Tag: Documentary

Suffragettes with Lucy Worsley (2018 BBC)

Lucy5 Kernels

I don’t usually blog about documentary shows, but my female readers (and males too) might really eat this one up like candy.

Perhaps since we’re facing mid-terms in the United States this November and it’s time to vote again, this might give you the incentive to register and get out to exercise your right.  Even though this is about the British woman who campaigned for the vote in England, it is no less poignant to realize the sacrifices many women made to bring change about in a man’s world.

Our wonderful Lucy Worsley, is an English historian, who does fascinating shows from the King’s Bedchamber, Six Wives, Empire of the Tsars, Tudor Treasure: A Night at Hampton Court, and many other wonderful documentaries.  This particular one is probably the best I’ve seen with re-enactments and personal testimony of the ladies who fought.  Frankly, it’s far better than the recent movie in 2015.

Like many others, I knew about the protests, the arrests, the forced feedings while incarcerated, but I didn’t appreciate the years and ingenuity these ladies used.  Yes, perhaps much of it turned radical and violent out of anger and frustration because no one cared to listen. Parliament ignored and pushed the women to their limits. Violence brought about the attention they craved, but ultimately it took a World War to bring about change.  You may judge them for their violent tactics, but some of their other schemes were down-right brilliant.  Who knew that Edwardian women understood the power of branding?

The show is currently streaming on BritBox.

It’s even got 100% on the Tomatometer.

Penelope Keith’s Hidden Villages (2014-2016)

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I’ve been to England four times and often wished I could rent a car and drive everywhere visiting the little-known villages I haven’t seen.  How many of us have loved the photographs of quaint English country life and wished we could live in such an idyllic place?  I know that I have.

In all honesty, I’m not much for watching traveling shows, but this three-series wonder is an absolute gem.  Currently streaming on Acorn, I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to see the inner workings of these smaller communities.  At the present time, I’m only beginning Season 2 but have much more to see.

What is unique with this particular travel series is that while you’re riding in the car with Penelope to the next location, you know what is down the road is going to be as fascinating as the last.  So far I’ve traveled to Wales, Lancashire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Devon, and Cornwall, among other places.  Penelope immerses the audience not only in the village’s history but its people, architecture, challenges, and sometimes quirky celebrations communities hold together.  It’s a wonderful series that only deepens your longing for England.

The running time for each episode is 47 minutes. So brew a cup of tea, gather some biscuits and sit down for a wonderful tour of beautiful England’s landscape and its villages.


Another series that is almost as entertaining if you’re interested in things regarding the monarchy, is Penelope Keith at Her Majesty’s Service also streaming on Acorn.  Here she visits the iconic locations and explains the unknown rituals that have continued on for centuries.

Episode 1 is at Windsor Castle, including a ride on the Queen’s barge.  Episode 2 visits Inveraray and Holyroodhouse, locations the royal family frequent. Episode 3 is on location in Northern Ireland at Hillsborough Castle and Episode 4 at Caernarfon Castle in Wales.  It’s another wonderful show for those who love all things English.


Our World War (BBC Series 2014)

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5 Stars for Bravery

Yeah, yeah, I know most of you don’t like documentaries.  This one is a little bit different because it’s a well-acted re-enactment of three significant events for the British Army during World War I.  The episodes are based on written accounts by the soldiers who lived and survived to tell their stories and the men with which they served.

What can say about it? It’s emotional. It’s heartwrenching.  It’s shocking.  Well done, except for the oddity of the rock music in some of the scenes. The series actually puts you — the viewer — into the battles as if you were with the men and hearing the bullets whiz by your head.  The tension prior to and in engagement with the enemy is palpable. Perhaps that is why this program will undoubtedly leave an impression on you.  And if you lost distant cousins in the war like I did — six of them the ages of 18 to 42 — you will appreciate their sacrifice and you will draw closer to their memory as the young lads who served their country.

The first episode focuses on the first day that the British army encounters the German army in August 1914. Unprepared for the onslaught of Germans and their brutal advance, it’s difficult to watch the slaughter.  The second episode is about the Manchester Pals, as they called them, who served at Somme.  A few of my cousins were from Manchester.  The third episode is about the invention of the tank, and how the British turned the tide of the war toward victory by these new machines.

As a caution before you watch, you might find the lads extremely difficult to understand with the myriad of different British accidents, along with Irish and Scottish.  Hang in there and don’t surrender.  Keep calm and carry on through the end.

If you possess a soul, you might end up a bit tearful watching this series.  As the trailer says, “Modern warfare is brutal. 100 years ago it was unimaginable.”

Check it out – now streaming on Netflix. Read about the series at BBC. (Especially the pages of Interactive Episodes.)

The Dark Ages: The Age of Lights (BBC Documentary 2012)

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Well, I’ve stumbled across another great documentary on Acorn TV from a rather colorful narrator – Waldemar Januszczak, an art critic. Once again, had he taught in my high school, I might have actually listened and learned.

Though he’s not as good looking as Dan Jones from Secrets of Great British Castles, he is entertaining in his quirky presentation and voice. Instead of crawling into dungeons, Waldemar has the habit of getting on his knees to point locations on a map. Besides the information you receive, this show is also an armchair travel event around the world to ruins, old churches, and museums that will astound you at every turn.

This utterly fascinating series brought to light a ton of information about lost civilizations in the Dark Ages and the contributions they left behind that were actually enlightening. The documentary is a four-part episode:

  • Episode One: The Clash of the Gods
  • Episode Two: What the Barbarians Did for Us (Huns, Vandals, and Goths)
  • Episode Three: The Wonder of Islam
  • Episode Four: The Men of the North

The first episode astounded me. The depiction of early Christian art and how it intertwined with the Roman and Greek gods is evident. It’s interesting to note how a young and rather happy Jesus morphed over the centuries into a very different portrayal of a suffering Christ.  Early Christian symbols and their explanations are also touched upon.

What the barbarians offered in the way of art and architecture gives an in-depth look into civilizations that rose and fell but left behind astounding creations. The portrayal of the barbarians and how they were demonized in story-telling throughout centuries has cast a dark shade of untruths. Especially the “Goths,” who we think of today as a movement into the dark side, when in fact they were Christians who created beautiful mosaic artwork telling the story of Jesus.

The final two episodes focus on the emergence of Islam, it’s architecture and science and contribution to civilization.  Then he heads north to the Vikings, and the Norse gods and conversion to Christianity. They were craftsman who also made their mark of enlightenment in the Dark Ages.

If you are looking for another documentary that might add a bit more entertaining instruction into your life, you might take a look at this series.

You Can’t Get the Staff (Acorn TV 2014)

You Can't Get the Staff

4 Kernels

What a great show! Ignore the bad reviews in the U.K. The people across the pond eat up this information like candy. We love to peek into the lifestyle of those who work and live in England.

This show is an absolutely intriguing look into the life of the wealthy aristocracy, successful business person, or run-of-the-mill family looking for staff or child care. You may have a manor house, castle, and hundreds of acres, but it takes wit to keep it going and staff to run it.

The series is a fascinating look into the lives of those “in service” in the U.K. Almost makes me want to apply for a job. Of course, things have changed over the years, but there is a resurgence in the need for good staff. Though it declined after World War I, those who still own their estates, which have been in the family for centuries, need people to help maintain them.

Each episode showcases a particular situation that requires additional staff. The advertisements go out, the applicants apply, and the interviews proceed. Want a job polishing silver? How about gardening? Love horses? Are you a butler with impeccable skills, experience, and good references? Of course, if you’ve worked for royalty, that’s a plus. The career choices and salaries in these positions are eye-opening.

However, after hiring, one must keep the staff too. They could leave without notice or run off with the “lady of the house.” In between applications, the show also gives tidbits on cleaning the chandelier, ironing a newspaper, polishing silver, correct way to make corners on a sheet, how to fold an umbrella properly, helping a man on with his coat, the skill of ironing a shirt, the quiet way to open and close a door, and other instruction on how to act, serve, and behave in British high-society as an employee in service.

Not only informative, but it’s also quite laughable in places. You’ll be surprised at how many aristocrats get down and dirty to do their part to maintain the estate that has been in their family for centuries. When you see the exterior, interior, and artifacts of these homes, you’ll want to pay the fee to take a tour to keep them going. There are also those employers who are successful in business and rich, with demanding personalities. They may not have the title of a earl or baron, but they are the “new” money who demand the same treatment.

Loved it! I hope there are more to come.

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