If Twilight has proved anything, it’s that ghosts and ghouls draw a bigger audience than ever, so long as they look good without a shirt on. But in his new series Gods and Monsters, Tony Robinson looks beyond the questionable sex appeal of the modern crop of vampires and takes a more historical approach.
In the series opener he visits special effects artists, scientists and morbid history nerds to uncover our ancestor’s disturbing fascination with dead bodies and the relevance this has in our lives today. A few moments are enlightening, most are boring and they’re all creepy.
Robinson, who is beginning to look a bit like a corpse himself, over-emphasizes the role that the dead played in shaping our society, his only real evidence that we’re still superstitious loonies being that funeral veils were originally meant to disguise our faces from the deceased’s spirit and we still wear them. Tony’s claim that these delusions really built Britain is slightly tenuous and his glimpses into the past focus mainly on customs that died out completely with the dark ages.
What’s more, the illustrations and reenactments are unpleasant and might appeal to those with an interest in all things creepy if they can manage to survive the boring details. The examples that Robinson conjures up to prove that our society is built on delusional necrophiles are so arbitrary that he fills most of the hour by performing seemingly pointless acts like walking around a fake bleeding corpse to show what walking around a real bleeding corpse might look like.
The study of medicinal cannibalism is interesting and I’m a little put off by how tasty the cerebral paté looked. Gods and Monsters should rely more on scientific recreations such as this, which give you a sense of just how bizarre these practices were, and less on hokey reenactments and props.
The show’s greatest asset is Robinson, and the host does his best to make the programme interesting with a few harmless jokes and apparently genuine fascination with what he discovers, but he’s fighting for a lost cause. Gods and Monsters is a horrible history, with a few eye-openers among many pathetic recreations and little in the way of a main point.