Fukayama, what do you do with a journalist whose nose for sniffing out truth might have been a tad bunged up by taking out his own Super Injunction? You have the all compassionate BBC slash the budgets and behind the scenes talent, then give us ANDREW MARR’S HISTORY OF THE WORLD. BBC 1, Yesteryear. “And God divided the waters and made the Heaven and the Earth and Adam, Eve and possibly Transexuals, to dwell therein, or in Middlesex, and saw that it was Good, and Man made the BBC and CGI and Andrew Marr’s History and everyone saw that it was awful and turned off.”

Except that it is so side splittingly funny, it is almost worth watching. With terrifyingly tacky historical reconstructions, to match Mr Marr’s up to the minute journalese and ‘just like Eastenders’ comparisons, including an ‘Out of Africa’ moment and a CGI sequence stolen straight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – mind the exciting drop – we got big-turning-points-in-astonishing-but-troubled Human History, as wise Mr Marr bestrode the plastic world like a colossal twit.

So we SAW the Mother of Mankind, from whom we are extraordinarily all genetically descended, except the poor Sub Saharans, not a bad bit actually, then nasty Neolithics hunting down cranially challenged Neanderthals (although, hush, scientists argue about it, and Mr Marr proves elegant Neanderthals are still among us). Then ‘Caveman wos here’ handprints in France, with not one thrill of real wonder because reconstruction kills wonder, to the 11,000 year old equivalent of the Cat’s Eye – you got it, woman invents the animal-bone knitting needle. Thus giving us domestic sewing, fitted clothes, and why Commissioning editors despise the public and love those dinky little symbols at Ralph Lauren. On to Anatolia and, yes it must be, underfloor-overheating Ancestor Worship. Do you ever get the feeling you are being stitched up? Mr Marr, the tapes and the production crew should all be immediately buried in the Leicester car park where they just dug up Richard III, who was a GOOD KING.

So to reconstructed women on Tigris bank, suddenly pondering simpleton grass-eaters, to invent the SEED and AGRICULTURE. Eureka. The heavens shattered, lighting broke and they really did give three minutes to little round stone wall and woman watching single seed sprout. ‘I shall pedal the window box franchise and move to Hollywood’. The tears of laughter started to burst like the banks of the badly reconstructed Yellow River. ‘And you know, there really is evidence there was once a big world Flood?’ Never! Thence to Egypt and Man invents writing, LAW and the whipped tomb raider. Not all those boring Pharaohs, but what its like down there at street reporting level.

If Mr Marr is one of us though, or one of them, he makes the study of history completely pointless, by engaging in modern relativisms so extreme we should have stayed up the trees. Which is why, like travel writing, you should never give history to journalists, but only Sirs Kenneth Clarke, or perhaps David Attenborough, although at least Sir David defiantly sticks to what he knows and loves so deeply. Like that time Andrew hung out for a night in an Indian slum, he should remember his giving us the experience ‘as they experience it’ is just not the same, since he is always about to be whisked back to White City. David Ike was right, TV is evil. Then TV journalism these days is just a chance to climb The Shard in public, visit expensive Shanghai hotels or become a National Treasure.

It is hard to entirely dislike Andrew Marr though and don’t fear, in an hour, Civilisation had arrived and we reached The Minoans. Phew. But this is top scoop, so we learn the hot-off-the-press news that Sir Arthur Evans’s Super Injunction was breached, and he really rebuilt in 1920’s Voguish Art Deco, while the Mayans might have had a dark side too. No Minotaurs or Labyrinthine clichés here though, heavens no, but Andrew squatting by real stones, with truly authentic scientific evidence of blood sacrifice, a warning from history, and then a wailing, knife wielding priestess warning from TV land, only worthy of Up Pompei.

Of course archaeology and science wins the day with pre-history, but history is not a science but art, itself an act of civilising, and this was not it. Who can wait for the joys to come? As every cut-n-past moment is pulled out of the Lady Bird books, to bring us ancient Greece, Alexander The Great, awful Empires, but why the present Queen is the pinnacle of all human life, God Bless you Maam.

David Clement-Davies


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Filed under Culture, Education, Science, Science Fiction

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