Inside television: Why the battle is not just for ratings


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The Independent Culture

This year marks 100 years since the start of a four-year war which claimed 16 million lives around the world. In October, the BBC laid claim to this anniversary announcing an ambitious slate of over 2,500 hours of First World War programming. Clearly, Adrian Van Klaveren needn't worry whether he's commissioned enough programmes, but if anything keeps the BBC's Controller of the World War One Centenary up at night over the next four years, it will be the tone of these documentaries and dramas.

This was also a concern back in 1989, when the writers of a popular sitcom revealed that their final series would be set in the trenches at Flanders. Surely, the sitcom was an inappropriate and trivialising vehicle with which to reflect on a tragedy of this scale? Fifteen years later, and the bleak absurdity of Blackadder Goes Forth stills stands unmatched as a televised depiction of war.

Look out for our fiend in the north

With all this attention paid to the Bulgarians and Romanian workers approaching from the east, is anyone keeping an eye on Britain's northern borders?

The export market for Scandinavian drama is still strong (The Bridge returns to BBC4 on Saturday), but that hasn't stopped some enterprising thespian migrants from seeking employment over here.

Did you recognise a familiar set of eyebrows in the closing shot of Sherlock? They belonged to Lars Mikkelsen (Søren in Borgen) who will be playing the new villain Charles Augustus Magnussen.