The big BBC Wales TV series (made with the cooperation of the OU, Uncle Tom Cobbley et al) has shown two programmes out of the six so far -- and it's proving to be a grave disappointment. The BBC calls it one of the most ambitious series ever produced in Wales. Hmmm. It's full of technical wizardry -- history and archaeology programmes these days clearly have to have computer generated reconstructions of absolutely everything, so as Huw Edwards paddles around in a little rowing boat on Llangorse Lake, a leafy island is miraculously transformed into a busy crannog. You know the sort of thing.....
I think this series is closely modelled on a series last year about the History of Scotland (wasn't the OU also involved, and wasn't Neil Oliver the front man on that one?) Well, this is very much in the Neil Oliver mould -- but this time there's far too much Huw Edwards and far too little of everything else, as Huw struts manfully on top of beetling cliffs, wanders across mountainsides and through verdant pastures, holding forth about this and that. You know the sort of thing...... the trouble is that it's all very shallow and actually rather boring, and I'm beginning to long for just a little humour -- and maybe even a little scepticism and discussion of some issues where there may actually be a little disagreement. Come back, Neil -- all is forgiven!! The commentary (who wrote it, I wonder?) is so terribly sincere and EARNEST.........
There are so many pious platitudes and portentious pronouncements that I am already tearing my hair out, just after two episodes. You know the sort of thing: "This was now the beginning of the end for the world as they knew it....." -- "Nothing would ever be the same again...." -- "For the first time in the history of Wales, something new had happened...." -- "and so the ancient order was swept away..." -- "the old world was disappearing, to be replaced by the new..." --- "This great new leader stirred the soul of the nation as never before..." and so on, and so on, ad infinitum. Seldom can so many cliches have been fitted into a single hour of TV time. I'm actually quite impressed -- is there a BAFTA for cliche density?
No expense has been spared in this series. Every now and then, so that we can get a few seconds without Huw on the screen, there are a few flashing images of hairy fellows dressed up as warriors, or monks, or priests, or Roman legionnaires, with mighty sounds of battle, flames, screams, and flashing weapons. I'm sure I've seen the same faces twenty times already in different guises ..... by the end of the series we'll all be very familiar with them. The other technique is to have some sturdy fellow (they all seem to be men) in fancy dress gazing manfully into the camera lens as it zooms in on him........ It might be Hywel Dda, or Llewelyn the Great, or Owain Glyndwr..... but these fellows do look very fierce and very imposing. Sometimes they look pensive, or even enigmatic, with furrowed brows and a grim set to the jaw. Did any of them ever smile, I wonder, when they were alive?
Lighten up, chaps! History should be fun!!