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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
The Jonathan Meades Collection [DVD]
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on 17 November 2017
Gotta love his style..
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on 21 April 2009
Meades often comes under criticism for being too high-brow or perhaps snobby. His programmes are born out of a great love for our cultural heritage and that definitely comes across in one of the DVD features, "Severn Heaven", a defense of self-built working class homes near Birmingham. He finds the beauty in the uncoventional and the ugliness in the established "high culture".

I can't help but feel that most televison is the cullinary equivalant of fast-food, and there is nothing wrong with that, in moderation. But the programmes made by Meades are simply some of the best ever made for the BBC. In culinary terms he is 3-star michellin restaurant and that has got to be a wonderful change to our usual TV dinner.

Please BBC, release onto DVD more of Meades's films and commission some new series??!!!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 June 2016
This collection of Jonathan Meades’s programmes for the BBC is woefully deficient in that it has only ten of the fifty or so that he completed between 1989 and 2008. But until a complete collection is released, it will have to do.

In his introduction Meades say that his intention was “to cast light on what is occluded and forgotten and, sometimes literally, unmapped. And also to draw attention to what’s under our noses: the everyday stuff under our noses that is so familiar that it is ignored or held in contempt.” That may be so, and is a primary attraction of the films; but equally there is the humour, especially where he connives with members of the public to create sequences and visual puns that often had me laughing out loud.

The episodes included in this set and their subject-matter are summarised in what follows.

1. Severn Heaven – The interwar shack, plot-land settlements. Meades explores the largest of these, by the River Severn. I am surprised he says it is of its time when the tradition of erecting dwellings on common land goes back at least a millennium.

2. In Search of Bohemia – “A conjunction of name, place, and state of mind.” The places are in southern England, not in the Czech Republic.

3. Get High! – Meades confronts his vertigo. I know how he feels.

4. Belgium – In which our hero tries to solve “the riddle that is Belgium.”

5. Remember the Future – “We’re helplessly dependent on the fruits of the technological revolution, but we scorn the utopian vision that they were meant to serve.”

6. The Absentee Landlord – Postwar ecclesiastical architecture. This was a seminal programme for me, awakening an interest that has proved enlightening.

7. Double Dutch – The culture of Holland: that is, Holland in England.

8. Fast Food – “The noxious stench that defines our era. It is our tallow, our coal-gas, our sewage.”

9. Father to the Man – An autobiographical journey on how the midget autodidact from the planet Pigignoramus (his words) came to regard “suburban avenues and riverbanks, back streets and words as the best free show on Earth.” Unsurprisingly, this is the episode in which he stretches least the viewer’s lexicography.

10. Magnetic North (Parts 1 & 2) – In which our hero turns his back on the traditional Grand Tour and heads north along the coast from Picardy to Finland. Architecture, food, drink, economics, mores, health, religion, art, landscape: a veritable travelogue that beats Palin by miles.

The only extra is a forty-minute interview with Mark Lawson. Here, strangely, Meades sometimes has to struggle for words. He does enlighten us though, pointing out that all is scrupulously scripted and planned before filming commences, and Meades describes his work as being “As much music-hall as lecture-hall.”
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on 31 January 2014
Not sure about the overall package - selected highlights so by no means complete - but Meades is (nearly always) compelling and always very droll. As a town planner his take on the built environment is refreshing, often finding interesting things to say about the overlooked places. On top of this, Meades and the production crew often found playful and engaging ways to mess with the medium of tv and documentary film making. I laughed out loud at a ludicrous sequence in Magnetic North where they used kids dressed up as knights to depict an historical event involving the crusades which had the ironic caption 'Reconstruction' included so that we wouldn't mistake it for original footage.
The interview with Mark Lawson is included but as other reviewers have mentioned doesn't add to the package. Lawson spends most of his time reading through his prepared questions.
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on 8 November 2009
Eclectic and eccentric. Indescribable. Jonathan Meades does not patronise; he assumes intelligence, wit and perception from his audience. Even if you do not share his views on every subject he beguiles and persuades. You don't have to be serious to make a serious point and in a 30 minute film like "the future", included in this collection, Meades entertains, challenges and educates. If you have come across his work before you will either love it or just not get it. If you have not seen anything by him before, take a chance. The worst that can happen is that you'll learn something: which does not happen very often watching TV in the 21st century. Finally, it is worth stating that it is the kind of work produced by Meades that makes the BBC great. No other broadcaster would commission this stuff. Get it while you still can.
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on 31 January 2011
Jonathan Meade is capable of keeping you spellbound during the whole show. No time to go get coffee, if you miss a sentence, you have to start all over again. He delivers his point with a florish, looks at all the angles and leaves you dazzled.
A pity that the box is a collection, I want to see all the episodes
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on 4 August 2015
Why does the BBC torture its 'shareholders' in this way? What Mr Meades devotees want is ALL of his programmes, not just a few programmes that remind us of how great the BBC used to be. Perhaps I'm weird but I find that listening to Jonathan Meades (the pictures are a bonus) is like having a brain massage; his use of the English language is delicious and reminds me that I am actually an intelligent human being (although there are some that may dispute this).
That the BBC claim 'copyright' as a reason as to why they can't release more of these programmes is troublesome. I'm fairly sure that the programmes were BBC copyright when broadcast. Which idiot sold the copyright, to whom and why? Buy it back and release the programmes - some of us would pay a good deal to have the full collection.
Could anyone imagine the BBC commissioning these programmes in 2015? Sadly, nor can I. Back to Radio 4 then. Hey ho.
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on 9 August 2010
Jonathan Meades is provocative, absurd, opinionated, surrealist and a sheer unadulterated pleasure to watch. His wit is razor fine and the sooner we get all of the films on DVD the better.

I'd seen the original Severn Valley programme ("set in a distant present") but was glad to be reminded of it, but for some reason I missed quite a lot of the ensuing ones, including Get High which did my stomach no good whatsoever. I identified entirely with him as he crawled on his knees across Clifton Suspension Bridge and I agree, bridges should be banned - all of them. His remark that "fairgrounds are legalised brothels that satisfy non-sexual appetites" doesn't really make sense if you think about it, but never mind, I like any space I'm in to be above me, not below me, so the cathedral shots were good.

Belgium has a lot more going for it than I thought, putting to shame the insular regimented suburbs of Britain, though other scenes exemplify his point that its rural areas "have a bleakness we've almost lost the knack of in England." Full marks too for the cruel remark about Belgium's public buildings reminding him of "a dwarf with a penis enlargement."

DVD 2 onwards, apart from "the lime green posing-pouch of reality" was more of a mixed bag. Some of the descriptions of church architecture (Coventry cathedral "in the shape of a radiogramme" and "a descending flock of bobbins") were delightful and I feel I learnt more about church architecture in England than I expected (modernist parasitism, exercises in pure form, the apparent rule that architects should forget what a church was supposed to look like and the way this worked towards inducing a general indifference to religion, leading to the cosy non-church, one step on from your granny's front room).

The Hanseatic history in the Magnetic North episode was revelatory for me. But I felt equivocal about Meades' preference for buildings erected in praise of Mammon rather than those erected as colonial bastions. His antennae shivered in the wind over gothic Victorian too. Shouldn't one judge buildings on purely aesthetic grounds? Not everyone prefers Georgian simplicity - gargoyles were often the creation of rough workmen leaving their mark where tradition dictated they might. I was pleased too to hear about the Paganist movement in Finnish architecture. All in all, a distinct pleasure throughout. More please.
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on 28 August 2010
Meades does topography like no other. Well not like Betjeman nor Auden and so, so much good transpires that is new, even though now 20 years ago, later, we discover what we have lost in this short time under Major/New Labour. There is no downside, despite the loss of breadth as others have said. Meades is pithy and angular and buffonishly clever where others are dried-up sticks with umbrellas sticking out of their anoraky rucksacs - uck.

My favourite scene - Get High - the divers, where the camera stops panning as they enter the water: a second later the droplets from the splash slo-mo'd, backgrounded with Out of Africa soundtrack.

You're not likely to see this kind of quality anytime soon on Sky (let alone the blinded BBC) so as an old self-proclaimed sage on these matters take it from me - this is apogee.
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on 19 September 2017
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