29 August 2007 | lewisherschell
A huge missed opportunity
This series is a huge disappointment, and it seems to suffer from a lack of identity: the show seems unable to decide whether it is targeted at an audience that is seriously interested in British film, or whether it is targeted at the audience for the BBC's other 'talking heads'/clip show programmes, who may have only a marginal interest in British cinema.
The series has many problems: the episodes are poorly-structured, and would really benefit from the application of a more chronological structure. Although there are some good interviews with the likes of Michael Caine and Richard Attenborough, each show seems padded out with irrelevant comments from television 'personalities' and comedians such as Richard Bacon and Al Murray. Mostly, these seem to have been presented in a similar way to the aforementioned clip shows, in which it seems the producers sit these 'celebrities' in front of a few clips and then ask them to comment on what they have seen on screen. Mostly, this results in comments which are, at best, trite; and generally, the comments simply describe what is already apparent to the viewers who have just watched the same clip/s. This level of discussion is also brought out in the poorly-scripted 'jokey' narration by Jessica Hynes.
The show could really benefit from dispensing with the interviews with these 'celebrities', and it would also benefit strongly from an on screen narrator who has some authority within the subject--somebody like Chris Frayling, for example. Whilst there are some academic commentators, their comments are few and far between.
I can imagine that the show has pleased neither those who have a serious interest in British cinema, nor those whose interest in the topic is only passing: it's too jokey and not critical enough for those who have a serious interest in the topic, and I would imagine that the show loses most of its casual viewers whenever it tries to get a little more serious, dealing with, say, the films of Powell and Pressburger.
All in all, this series was a great opportunity to celebrate the diversity and development of British film culture, but thanks to the decisions made by the production team the series seems like a 'dumbed down' guide to British film (a 'Dummy's Guide to British Cinema'). It's a huge disappointment.