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Non-Fiction Television

Posted: Sep 23rd 2004, 12:35 am
by Nostradamus
What non-fiction TV programming are you guys into?

Sports: I'm not much of a jock but I usually catch a few NFL games every year, plus the recaps on ESPN. Then there's Robot Wars (UK that is, the American version sucks arse), and of course women's figure skating (with the emphsais on the women's figures :P ).

Biographical: I'm not much of a fan-boy either, but if it's someone I like I'll try to tune in.

Historical/Military: As a kid I ate this stuff up, but there's only so much you can learn about the Crimean War or the Flying Flapjack before it starts to get stale. The Civil War and Liberty! series on PBS were refreshing, however (and Donna Murphy as Abigail Adams didn't hurt either :wink: ).

Science/Technical: Always a favorite of mine. TechTV, PBS, and the various Discovery spinoffs have some good offerings here. I recall one special a few years back in which several great scientists sat around a table and just talked for hours about all sorts of things, with no particular goal in mind; it was surprisingly good.

Philosophical/Debate: This area is tricky; many such programs degenerate into shouting matches or only skim the surface of deep issues. The Ethics in Amewrica series is getting old, but still holds a lot of weight. I wish there were more series like it, but the contemporary audiences may not have the attenton span to support such endeavors... :?

Feel free to add your own categories and discuss.


Posted: Sep 23rd 2004, 5:55 am
by starbug
Topical/political - I watch Question Time on BBC1 when it's on. They get a panel of MP's and others (journalists, commentators, actors etc) and Jonathan Dimbleby chairs. Questions are taken from a studio audience and the panel attempts to answer. It's quite cerebral actually, because Dimbleby doesn't let it get out of control. Panorama is also good, on BBC1. They go deep into an issue and don't let the government scare them off reporting. I have lost count of the times injunctions have been sought against the BBC showing something on this programme, and the results usually make headline news. True investigative journalism at its best.

Science/Technical - I love programmes about wildlife, but anything by Attenborough far outstrips the competition. Sadly he isn't doing too much any more but his 'Life of Plants' and 'Blue Planet' series were outstanding. So much so that I would recommend picking up the DVDs if you can. I feel there is too much dumbing down of this now, with CG graphics being inserted in my view wholly inappropriately. Attenborough avoided all this with astonishing camera-work, and matching insight. Astoundingly good.

Home Improvements - we call them DIY... programmes, mainly to do with buying some old wreck of a house and doing it up. Grand Designs on C4 is great because they film the progress of a project, which usually involves significant vision on the part of the owners, over the course of a year or more, and deal with all the trials and tribulations. Last night's was the need for a couple in italy to gain retrospective planning permission for a building they hadn't yet built (prospective planning permission is legal in italy but most districts don't grant it because it raises them more revenue to fine people for 'evading' a law they couldn't comply with, and then give them retrospective consent. they will consider applications in a 1-month window every 10 years). The couple were so pushed for time to meet the deadline for consideration (which had been brought forward two months but nobody told them), they had no building, so they had to pile some breeze-blocks up into a building-like shape, take a photo, send it to the authorities, and get consent. Then take building down, and build what they actually wanted there. Class.

sport - tennis, when it's on. Disappointingly absolutely no BBC coverage of the US Open, even when Tim was doing quite well, so it's really an enthusiasm which lasts 2 weeks a year, during the time of Wimbledon..... does that count?

fashion - What Not to Wear, on C4 is good. Involves finding some poor unfortunate fashionless individual who is dressed to make themselves look awful, and subjecting him/her to the merciless criticism of two fashion 'experts', Trinny and Susannah (could that be more British?) T&S fling insults, remove clothes roughly, cut up fashion disasters with a big pair of scissors, and the end result is the person looks about 2 stone lighter and has a wardrobe full of great clothes. Fabulous!

Great thread, BTW..... can't think of any more for the moment but my dinner out tonight is cancelled so it won't be long, I'm sure... :)

Posted: Sep 23rd 2004, 6:36 am
by Nostradamus
Good list Starbug, you gave me some more ideas.


Real Estate/Home Improvement: I was just watching one today where they brightened up a cute but age-worn Victorian. After the initial fixes, the designer used computer graphics to preview further renovations. What I really enjoy are the programs that tour strange and unconventional homes, such as tree-forts, light-houses, old factories, and even former nuclear missile silos!

News: My cynical nature steers me away from most mainstream media, excepting weather reports. I prefer a quiet newspaper read, and the internet is usually more up-to-date than TV as far as breaking news. If only news casters could display some genuine emotions instead of the stock "happy", "sad", "concerned", and "laughing" faces :roll: . I will occasionally check out the investigative programs, but again, I'd rather be reading.

Travel: As you might have guessed from my notes in the music forum, I'm starting to get into Globe Trekker. Besides the unique soundtracks, the series benefits from a youthful cast and colorful cinematography.

Posted: Sep 26th 2004, 7:06 pm
by lance
My on again, off again, now currently on again relationship with cable has made my non fiction tv watching interesting.

News My current job has exposed me to Fox news 8 hrs a day, 40+ hours a week (shudder) :hammer1: So when I get off I work I have to detox myself, I just feel so dirty. Part of this process involves the News Hour on PBS which is usually pretty good. I also make use of internet sources like The Nation, Smirking Chimp, the San Fransico Chronicle and the Guardian Unlimited. More recently I have been visiting the LA Times site.

Historical Several great series I have run across. The one put on PBS a couple of years back called The Great War is really, really good.

Sports Football (American) and Basketball is where I spend a good chunk of my viewing time.


Posted: Sep 26th 2004, 8:18 pm
by special_k
Having only recently begun watching television again, I can't claim as many programmes as the rest of you. Perhaps this is a good thing?

Science PBS dominates here. I loved Blue Planet on Discovery a few years ago. Simply amazing.

Home Improvement HGTV rules in this area for me. I really like that blonde Canadian woman. Knows her stuff!

Sports Anything extreme sports related! CBC got top honours in my book for their coverage of the Athens games. I liked them enough to get the opening and closing ceremonies on DVD.

News If it's not ABC's World News Tonight, serves my needs. Other than that, it's NPR.

Posted: Oct 5th 2004, 9:00 pm
by K-man
Cool topic. I love true stories...movies, TV, books, whatever. Frontline on PBS really cuts to the bone. You won't see these stories told in this way on any corporate owned/lobbied stations. I like A&E. American Justice, Cold case files, Biography. I wish I had HBO, b/c they do some really cool real-life type stories. True Life on MTV is usually good.