Yes, on Thursdays we look at life on the i-player and there’s an awful lot of history around lately: what with a rash of programmes covering every conceivable angle of the Coronation’s 60th anniversary, a slew of documentaries on women in history and a resurgence of interest in the Tudors especially Henry VIII, you can hardly avoid looking into the past. Going back the furthest and coinciding with the re-broadcasting of the ground-breaking ‘I Claudius’ is a new look at powerful women in Rome and how they got there. ‘Mothers, Murderers and Mistresses’ covers women who influenced Roman politics starting with Livia and going on to Messalina and Agrippina, mother of Nero – and if you can get past the incredibly irritating presenter, it’s an interesting watch.
Unfortunately the presenter takes a lot of getting past: combining a somewhat flirtatious manner to camera with a voice reminiscent of a slightly softened Thatcher, she seems to thrust every syllable at the viewer like a mother pushing food into the mouth of a reluctant toddler. Still, at least she doesn’t succumb to the terrible habit of modern history presenters – that of describing everything in the present tense!!! (‘Messalina is unfaithful to Claudius: Agrippina tells Nero…’) There’s far too much of this sort of thing around and it ought to be a capital offence. Still, it’s an interesting watch, not least for the wiles these women had to resort to in order to gain some kind of power.
Elsewhere Henry VIII is practically omnipresent: a fascinating look at Anne Boleyn now seems to have disappeared from the i-player but the series ‘Patron or Plunderer?’ continues to assess the architectural legacy of the last Henry; and I highly recommend Melvyn Bragg’s documentary on Tyndale, the first translator of the Bible into English and the precursor of the King James version which relies heavily on it.
Returning to women and power, elsewhere in the drama category is the highly enjoyable series ‘Frankie’. It features a district nurse whose compassionate and humane approach is contrasted with the colder and more analytical style of her GP colleague: it might be designed to contrast ‘difference feminism’ and ‘sameness feminism’. Are women really softer and fluffier – or, to put it another way, are women better at caring and co-operating, as the philosopher Gilligan claims?
But let’s not worry too much about it: ‘Frankie’ is basically a feel-good programme and not nearly as preposterous as ‘Casualty’.
Seen anything good lately? Drop me a line…