Thursday, May 18, 2017

I am all a-tingle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just learned about Victorian Farm!!

Backstory: So, in 2002, PBS aired a Channel Four (that's a British television channel) documentary-reality show series called The 1900 House. The producers restored an actual home in a London suburb to its original 1900 condition, and a modern family attempted to live like a family in 1900. The show was chock-full of amazing facts about how people lived in 1900, and how this modern family had extensive troubling adapating (particularly the wife and girls, who found life incredibly hard).

Two years later, it was followed up by The 1940s House, in which a family of four tried to live through the London Blitz (with night-time air raids and the works). Since I'm a big fan of Mrs. Miniver, this series was right up my alley. Edwardian Country House was the next in the series. Here, a modern family tried to live like a wealthy Edwardian family, while a group of disparate strangers portrayed the house servants and staff. The family was so boring, they weren't watchable. Watching the servants, though, was like a soap opera! Regency House Party was the fourth series to air. Ten modern men and women attend a manor house party set during the British Regency of the 1810s. BORRRRR-ing. Coal House was the last to air, and it had two seasons. A modern family attempted to live like a family in a 1920s Welsh mining community. It was all right, but since a lot of the focus was on mining, which was hard to depict accurately on camera, it seemed to lose a lot.

In the United States, the success of these shows on PBS led PBS to do their own series. Frontier House was the first, and it was set in Montana in the 1880s. The problem here was the show wasn't about life in the 1880s. It was about the wacky California rich people, the rednecks from Tennesse, and the appalled Boston black family. It was more soap opera than documentary. (One wife nagged her husband so much, they divorced after the show.) It was followed by Colonial House, which recreated daily life in Plymouth Colony in 1628. Once more, PBS fucked it up royally. Instead of making a show about life in Colonial America, the show became about how the right-wing fundamentalists from Texas lorded it over everyone else by imposing modern-day Christian fundamentalism on the colony and spouting off a-historically about how much the Founding Fathers loved Jebus. The producers didn't rein them in, and their hate-speech became so bad that one of the cast members actually came out of the closet on air in protest. I stopped watching the PBS shows. There was one more, Texas Ranch House, which recreated the life of a family and ranch hands on an 1867 Texas longhorn cattle ranch in Texas. I didn't watch.

LONG STORY SHORT (too late)..............................

Today, I learned that in 2009, BBC Two ran a similar set of series. Victorian Farm is actually the second of these. The first was Tales From the Green Valley and it aired way back in 2005 (just after Regency House Party over on Channel Four). It depicted life on a Welsh farm in the 1400s (the Stuart period).

After a four-year break, Victorian Farm came out. It was the second-most popular show on BBC Two that year. It was followed up by Victorian Pharmacy in 2010, Edwardian Farm in 2010, Wartime Farm (set in WWII) in 2012, Tudor Monastery Farm (1500s-era monastery) in 2013, Secrets of the Castle (set in a 13th century French castle) in 2014, 24 Hours in the Past (about the poorest of the London poor in the 1850s) in 2015, and Full Steam Ahead (a look at railroad workers in the 1830s and 1840s) in 2016.

What's different about the BBC Two shows is that they don't feature a modern family going back in time with occasional visits from historians and experts. Instead, historians Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands, and Peter Ginn are the stars of each show. The shows are filmed intermittently, so the historians have time to eat, shower, and relax in a hotel between each week spent doing whatever.

24 Hours in the Past was the exception. There, a TV anchor, two actors, a former Tory MP, an athlete, and an impressionist (I know: WTF?) lived like the poorest of the poor for three weeks without hotel breaks. The show bombed.

Anyway, now I have to find these BBC Two shows on DVD or Netflix and start watching!

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