Melvyn Bragg on Class and Culture: Episode 2 Review


This latest look at the class system (and we’ve had a few) brings in a few elements which more of these documentaries should feature. Melvyn Bragg’s pleasing vocal tones once again bring to light the social changes of the 20th century, this time the 1960s and ‘70s. But this second episode was more than just a few pictures of hippies and videos of The Who though, it was clever.

Alright, there were hippies and Who videos, but not only was this programme an entertaining hour of television, in the finest traditions of the Old School BBC, it also offered a healthy smattering of knowledge as well. Melvyn Bragg is a fine speaker, but he is also an expert in his field, and this is evident from the emphasis placed on writing, television and music in this series. From the music of The Who and the Sex Pistols to John Betjeman, his in-depth examination makes use not only of the material itself, but also of the many expert analyses of them. No one is currently better qualified or placed to make a programme like this, and Bragg makes good use of his own experiences. We even get to see his old grammar school, which is nice.

Some aspects were a little well-trodden, the bust years of the 1970s, the radical new music of the 1960s and ‘70s, we all know about that already. But still, they help to provide a full view of the period and give the show a well-rounded, well-researched feel. Film, television, theatre, literature, music, there really isn’t much left out of his broad analysis of society’s cultural strata. If anything is lacking it’s sport, which is largely ignored in the latest episode, despite rugby and football both seeing dramatic changes after the war.

Maybe a little too much time is spent on inter-class rivalry, which though important in a study like this, isn’t really the be all and end all. Some social climbing is given some attention, (which Bragg knows all about being a Baron born a tailor’s son) and the deceptively middle-class nature of hippy culture is also an interesting point which is raised, one which seems strangely familiar to the world of 2012 (think hipsters when you watch it, you’ll see).

The programme deals with a wide enough subject, but one tackled ably by Baron Bragg. He’s close to the subject, but the series has managed to be much more than just a TV autobiography for him. Next week it’s Margaret Thatcher’s turn to receive his investigations. The Iron Lady had better watch out, he’s already successfully taken on World War One and the Sex Pistols…

Why not check out James’s blog