate honorary archivist, Paul Seaton, who is an IT manager at the firm).
We’d be unhappy if pop culture didn’t regularly throw up Shakespearian figures like Phil Spector, flawed and brilliant (and in Spector’s case downright dangerous). Imagine if they were all like Cliff. This really lovely Arena takes the form of an extended interview conducted by director Vikram Jayanti (the BBC’s press release says that Jayanti’s “hallmark is empathic explorations of genius” and I don’t doubt it) with some additional forensic analysis of the songs themselves. Tracks from the producer’s long career are played in full as the action proceeds and mini-critical essays by journalist Mick Brown pop up on screen as we watch.
Here’s an interesting interview with Jayanti.
If there was a channel that showed only speeded-up movies filmed from the cab of a train I would watch it. Here are two films from thirty years apart (1953 and 1983), screened side-by-side, and both shot from the cab of a London-Brighton train. Mesmerising.