Britain's Great War (BBC1), TV review: 'Memories from the home front humanise Paxman's war story'
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Tuesday 28 January 2014
When Jeremy Paxman stood on Westminster Bridge and recounted the events of 4 August, 1914, just the familiar authoritative tone of his voice made 100 years ago feel like today. He could have been reading the headlines on Newsnight.
As the opening sally in an ambitious four-year campaign, Britain's Great War has a job to do, and the BBC clearly felt Paxo was the man to do it. His inclusion as presenter says "serious" and it says "knowledgeable". Only that's not all we were promised from the BBC's First World War Centenary coverage. Adrian Van Klaveren, the senior executive in charge, said programming would also explore "different perspectives".
We did hear several stories that added humanising detail to the well-rehearsed stats and historians' talking points. There were the MPs who publicly wept as war broke out, the 500 Imperial Indian Army soldiers given a traditional cremation in Brighton and the thank-you letter that a German spy wrote to his captors the night before his execution. Paxman even expanded his usual portfolio of presenting expressions (disdain, irritation, bemusement) in order to convey all this with sensitivity.
There were glimpses too of the kind of turgid w Jeremy Paxman would have 'done better' had he fought in the WW1 trenches ar documentary this might easily have been, including a chummy chat with Downton Abbey creator Julian Kitchener-Fellowes, regarding his great-grand uncle by marriage, Lord Kitchener. But we also heard from those voices less often given prominence. Violet Muers, now 105, was just a girl when she witnessed the German bombardment of Hartlepool in December, 1914 ("I was horrified. I thought they were coming any minute through the door to kill us"), and, most moving of all, a woman called Valerie Frost, who lost two uncles on the battlefield.
Evidently, the BBC has acknowledged that this war isn't just fodder for a paternalistic lecture, but a still-present history that belongs to us all, and it has made a documentary to reflect that. "I wonder what they would think now if they were watching all this talking about them," said Valerie, unprompted, as Paxman considered a photograph of two uniformed young men. "I think they would be pleased. I think they would be proud that we are still remembering the sacrifice they made," she concluded. And for once, the Newsnight presenter had nothing more to add.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 2 Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 4 Botched ice bucket challenge leaves man critically injured after plane drops hundreds of gallons of water
- 5 Friends reunion: Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox perform mini sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Great British Bake Off 2014: Diana Beard quits after falling ill
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Homer Simpson takes the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he does
Friends reunion: Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox perform mini sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Great British Bake Off embroiled in Baked Alaska 'sabotage' scandal
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
- < Previous
- Next >