CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Leapfrog with today’s tubbies? I’d rather play Twister with a sumo
Thirties In Colour: Countdown To War
9/11: Inside The President’s War Room
Fun goes in fashions. Maybe in 100 years, music festivals or pub quizzes will look as alien, even as unpleasant, as the entertainments of the past — such as bear baiting and public hangings.
In the 1930s, good family fun meant regimented exercises at a holiday camp: up at 7.45am to queue for breakfast at the canteen, then on to the parade ground for gymnastics. ‘A week’s play for a week’s pay,’ promised Billy Butlin.
Digitised news footage from cinema reels on Thirties In Colour: Countdown To War (5 Select) showed rows of women in capacious shorts, face down and waggling their bare feet on the grass as if they were swimming.
‘It seems but yesterday that the female leg was something that shouldn’t be looked upon,’ marvelled the fruity voiceover.
Today’s Butlin’s Redcoats looked at the clips of knobbly knee contests and ‘costume and figure competitions’, and couldn’t imagine asking today’s happy campers to join in anything remotely like it.
Freya and Jake chuckled at the line-up of ladies with their finger-wave hair and ruched swimming cossies, where a man with a tape measure checked hip measurements. ‘I’d win that easily,’ announced Jake.
What you do notice, in these shots of our great-grandparents at play, is how thin and physically active everyone was. I wouldn’t fancy a game of outdoor communal leapfrog these days, when nearly a third of the population is obese. Playing Twister with sumo wrestlers might be safer.
Not all the reels were charming or innocent. Boys of the Hitler Youth marched through a village in Kent on an exchange visit with the Britannia Youth Movement
Digitised news footage from cinema reels on Thirties In Colour: Countdown To War (5 Select) showed rows of women in capacious shorts, face down and waggling their bare feet on the grass as if they were swimming
The colouring of this black-and-white footage was realistic and unobtrusive, adding a layer of life to the scenes.
Not all the reels were as charming or innocent, though. Boys of the Hitler Youth marched through a village in Kent on an exchange visit with the Britannia Youth Movement. And at a friendly football match with Germany in 1938, the England squad gave Nazi salutes during the national anthem, on the orders of the Foreign Office.
Veteran sports commentator Barry Davies shook his head as he watched: ‘Politics in sport? It goes on, it goes on.’
Nasty bit of work of the week
Former star of The Young Ones and Bottom, Ade Edmondson is making a speciality of playing really sinister men. He was Julie Hesmondhalgh’s horrid hubby in The Pact and now he’s tormenting Lizzy McInnerny in Back To Life. The creep!
Historic footage of the Twin Towers attack, though it never ceases to shock, was not the main point of interest in 9/11: Inside The President’s War Room (BBC1). What was really astonishing was the roster of former politicians describing the events of that day, headed by President George W. Bush.
Younger than both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Bush appears more confident and at ease than he did in power. Still, the chief impression is of a childishly competitive man who doesn’t know how limited his intelligence is.
He summed up his peregrinations on that awful day: ‘I guess you could say I’m a man of action — and I acted.’
This assessment came after we’d watched him sitting in an elementary school lesson, slack-jawed and baffled by news of the attacks. He described the shock as ‘a psychological tsunami’.
Many photos followed of the President aboard Air Force One, zigzagging aimlessly between military bases from Florida to Nebraska, before returning to Washington DC. He remembered phoning his mother and leading a prayer session in the air.
Meanwhile, in the bunker, senior U.S. figures including Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell (who all took part in this documentary) were making the decisions. The fact we are still feeling the repercussions made this show all the more relevant and absorbing.
Many photos followed of the President aboard Air Force One, zigzagging aimlessly between military bases from Florida to Nebraska