Civilisation (BBC 1969 with Kenneth Clarke)

UK / BBC / 13x50m-e / Broadcast 23 February – 18 May 1969

Script: Kenneth Clarke / Producers: Michael Gill, Peter Montagnon / Camera: A. Arthur Englander / Directors: Michael Gill, Ann Turner

Documentary series. Widely regarded as one of the best TV productions ever made, Civilisation is Kenneth Clarkes 1969 chronicle of human kind across the centuries. This former director of the National Gallery is an unlikely TV legend but his earlier series from 1967 Great Temples of the World had laid the groundwork.

This is a decidedly highbrow piece of work that doesn’t rely on camera tricks or the action that passes for history in today’s effects heavy documentaries but instead relies on the brilliance of Clark ’s script and beautiful artwork and architecture with which he chooses to illuminate the proceedings. By focusing on art and architecture and the painters, artists and visionaries who have helped shape the world Clark proves that man has risen above the humdrum that marked our earlier existence.

The series couldn’t have been made at a better time, huge cultural change had been wrought throughout the sixties and the lack lustre seventies were about to be upon us, a major hit then and still stunning now Civilisation is the kind of show they definitely don’t make anymore, mores the pity.