The World at War, Taylor Downing

The World at War, Taylor Downing

The World at War still stands as one of the most impressive documentary series ever made about the Second World War. Its twenty six episodes used a huge amount of wartime film, interviews with ordinary soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians, and was one of the pioneers of people's history on television. This book looks at the production of the TV series, which forty years after it was made still impresses (thankfully it isn't a re-issue of the less impressive book that accompanied the series but that wasn't produced by the same team).

We begin with a brief look at the world of the early 1970s, when the series was produced and first aired. We then move on to examine the way history had been presented on television before the World at War and the development of documentary series such as the BBC's Great War. This is followed by a section on the early days of ITV and the taxation changes that allowed them to fund the World at War.

After this interesting introduction we move onto the production of the series itself, tracing its development from the original decision to produce such a major series at ITV, the research process and the common elements of the series (music, format, attitude to archive file etc). This is followed by a look at the way in which each episode was produced, with a complete chapter dedicated to the episode on the Holocaust. Finally we look at the impact of the series and its long term success.

This book provides a useful insight into the way in which television history at its best - the choices that have to be made and the editorial freedom that is needed if high quality work is to be produced. Even forty years after being made the World at War is still one of the best series of its type, and this book helps to explain why.

1 - The Time
2 - History on Television
3 - ITV
4 - The Decision
5 - Announcement
6 - The Treatment
7 - Format
8 - The Team
9 - Music and Words
10 - Production
11 - Content
12 - The Holocaust
13 - Conclusions
14 - Aftermath

Author: Taylor Downing
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 180
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan for the BFI
Year: 2012

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