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BBC4 takes it easy

Everything seems so fast paced nowadays, including TV programmes. Fast editing, music blaring, presenters talking animatedly, there seems no time to just …. relax. Well, BBC4 (who else!) have decided to have a “slow TV” week. The idea seems to have originated in Norway with programmes of crackiling fires gaining an audience of people just wanting to de-stress. This brings back memories of the interludes of “The potter’s wheel” in the early days of TV.
Nowadays this is called “slow TV”, but this is far more “reality TV” than that genre will ever be!
There are five programmes; one showing the making of a glass jug; one showing the making of a metal knife; one showing the making of a chair and one called “Dawn Chorus”, but the one I had a look at on iPlayer was “All Aboard! The Canal Trip”. This was a journey on a canal boat down the historic Kennet and Avon canal from Bath to the Dundas Aqueduct. Filmed in one shot, without any commentary or music it takes the viewer on a two hour leisurely boat trip through beautiful scenery. Although there is no commentary, facts about the history of the area or places seen on route are present as graphics which float on the water or appear on bridges.
I had tuned in rather sceptically, but the scenery was absolutely gorgeous and seeing the other barges and other vessels on the canal and lovely waterside buildings was a joy. It was all rather charming and somewhat hypnotic! Watch this to see beautiful countryside, de-stress or be lulled to sleep by the sound of water lapping and birds singing.
Over half a million viewers watched this programme so this “slow TV” could catch on!
This programme and other slow TV programmes, “Handmade: Glass”, “Handmade:Metal”, “Handmade:Wood” and “Dawn Chorus:The Sounds of Spring” are all available on iPlayer for 28 days.

Music and money, two documentaries of note

Two documentaries worth checking out which aired recently, one which was mentioned in my last post, one which I’ve caught up with belatedly.

We take recorded sound so much for granted nowadays. Just turn on the radio and listen and, if you like something just get the CD or download it. It’s easy. Yet take a moment and think what it must have been like without all that, before Thomas Edison recorded his own voice in 1878. Appreciate this amazing invention and watch part one of “Sound of Song” on iPlayer. The three part series continues on BBC4 at 9pm.

Imagine spending £215,000 on a watch? Bargain. How about  £30,000 for a facial with golden particles?  Well those that can and do spend these amounts trot out the line that their spending helps the rest of us. It is called the “trickle down” effect and successive governments from the 80s onwards have sold us this theory, but does it actually work? Well, there a number of leading economists who say this doesn’t work and the vast majority of us have seen precious little of any trickling down of wealth. Find out how the “non dom” rule has had billionaires flocking to Britain and resulting in us having more billionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world.

Watch  “The Super Rich and Us”, a two part documentary which is now available on iPlayer. Part one is repeated on BBC2 this Thursday at 11:20pm (and I assume part two the following week).


Sound of Song


Neil Brand. Image BBC


As part of BBC4’s Song and Dance season, there is a new documentary which starts tonight called Sound of Song.

Composer and musician Neil Brand looks at how music was recorded and sung, what makes a hit and how it became the soundtrack to our lives.  First part of a three part documentary.

BBC4. 9-10pm Fridays.

Christmas lectures, spies and waltzes

With a line up like that, it could only be BBC4!

For those who love their annual fix of The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, just a reminder of where and when they are this year. Since leaving BBC2 many,many years ago these lectures have bounced around the channels until finally returning to the BBC in 2010 on BBC4.
They’ve down to 3 rather than 5 episodes these days and they’re less lecture more workshop but there is still a lot to enjoy.

This year they are on 29th, 30th and 31st December at 8pm and entitled “Sparks Will Fly – How to Hack your Home”. Professor Danielle George from the University of Manchester takes three great British inventions – the light bulb, the telephone and the motor – and shows you how to hack, adapt and transform them to do extraordinary things.

Following the first Christmas lecture on the 29th at 9pm is Al Murray’s Greatest British Spy Movies. Comedian and history buff Al Murray is joined by former director of MI5 Dame Stella Rimington, political comedian Matt Forde and film expert Matthew Sweet for a fresh look at the great British spy movie.

Following this at 10pm is classic spy film “The Ipcress File” starring Michael Caine. Even if you don’t watch the whole film, check out the opening title sequence which is just perfect, with John Barry’s now iconic spy theme setting the tone and hinting at the intrigue to come over the mundane task carried out by Caine’s Harry Palmer in the visuals.

On New Year’s Day, some highbrow entertainment from Vienna with the New Year’s Day Concert with the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra playing polkas, waltzes and marches, accompanied by dancing by The Vienna State Ballet. Petroc Trelawny presents highlights from the concert in which internationally renowned conductor Zubin Mehta joins the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra to conduct, for the fifth time, their traditional start to the new year from the Musikverein in the heart of Vienna. I think the Blue Danube might just be one of the pieces.

Dancing through history with Lucy and Len

Lucy Worsley and Len Goodman. Photo BBC

Lucy Worsley and Len Goodman. Photo BBC

The always entertaining and informative Lucy Worsley has a new series on BBC4 tonight. This time she’s not on her own though, she is joined by Strictly judge Len Goodman to take us through an intimate history of dance and how dance reflects the history and moral attitudes of the time. Naturally some dancing will be involved and Lucy and Len will be getting into the swing of things by dressing up and doing some of the dances of years gone by, starting with the minuet.

Dancing Cheek to Cheek: An Intimate History of Dance is a three part series starting on BBC4 tonight at 9pm.

I Love Lucy!

Embed from Getty Images

Lucy Worsley, historian, writer, and Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces is back with another series for BBC4. This time, Lucy (pictured, but now minus trademark hair clip!)  turns her attentions on the early George’s of the House of Hanover. It is the tercentenary of the ascension to the throne of George I in 1714.

The First Georgians is a 3 part series on BBC4 on Thursdays at 9pm, with an episode for each of the first 3 George’s.
The first episode has already aired (but on iPlayer) and, as I expected from Ms Worsley,  a well presented and informative and most of all interesting programme. We learnt about how, after Queen Anne died childless, the authorities had to look back through the family tree to find a Protestant relative. Britain might have had a Queen Sophia, as she was granddaughter of James I and heir to the throne. She was an intelligent and learned woman and could have been a great Queen but unfortunately she died a month before Queen Anne. The crown fell to her son George. In the rest of the programme, Lucy told us of George’s struggle to be accepted by his new subjects, whilst holding off the threat of a coup by the Catholic potential James III, and his own family’s dysfunctionality, particularly his son, the future George II who had his own rival, and more popular, court.

The series will show us how the Georgians had an impact on the creation of modern Britain.

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