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4.1 out of 5 stars
61
4.1 out of 5 stars
Michael Palin's New Europe : Complete BBC Series [DVD]
Format: DVD|Change
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on 27 May 2008
This series is better than good until something better comes along and that is a compliment. Of course there are pluses and minuses. I probably agree with the comments across the spectrum of opinions. But hey guys, has anyone done anything better and fresher than Michael? I have an interest in FSU etc. and have visited some of the places (or like them) in the series, in the last few years. Mind boggles what we have been missing for the past 50 to 100 years.

The budget for this road-show, it seems, did not allow for an in-depth treatment, alas. Typically the visit to Lvov...or Lviv, was so short you would have missed it if you were to put the kettle on. Perhaps this is the nature of the beast? Therefore deserves my 3.85 stars.
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on 11 January 2015
Actually, I would have given it 4.5 stars. I watched the series when it was broadcast on BBC years ago, and I was disappointed at its cursory observations of the countries, and some of the topics were rather trivial and flippant. I agreed with many of the viewers at the time, and thought that Mr Palin had exhausted his choice of travels, and the standard had fallen slightly.
However, I have just watched the whole series again, and although things have changed - currency, for example - I have revised my opinion. The trouble with really good documentaries is that there is never enough time to absorb all the new and exciting events, culture, geography and politics. But on the DVDs there is a section of extras, which make up for the cursory chats and discussions. What a wonderful variety of cultures in these less well known countries. I have learnt a lot, and enjoyed the series far more the second time around. Michael Palin is a very relaxed and pleasant interviewer, and does not overshadow the interesting people whom he interviewed or the sights of the countries. As expected, there was a contrast between the simplicity of rural life, and the modern technology of the cities.
I have almost convinced myself to give the review a full 5!
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on 19 December 2013
I have a number of Palin's travel dvd's, Himalaya being my favourite, and I watch them again and again, always interesting and something new each time I watch. But this one, I've only watched once and was not impressed for all the reasons mentioned by other reviewers.
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on 11 December 2007
The best series by far!!! I have recently read the book and loved it. And the TV series was brilliant. And even if you think it's a bit long-winded, then just pause the DVD and TAKE A BREAK!!!!!!

*"Dziêkujê" means "thank you" in Polish
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on 4 March 2008
Over last few years while living in Old Europe, I grew increasingly conscious of my family's Eastern European roots. I now take every opportunity to explore the lands and people previously familiar to me mostly from childhood stories. I have also with much interest followed Michael Palin's grand escapades since the very first episode of Around the World in 80 Days. With these two loci converging, I keenly anticipated his New Europe series. I was curious whether Palin would confirm my own impressions of the countries I already know, while offering additional insights and interpretations. Similarly, I hoped that he would provide insightful appetisers of the countries I have yet to visit, and help me prioritise my next few journeys. That's what a good travelogue should accomplish.

New Europe, to employ the label this series adopted, is a semi-continent of contrasts and contradictions, of a strident embrace of the future and its new possibilities, as well as a new insecurity and nostalgic clinging to recent past, no matter how painful and deceitful it actually was. Palin's series had an outstanding opportunity to illuminate these tensions, and give us a balanced analysis of our newly rediscovered neighbours.

It is sad that Palin's series fails to achieve this. It is badly let down both by its format and execution. There may be many effective ways of approaching the subject, but the "artificial vignette" style was a poor choice, lazily executed. Backed by the Palin powerful brand and BBC's enterprising resources, a team of researchers were presumably sent out months ahead to various East European capitals with the mission to arrange, typically,
1. a local twenty-something babe to welcome Palin and show him around,
2. a local "character" for Palin to interview ("make sure it's someone quirky and colourful") and,
3. a couple of equally quirky activities for Palin to self-depreciatingly engage in - you know the type, an "impromptu" invitation to get onstage with some performers, drive a steam train, and so on.

City visits often end with a "surprise" invitation by colourful locals for a singalong barbecue - to demonstrate that a typical extended family in New Europe consists of a band of pig roasting folk musicians, forever on the lookout for a lone foreigner to invite along (providing he has an international film crew in tow). Rather than destroy stereotypes, Palin and his team of researchers appear to go out of their way to reinforce them.

Palin visits a health spa and ends up "unexpectedly" sitting in a mudbath next to the current Miss World, who happens to have the next day or two free to accompany him around the city. Pleasant experience for Michael I'm sure and a coup for the research team, but how did this advance our understanding of New Europe?

The formula is tired, predictable and above all dishonest. This side of WWF, once an audience start feeling duped, they rapidly loose empathy with a programme and its presenter. I watched three episodes at random, and I grew increasingly frustrated. The interviews were superficial, with Palin politely asking shallow and uninspired questions. There was no real engagement and debate, no trying to unravel the real web of tension that is New Europe, just Palin majoring in his role of the slightly awkward but polite uncle at a family wedding.

As for the Boratesque historical and cultural insights - hey, we are not that dumb! In these days of budget airlines, one can safely assume that much of Palin's audience have themselves walked across Wenceclas Bridge, suntanned on the Adriatic and/or skied in Bulgaria. We know about the Berlin Wall, many of us have pieces at home. We watched Ceausescu's fall on TV in 1989. Some of us can even recall the essence of the Yalta Agreement. Yet these are the places and events presented by Palin like he's exposing some astounding novelties, and even these are dealt with superficially. This felt painfully patronising at times. Even in our soundbite times, BBC's target audience can surely cope with more substance.

There is little useful travel advice. I do not feel I got to know the places Palin visited any better, and I picked up precious little that would help equip me further for my travels. I cannot replicate most of Palin's exploits and encounters, as I do not have a team of researchers working months ahead to organise these.

The series fizzled out on a Baltic beach. I was expecting Palin to finally synthesise his trip, to distil some interpretation and present his decomposition of the complexities of New Europe. Here was his chance to balance the superficiality of his "artificial vignettes" with some gravitas. I almost physically held my breath, willing him to turn things around with a closing piece of insightful analysis. No chance. After a couple of slender platitudes, Palin turned his back on the camera and walked along the Baltic beach. As another helicopter shot funded by TV licence payers panned across, the question that must have resonated in a thousand households was "is that all?!?".

If I sound bitter, it is because after decades of suffering from dictatorships, hardships, discontinuity and uncertainty, New Europe deserves much better that this superficial, artificial, formulaic and above all lazy treatment.
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on 11 April 2008
I'm a long-time fan of Michael Palin and personally believe that Pole to Pole is his finest work. Michael's latest series, New Europe, is an entertaining and informative journey through Eastern Europe (and Turkey). The formula which has worked so well in the past worked fairly well again; exploring new countries, meeting new people and having key 'informants'. I have only one gripe; Episode 5 is just horrid. He spends far too long with hippies living in a house shaped like a pyramid. While they are interesting, I would rather meet and see sights more indicative to the country (Lithuania). Whoever proposed this scene should be fired. My impression after that episode was that I really should give Lithuania a wide birth; apparently there is nothing there worth filming.
Aside from episode 5 I found yet more amazing places I want to visit. I don't know if there will be another series, but I would push for one focusing on Central/South America!
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on 23 October 2011
This is Palin on the road in a more relaxed mode; not the stunt travel of Around the World and Pole to Pole, which undoubtedly pushed our peripatetic narrator to his limits. This is a leisurely amble through eastern Europe and parts of the old Soviet Union. Meeting interesting people, learning about the cultures, seeing the sights, occasionally doing silly Palinesque things. What's sad about it is how terribly dated Palin's questions about the New Europe's glowing future now sound--with the Eurozone disintegrating before our eyes. Still, it's an entertaining travelogue that Palin's fans will not want to miss.
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on 4 April 2009
Dont know what this was supposed to be, if Palin had an idea or was just filming whatever he found, if he had a clue about those countries he was trying to 'document'. If it was supposed to be a documentary, well, me as a slovakian watching a part about my country made me think why is he trying to make one of europes most booming economies look like a country from couple of centuries ago. For me he did what people want to see and what will sell, developed west and east that is far behind. Couldnt see there anything that would show Slovakia as it is so as a documentary this is a total nonsense. Showing few attractions and saying this is what it look like there, this is what they live like. If I was making a movie about Britain I definitely wouldnt go and film the poorest region and say yea this is Britain.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 October 2007
Previous great adventures by Michael Palin have been interesting because of the insights we've gained into the places and people. But in New Europe the show seems to be mostly about Michael Palin himself, and what he thinks of everything, and precious little about the countries he visits.

Just when you get to something interesting -- like, for example, the woman in a thoroughly modern clinic who was treating patients with leeches in all seriousness -- the programme dissolves into nudge-nudge humour. There's no proper translator so we don't know what the nurse (doctor?) was using the leeches for. Instead it's a good excuse for Palin to wiggle his eyebrows and make some jokes.
Similarly, when something interesting hoves into view -- a fascinating historical ship on which Palin stays for a night -- you don't get to hear its full story. Or even very much about it. This is really frustrating.

In the final epsiode, Slovakia was dismissed with a short segment about rural folks slaughtering a pig and making sausages. Then the Czech Republic was represented by Palin going to another health spa, meeting the current Miss World, and bathing in mud baths and being given a hot-stone massage. You can see this at your local spa; there must have been something more revealing to film in Czech, surely?
To be fair, that light-hearted segment was balanced with a more in-depth and serious review of the Stasi and their activities in East Germany. But this was a small proportion of the programme; if only all of it had been so relevant and interesting. And if only it had focussed on the people and places, and not Palin's reactions to them...

At the end of each programme it feels as if you've been sent a scrawled postcard from lots of locations. You've seen some pretty pictures and been told that the traveller met Bert, Bill and Benny, but you have not learned a great deal about the people, places or their culture.

I suspect that people who have loved Palin's earlier travels will still enjoy this. But if you want to learn more about the ex-Soviet bloc nations then you'll have to wait for a more considered and in-depth series to come along.
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on 13 October 2007
I was really looking forward to the series as an avowed lover of all things Eastern Europe, but the series has been well below par. The continuity is all wrong, he left Bulgaria in summer and reached Turkey by truck in winter? How long does it take to drive 200 miles? The same thing in crossing Moldova to Romainia. Also he shows so little of the country, the food,the scenery. Instead we have long interviews with people who are interesting for the first minute but then are bores. Did we need to know all about the failed Yorkshire Rock singer who is "big" in the Ukraine? Or the trafficking play in Moldova that seemed to last for over 5 minutes, we got the point after one. Palin seems to have lost his magic too and is coasting through the series without much wit or charisma.
Too much focus on central Turkey ( is that Eastern Europe?),practically nothing on PMR ( Transdniester )which is a fascinating land,I believe the series will not go to Belarus which is a shame as it is possibly Europe's least known country. I could go on as this series is such a let down compared to the other excellent work that Michael Palin has done in the field of travel programming.

Maybe it is time for Mr.Palin to pass on the baton to someone else such as the chap who did the "Holidays In The Danger Zone" series ( name forgotten ).
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