Britain From Above, BBC1

by | Aug 11, 2008 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

What a wasted opportunity! Instead of a peaceful appreciation of the UK (the Beeb’s latest Britain Is Brill Sunday night series), we got The Andrew Marr Show, with his ugly mug cropping up far too much and far too little aerial photography.

What was good about it?

• The few occasions when the programme lived up to its title, looking down on life, watching trains snake through the countryside or the effluent of London bubbling away in Beckton.

• The accompanying programme on BBC2 about the evolution of London was much more intelligent and interesting, less like wallpaper or one of those hefty coffee table tomes.

What was bad about it?

• Andrew Marr not only thrust himself into every shot he could, he delivered a script of crass broadbrush observations (everyone in Canary Wharf leaves their office at lunchtime, apparently) and lazy similes (” a national machine with its fingers in every part of the country”). His narration was no better than a third former’s description of What I Did On My Holidays. He’s even more intrusive, more inane than Alan Titchmarsh and David Dimbleby.

• The most pointless screen-grabbing sequence found Marr jogging on Hampstead Heath – “a lone political journalist trying to run off last night’s bottle of red,” he puffed, pointlessly.

• The dots of light tracing the paths of phone calls, traffic, flights etc across a GoogleEarth version of Britain may have looked quite dazzling but didn’t really convey any information we couldn’t have worked out for ourselves. Marr seemed terribly impressed and breathlessly astounded by the facts he trotted out; we found it to be no better than a boring history lesson from days gone by.

• The dull footage of dull jobs: controllers monitoring the electricity supply or traffic flow from screen-packed operations rooms. And the facts that electricty usage goes up after EastEnders or taxis undertake haphazard routes was hardly revelatory.

• Even worse was the footage of a man in a helicopter checking electricity cables for hotspots.

• Intrusive classical music.

• Most of the places we saw from the air were not labelled so we had to pause the footage and try to work out the location for ourselves.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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