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85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why The BBC Was Invented. A Grand Tour Leaving Us Wanting More., 22 Feb. 2010
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This review is from: Civilisation - Complete BBC Series [DVD] (DVD)
From time to time you hear the name Civilisation dropped whenever the great days of TV are being discussed, so I felt it was about time I had a look at it myself.

Have you ever watched some soap opera or drama series where some twit yells "Don't lecture me!" when their interlocutor offers some well meaning advice? Well, here is the proof of how empty that usage of the word 'lecture' is.

In Civilisation: A Personal View, Lord Clark offers the viewer 13 lectures on civilisation as it is expressed through fine art, architecture, literature and music. Thousands go to university every year in the sincere hope of hearing some brilliant mind lecture in such a way as to warm, invigorate and inspire the listener to want to acquire further knowledge. In the late '60s the BBC was the kind of corp to invite just such a wise man to offer anyone and everyone a guided tour round the great churches, palaces, relics, ornaments and art works of western civilisation, all 'filmed' in glorious colour.

Nowadays, we get some celebrity, some egotistical familiar face for our history and culture shows. Watch this and you'll realise what a falling off there has been. Really, it is the kind of enterprise to return to again and again, because so much is packed into it. They wanted to commission a series about civilisation: they hired an expert to write and present it. So what if he's a lord and not some pleb with a regional accent. So what if he's a dapper gent with a richer command of the language than the kind of vain industry parasites we endure week on week in the new century. Fact is, he's obviously the real thing, obviously passionate about his subject, in possession of a vast knowledge which he communicates candidly, humbly and charismatically.

Have the good fortune to CHOOSE THIS opportunity for yourself. Nowadays they give the people what they want, so forget about civilisation, erudition, fascination. Instead, it's talent shows for the talentless and David Dimbleby wandering in the Brit Mus going "Wow, look a' that!"

We don't deserve Civilisation.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Mar 2012 01:04:40 GMT
thank you, thank you............. when I want to watch informative programmes , I want it narrated by someone who knows the subject ! ..................not the likes of Martin Clunes , who seems to be the font of Horses Dogs Islands etc........... he was more of a goofy puppy than any dog in the series.............talking in babyish Goo-goo words........." oooh , he likes me !"...... f*** off all the celebrity oafs and give us the rightful people............David Attenborough was never "twee",,,,,,,,,, knowledge, enthusiasm , and the ability to draw in your interest was where he came from.......not the patronising crap we get all too much of now.................and it must cost a much bigger part of any budget to pay these fawning creatures...............thank you...

Posted on 26 Jun 2012 23:50:03 BDT
An excellent review, Philoctetes. Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Mar 2013 21:46:40 GMT
Philoctetes says:
Thank you.

Posted on 19 Apr 2014 02:51:05 BDT
Good grief. So Sir David Attenborough, Prof. Brian Cox, Prof. Mary Beard and Prof. Iain Stewart are all empty headed, vainglorious wannabes? Especially Brian Cox, eh? With his regional accent giving those plebs' ideas above their stations. And let's ignore the multitude of other well informed documentaries available to us on BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 4, and BBC Radio 4. It should be expected that one or two documentaries may not be as successful as others, or to our tastes, as the BBC's remit is to provide for a broad variety of viewers, even those some of us choose to look down on, which includes Dimbleby's art series. Direct your ire not at the BBC, who still fund such marvels as the Natural History Unit or the diverse documentaries shown under the Storyville umbrella, but at ITV, and Channel 5 who contribute nothing to informative documentary making bar celebrity talking heads holidaying under the guise of infotainment. Even Sky, given their huge budget, should be chastised given that the best they could manage was to poach David Attenborough, a recognised star who had built a reputation on a public channel, for only three short series to glorify their 3D channel without trying to put in place a suitable plan for long term documentary making.

While I'm here I should dispel this fanciful notion that Civilisation should be discussed as the standard of TV programming circa 1969 as it is that most shameful of things: the straw man argument. The very fact that it is one of the only documentaries being talked about, and enjoyed, from that era, years later, shows that it was the pinnacle back then, not the norm. Much like in twenty years people will talk about Planet Earth but won't mention ITV's Big Cats With Joanna Lumley; Planet Earth is of transcendent quality much like Civilisation was. Ultimately Civilisation tells us as much about the quality of 1960's TV as Bill and Ben or Z Cars: nothing if viewed in isolation. And viewed as a whole Civilisation was a high watermark that little came close to touching at the time.

It was commissioned and championed by that ignoramus Attenborough, incidentally.

Looking back at the old days with fondness, or a glow of nostalgia, is healthy and enjoyable, but when it blinds you to the bounty of beauty on display in the here and now you have a personal issue seeing the now as it truly is.

Posted on 5 Sep 2014 11:31:12 BDT
L O'connor says:
I think you are a bit harsh on current TV series. There are documentary series presented by serious experts, they aren't all inane celebrities.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Feb 2015 16:57:57 GMT
J. Forbes says:
Yes, but a lot are. That is what is different. The idea of a celebrity didn't exist then, so the right people were employed.

Now, the Beeb are considering a new version, and sadly it's just as likely that they will pick Baldrick to present is as the right man - who is somebody like Neil MacGregor.
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