The Battle for Britain's Heroes - A lifeless look at dark history

For inanimate objects, statues have been at the centre of a lot of controversy recently, as The Battle for Britain's Heroes (Channel 4, Tuesday, 9pm) highlighted. People have even died '“ in Charlottesville, West Virginia '“ in violence surrounding protests over statues of controversial figures.

Friday, 1st June 2018, 4:10 pm
Updated Friday, 1st June 2018, 4:17 pm
Afua Hirsch, and Churchill impersonators, in The Search for Britains Heroes
Afua Hirsch, and Churchill impersonators, in The Search for Britains Heroes

This documentary, by lawyer and journalist Afua Hirsch, looked at the celebration of figures from Britain’s past, and whether the more problematical aspects of their personalities and lives have been glossed over and, worse, excluded from discussion in favour of an ‘aren’t they great’ hagiography.

Hirsch also asked if we should not take down their statues, which adorn our towns and cities.

Startlingly, for such a fraught and understandably emotive issue, the programme was rather flat, unemotional.

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Many of the figures Hirsch interviewed agreed with her that a much more rounded view of Britain’s historical heroes should be taught, discussed and broadcast – including issues such as Nelson’s links to the slave trade.

Even an encounter with one of her Twitter trolls proved less flashpoint and more damp squib.

Repeatedly using the dread TV word ‘journey’ didn’t help – there was no travelling from one point to another here, the programme stayed fixed in one place, spinning its wheels.

There were stunts – projecting images of slavery on to Nelson’s Column, for example –which didn’t go anywhere and discussions with the public which weren’t


Ultimately, this seemed to be a documentary in search of a controversy, not a serious, in-depth look at an issue which deserves debate. Like the statues, the programme remained stonily inanimate.

The Split (BBC1, Tuesdays, 9pm) ended – unusually, these days – with a really satisfactory finale. There were marriages, couplings, conscious uncouplings. Enough for series two, as well – let’s hope.

Another show came to an end this week – Peter Kay’s Car Share (Monday, BBC1, 10pm). It was maybe not as laugh-out-loud funny as previous episodes, but it had so much heart, you had to be charmed.