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TV review: A look at the war by Jeremy Paxman contrasts extremely with Winter Olympics

Great Britain's Skip Eve Muirhead (centre) in action during their Curling Round Robin match at the Ice Cube Curling Centre during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. PA-18946063

Great Britain's Skip Eve Muirhead (centre) in action during their Curling Round Robin match at the Ice Cube Curling Centre during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. PA-18946063

Freelance reporter James Waller Davies has taken a look at this week’s television highlights and offered his opinion.

Jeremy Paxman completed his four-part centenary history of the First World War this week. Britain’s Great War (BBC1) was an excellent opening shot in what is sure to be four years of commemorative programmes.

It could have been sentimentalised and wallowing in the inhuman gore of the trenches, but it wasn’t. What we got was a fine balance between the fighting men at the front and struggles of those left at home. More than anything, what we were shown was how much the first war changed us as a nation.

The series gave a number of new perspectives: the shelling from sea of coastal towns such as Hartlepool and Scarborough. There was also the bombing from a plane of a school in London, killing 18 children - a forerunner of the Second World War Blitz.

There were some lighter moments too. The Daily Mail of the day was fearful of the potential of one million husbandless women becoming “marriage wreckers and lesbians” due to a shortage of men. The Daily Mail even suggested “exporting” the single women to Australia and Canada to search for husbands.

The series ended with an appropriate poignancy: the burial of four soldiers of the First World War whose bodies had been unearthed last year by a farmer. This was no one-off. It is a regular reminder of just how many men died on both sides and why we will, and should, continue to remember this war.

The contrast with the Sochi Winter Olympics (BBC1) could not be more extreme. This week we’ve got used to blurs and flashes of florescence streaking across our screens.

And as a nation of children who dash for mum’s kitchen tray at the first sight of snow it should be no surprise that we appear to be the world leaders in the “skeleton”. Lizzy Yarnold’s gold on the most high-tech of “tea-trays” was great to see.

The winter Olympics has always been the poor relation of its summer cousin, but the new events have added a real edge. Snowboarding, so long the preserve of adrenaline junkies with bleached hair, has now become a racing sport.

The women’s snowboarding cross - a kind of skateboarding race on snow with vertical drops and incredible jumps - was electrifying. Competitors get an equal chance of a concussion as a medal. Some get both. It’s all a long way from the Sarajevo of 30 years ago and Torvill and Dean’s Bollero.

Spoiler alert! The week’s other big television event is not even on television. Series three of the American version of House of Cards (Netflix - online only) was released this week. Barack Obama put out a request on Twitter for viewers to refrain from spoilers. This series of the American political drama is rumoured to have caused the most online “viewing marathons” in the history of the internet.

 

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