Zero Oscars, Two World Wars And One World Cup: An Evening’s TV With Some Angry White Men
Mic Wright’s Remotely Furious
I DIDN’T watch The Oscars. It’s not simply that they’re held at stupid o’clock in the morning and carry the risk of exposure to Ryan Seacrest and, even worse, the Ronseal-tanned visage of Piers Morgan, it’s that there’s no surprises anyway. The Oscars are like almost ever Premier League match featuring one of the ‘Big Four’ and teams like my beloved Norwich City: the result is practically predetermined and by the time the prematch analysis is over – hours and hours of the stuff – you’re too bored to bother with the big event.
Instead, with Vladimir Putin staging his own reboot of 1914 in the Ukraine, I turned my attention to another big event – the 100th anniversary of World War I which is giving every grumpy white man on television extra work. We’ve already had Jeremy Paxman being largely useless bumbling around historical sites with a bazz on. Now it’s the turn of no-one’s favourite history hard man Niall Ferguson and former Daily Telegraph editor and man who-was-really-destined-to-play-Major-Lethbridge-Stewart-in-the-Doctor-Who-reboot Sir Max Hastings to butt massive heads.
In The Necessary War, Sir Max – which sounds like a brand of aftershave from the 70s – banged the drum for Britain kicking the arses of those uppity Jerries and suggested that not doing so would have been a bally old dereliction of duty. Then Ferguson barrelled up three days later to suggest that the whole thing was a disaster that Britain just made worse and that it might just have been better to let the Germans have continental Europe which is, let’s be honest, just full of bloody foreigners any way.
Sir Max and Niall are very different presenters presenters. The former goes for the “English school master who has just found a turd in the refectory” style while Ferguson goes for smoothness that borders on the oily. Both are very keen on the word “war” though which they shouted so many times it started to feel like a contest between particularly misguided Edwin Starr impersonators.
While Sir Max pottered about interviewing experts and pointing at things, Ferguson filled a studio up with people he could shout at. Both programmes are eminently worth watching but won’t get you anywhere closer to the answer of who was to blame for World War I. And the thing is: why are we still trying to hash that out? Is it because we need to know that Britain – which, incidentally, invented the concentration camps and was as free with gas as the Germans – was a land of good, stout-hearted men and demure, lovely women waiting for their men? Or is it just because we like to keep count of our wins a la the painfully grunt-like “two world wars and one world cup chant” which is somewhat derailed by West Germany’s three wins.
And on the world war winning front, Britain needed quite a lot of help to put World War I over the line with the final win really being the result of a number of own goals. Germany surrendered because it could not longer feed its people on the home front. In World War 2, half-term substitutions by the Americans and a late equaliser from the Soviet Union also played a fairly big part. Still, if you enjoy World War I documentaries, history and angry white men Sir Max and Niall have got it nailed.