Last night's television brought the past to life. We'll come back to The Restoration Man in a minute, but first an hour of silliness on on UKTV's history channel Yesterday in the form of Weekend Warriors.
The weekend warriors in question aren't in the Territorial Army. Nor are they underground MMA fighters or part-time Jihadis. They are, in fact, battle re-enactors. People who spend a good chunk of their years planning how to re-create famous old barnies from across the ages. And there's nothing wrong with that if that's what you're into. Nothing weirder than watching rugby. Each to their own.
But. But... it is a bit weird, isn't it? Nevertheless, it's an area that – once you realise how many people are really into it – obviously warrants a gently ribbing documentary. Think Dave Allen's classic 1974 film In Search of the Great English Eccentric. That kind of thing. Alas, this isn't quite it. Rather than a one-off programme, this was the first of six (six!) shows documenting the build-up to a different battle. And, God, it wasn't half dull, mum.
We met the participants of a re-enacment of the Siege of Marlborough in the English Civil War. While the story of that battle might be interesting – watching people flatten grass with a VW camper in order to form a suitable background wasn't. The dialogue wasn't exactly Sorkin-esque either. "We built up a great relationship with the council, probably the best I've worked with in many years," said somebody. At some point. I lost track.
It's a shame, because the characters here have the potential to shine. Albeit in a That Peter Kay Thing way. This was captured just once when "Roundhead Lord General" Steve Foster was lying on the floor having been "killed" and was heard muttering to the still-fighting men, "Come on, cooooooome on. Yeah yeah, the king's won..."
He then complained to the camera: "I think there's a period of time where you have people laid on the floor, they can only be there so long." Just be glad they didn't have your bloody eye out, pal. (Wrong war, I know).
When the siege itself was being relived using a sepia effect reserved on television solely for low-budget battle re-creations, one did wonder if the entire reason the series had been commissioned was so that Yesterday – a history channel let's not forget – could tell the story of a load of famous conflicts without having to pay any actors to dress up with muskets, or actually organise anything. Just turn up with a camera, press the "sepia" button in the edit and retreat 100 yards to the Coach & Horses.
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