Customer Review

226 of 234 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumph of civilisation and television landmark, 8 Oct 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Ascent Of Man : Complete BBC Series [DVD] [1973] (DVD)
An epic investigation into human civilisation and one of the jewels in the BBC's crown, Jacob Bronowski's 'The Ascent of Man' was one of the most gripping and absorbing television experiences I have ever witnessed. At an age when I should have been going off down the pub and making a nuisance of myself, I stayed in, week after week to watch this production.
Bronowski, by the 1970's, was a well-known figure on British television - an intellectual and a scientist who could communicate the complex without sounding simplistic or making the viewer feel stupid. But 'The Ascent of Man' seemed a programme too far. The BBC charter, and the BBC's experience, might emphasise the need to educate and inform, as well as entertain, but surely an exploration of this nature was too vast and too cerebral for prime-time viewing? There were many who felt that it was pretentious of the BBC and that it would be played to a distinctly minority audience.
The result was not simply that Bronowski produced groundbreaking television and set the tone for the future, his exploration of human civilisation crossed the bridge of irony - the British public was not merely ready to watch this programme, they wanted exploration and enquiry, and they wanted the sort of production Bronowski could deliver. Here we had intelligent, intellectual analysis which was sustained by human values, not cold science! Bronowski conveyed passion and excitement and made knowledge and learning warm with emotion and anticipation!
Bronowski could inject passion into a fossil! He comes across as such a lover of life. This is not just a quick history of the world ... this is excitement captured on television, and now on DVD. The great quality of 'The Ascent of Man' is that Bronowski does not set out to deliver fact, incontrovertible statements set in stone - rather he sets out to question and to sow in the minds of the viewer the seeds of doubt, the questions which will stimulate them to enquire, to enquire, and enquire again and never to take for granted. The scientific method is not the cold pursuit of certainties ... it is the human dynamic of uncertainty and the artistry of explanation. Science and history are alive.
And Bronowski never makes this point more clearly than when he kneels in a concentration camp and plucks up a handful of earth. It is a scene of such humility and compassion, it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Evil lies in blind acceptance and obedience. The essence of civilisation is in questioning, doubting, thinking outside the box. And, in 'The Ascent of Man', the BBC brought the box into the living room and delivered out of it one of the epic pieces of television history and one of the most civilising productions any media has yet carried. Magnificent. Five stars is just for starters!
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Aug 2010 20:14:51 BDT
Brunila Tom says:
I totally agree with you. This is perhaps the best science program ever on TV. But on small correction. At the concentration camp it is not earth that he picks up, it is the ashes of those exterminated there. For me that was a scene that told everything that ever can be told about that inhuman period of time in human history.

Through this series Jacob Bronowski influenced my understanding of history and science in a profound way. The ascent of Man is probably the most important tv program I have ever seen. Still, nearly forty years later, I haven't seen one that has even come close to it.
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