Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday Soliloquy-- Television Recommendations

Many people tend to think of television as mindless entertainment, a way of decompressing after a hard day's slog. We sit. We watch. We laugh when the laugh track tells us to, and most of all...we don't think unless it's to make note of things the advertisements want us to buy.

Television as mindless entertainment? It doesn't have to be that way. There's more on the boob tube to watch than boobs, more than laugh tracks interrupted by ads for teeth whiteners and the drug du jour. Well...there is if you take an extra minute or two to look through the channels.

I don't spend an inordinate amount of time watching television, but there have been television programs that sparked reading frenzies in me and forged a lifelong interest in certain topics. Today I'd like to mention two such programs.

Both were televised on PBS over twenty years ago. One was a series called Flambards, about an orphaned heiress who was sent to live with an uncle and two cousins on a rather derelict estate in England in the years leading to World War I. I fell in love with the story, the horses, the early flying machines, and the depiction of life in England during that time. Here's a small film clip to wet your whistle.

The first time I watched the credits roll and saw the words "based on the books by K.M. Peyton", I knew I had some books to locate...and I did. Of course the books were better than the excellent television series and gave me an even better feel for the time period. I was becoming hooked.

Shortly afterwards PBS showed yet another series, Testament of Youth, about a young girl fighting the wishes of her family so that she could go to university, only to have World War I break out. She became a nurse instead, and many of her friends died in the trenches. Here's another short film clip for you.

This series was based on a book of the same name by author Vera Brittain. It is Brittain's powerful autobiography which continues on through Testament of Experience and Account Rendered. I don't think you'd be surprised if I told you that all these books are on my shelves today.

There is something about this period of time, 1895 to 1920, that fascinates me. Perhaps it's because it was the last time the world was so young, so naive, so supremely self-confident and arrogant. Perhaps it's because of the wake-up call that arrived in 1914, when everything seemed to begin unraveling. I don't know. Whatever the reason, those two television series sparked what has become a lifelong interest in that time period, and I have many books on my shelves now because of them.

What about you? Have you had a television series or a movie that sparked a similar passionate interest in you? What interest was sparked? What books did you buy because of it? Inquiring minds want to know!


  1. I don't watch much TV because I'm always reading or writing, but I do love watch the History Channel when I get a chance. By the way, I love the B&W photo you posted of the little girl in diapers reading the paper in her chair.

  2. I wasn't allowed to watch much TV as a child and still don't watch much, so I can't think of any show that sparked an interest in me.

  3. I missed these shows. We did watch TV, but I don't remember these.

    Funny, I'm on a turn of the century kick with my books now -- total coincidence that both The Luxe and No Angels take place during the same period. Well, No Angels is now up to WWI.

  4. I watched a documentary on the Crime and Investigation network and it started my obsession with true crime books.It's been 2 years and showing no signs of abating.And I agree with you,the books are always better than the tv program,no matter how excellent the tv program is.

  5. The best Danish TV-series ever is called Matador (= Monopoly, the board game). It begins in the 1930s and continues through the 40s. Good entertainment, wonderful actors, and throughout the series you get a very real sense of being there. I have never even heard a history teacher complain about the credibility.
    Most modern Danish series are mindless entertainment, however, so I was very pleased when our elder daughter gave the younger one Jane Austen´s Pride and Prejudice (BBC´s series) recently. They both enjoyed the gift thoroughly so I have offered younger daughter the film version if she reads Northanger Abbey in English. A bribe, but I don´t think she really minds.

  6. I was about 10 when I first saw the movie Jane Eyre on television, and immediately set out to get my hands on the book. Reading it sparked my interest in Charlotte Bronte, and so I began reading biographies of her. This of course, led to my desire to become a writer!

    The series you mention sound really interesting. I wonder if they're available on DVD?

  7. I don't know if my Agatha Christie obsession started with the various TV shows or if they just fueled it. I'm grateful she wrote so many as I'm still reading them after all these years.

    Thanks for the videos. They both look good. I'm going to see if they are on dvd.

  8. Jennifer--thanks for stopping by! I watch the History Channel, too...and that little girl is me! :)

    Kathy--Mom and I didn't watch that much television either. There are only a few programs that I have any memories of.

    Beth--the coincidences and similarities between us continue!

    Yvette--thanks for stopping by! I've also been interested in true crime, not because of TV but because I lived a couple of blocks away from Gary Gilmore's last crime spree, and later discovered I visited a shopping mall on the very same day Ted Bundy was trolling there.

    Dorte--Matador sounds very intriguing, but I'd bet the farm that it isn't available here. :( I like your type of bribe!

    "Ravenous"--thanks for stopping by! I love how Jane Eyre "fired you up"! Flambards is available on DVD, but Testament isn't, more's the pity.

    Margot--Flambards is available, but Testament isn't. I have my own copy of Flambards, and at least once a year, I have my "fix". :)


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