Tonight Jeremy Paxman’s Britain’s Great War starts on BBC1 at 21.00. It is being scheduled as the BBC’s flagship series for the WW1 Centenary and is certainly the start of a whole scope of programmes associated with the Great War which the BBC announced on their special WW1 Page.
I worked on this series for eleven months, with all four producers and of course Jeremy himself. My contribution was just on the WW1 battlefields themselves at locations like Mons, in Flanders, on the Somme or the Hindenburg Line. It has been interesting to read some of the comments about the series, mostly by people who have not even seen it yet. Was Jeremy the right one to present it? Why not an historian? Television is a costly process and networks want to ensure that as many people as possible watch the end result, which is why many of these type of programmes are presented by people like Jeremy Paxman. But Jeremy is a serious and enquiring journalist, certainly well read on the Great War from my experience, and from my own involvement in it, Britain’s Great War will bring some fresh perspectives and – more importantly I hope – many new people to the subject of the First World War, which can only be welcomed.
Britain’s Great War will no doubt not please everyone, and many will ask why aspects of the war have been included seemingly at the expense of others, but the next four years are about interpretation. No two people ever agree about almost any aspect of the Great War and no single programme or series will ever represent a global view of the subject; could it ever? But television like this will get an audience talking – whether people realise the merit and value of that remains to be seen.