Review: Andrew Marr's canter through the biographies of some influential people was a little superficial, and failed to convincingly make his case

My mum – born in the 40s – sent me a meme the other day, one of those things listing how, when she was young, kids went unrestrained in cars, and ate mud and played out from dawn to dusk and it never did them any harm.

Friday, 4th December 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Friday, 4th December 2020, 5:23 pm

The implication being that kids today – with their XBoxes and sexting and growing sense of the injustice in the world – are snowflakes ill-equipped for soldiering on and making do.

But as The New Elizabethans with Andrew Marr (BBC2, Thurs, 9pm) showed, times have changed dramatically over the last 60 years or so.

The opening shots featured grey footage of grey men and women in front of very grey buildings, but Marr asserts that the “young and glamorous” Queen Elizabeth II heralded a new era of enlightenment and colour when she acceded to the throne in 1952.

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Andrew Marr presents his list of the ‘New Elizabethans’

He goes on to pick some of the people he believes helped change Britain in the intervening 60-plus years: Diana Dors, “who used glamour to create an illusion of wealth and success”; trans woman writer Jan Morris, who had been on Hillary’s Everest exhibition; Darcus Howe, who stood up for racial equality; and Alan McGee, who discovered Oasis.

An eclectic mix then, but just as you started getting interested in one person’s story, we were on to the next, with scarcely time to draw breath. As a social history primer, it was okay, but it was superficial – Mangrove, the BBC drama of a couple of weeks ago, covered the story of the Mangrove Nine more effectively, and Greg Jenner’s book Dead Famous is better on how glamour and celebrity changed society.

It did, however, highlight the continuing tension over social attitudes, as older generations fight a futile battle against change. And mum’s memes won’t change that.

For the Love of Britain (ITV, Tues, 7.30pm) was a scamper around some of the British Isles’ beauty spots, starting with Cornwall, lovely Tier 1 Cornwall, where none of us can go. Tantalising, but cruel.

The Great British Menu (BBC2, Tues/Weds, 8pm) has a baffling format, forced banter, and a bewildering amount of hair products on the chefs, but it doesn’t half get your mouth watering.

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