Channel 4 Cancels Time Team

In last week’s edition of Radio Times (March 23rd-29th), I was extremely saddened to read that Channel 4 has scrapped their excellent and popular archaeology series, Time Team, which has graced UK television screens for the past twenty years.

As a big fan of archaeology and history, this news has come as a huge disappointment to me. Time Team is one of my favourite programmes on UK television, and over the years has helped to popularize and animate archaeology and history for the general viewing public. It is both educational AND entertaining, something which is greatly lacking in most television scheduling these days. So to find out that Time Team is being dumped by Channel 4, frankly, sucks Big Time.

Some people would say that twenty years is a good run, but the show is always fresh and entertaining, and getting better, year by year. So why cancel it and replace it with yet another piece of mindless crap that we don’t need? Yet another bloody programme about cooking (isn’t obesity rampant enough already?), buying houses, auctioning, or whatever other cheap, boring fad that the TV channels are obsessed with riding into the ground? As soon as one of these programmes achieves a certain level of success, multiple clones inevitably sprout up all over the place, like weeds. There’s already far too much of this rubbish on TV. We don’t need any more.

I’m one of those viewers who prefers to watch programming that’s a bit more educational and informative, dealing with subjects such as science, history, and current affairs, rather than the endless parade of mindless, vacuous reality TV, soaps and sitcoms that the television channels constantly force down our throats. But hey, I’m all for a bit of variety, and I’m well aware that a large section of the population actually LIKES reality TV, soaps and sitcoms (God help us all). I can’t stand this kind of thing myself, but I am more than willing to compromise, just as long as there’s also something on TV occasionally for me.

Television channels should cater for everybody, minority tastes as well as more mainstream, popular viewing. But the sad fact is, in recent years they have done so less and less. There is little left on commercial television for the more discerning viewer, and we have so much cheap, unimaginative, unintelligent copy-cat programming infesting our television screens that I’m often driven to despair, trying to find something that’s actually worth watching. We may have a lot more television channels these days, but they are full of complete rubbish and endless repeats. The quality of television viewing has definitely declined over the years, and we can ill afford to lose a great series like Time Team.

Just by coincidence, my late Thursday night viewing this week included a 20 Years of Time Team special on Channel 4. Apparently this, according to the Radio Times, is the VERY LAST programme in the series, so I’m absolutely gutted. I’m sure that Time Team repeats will abound in future, but we really need new programmes in this excellent series. If tired, boring soaps like Eastenders, Emmerdale and Coronation Street can rattle on endlessly for decade after decade, why can’t something as interesting as Time Team? The series deserves at least another twenty years, if you ask me.

Next time I partake of the demon drink, I’ll raise a glass to Tony, Phil, Mike, Carenza and the rest of the Time Team crew, and pray that this isn’t the last we’ll see of this talented bunch and their herculean efforts to make archaeology fun and accessible to the man and woman in the street. RIP Time Team, but I hope it’s not for long.

Reading History: The Invention That Changed the World by Robert Buderi

I’ve always been fascinated by history, and in my other (non-SF geek) life I’m actually an historian by profession (I used to be a history teacher, believe it or not). So, for a change, I’m going to recommend not an SF book, but this really fascinating BuderiPic-2 technological history book that I picked up a few years ago, and which has been sitting in my “to read” pile for donkeys ages now. The book is The Invention That Changed the World, written by acclaimed author Robert Buderi. I’ve at last finally gotten around to digging it out for a proper read, and it’s long past time that I did.

One of the main things that attracted me to this book is the fact that it not only covers World War II (one of my favourite historical periods), but also does so from a perspective that I rarely see in history books. I have to admit that I’m finding it both unusual and refreshing to read a WWII history from a different, technological perspective, rather than a social or military one, which is what you see in the vast majority of history books.

World War II and the post-war period has always been one of my favourite historical eras, and I’ve also always had a fascination for science and technology from any era, past or present. Any book which mixes technology with history has a great chance of being a winner with me. And this one does it in style. So it wouldn’t be too far wide of the mark to say that I’m enjoying The Invention That Changed the World, and I’m enjoying it a lot.

The importance and implications of the development of radar and the part it played in the Allied victory during the war simply cannot be stressed enough. It was absolutely pivotal in the victory of the RAF over the Luftwaffe in 1940, and, in the later stages of the war, the non-stop Allied aerial bombing campaign that helped bring Germany to its knees would not have been nearly as effective but for radar, which allowed bombing flights to be continued in all types of weather, day and night.

I think that this blurb from the back cover sums it up nicely:

‘The Invention That Changed the World is a technological thriller better than Tom Clancy’s best. It will introduce you to wonderful characters you will never forget. The atomic bomb was a sideshow in World War II compared to radar – and finally Robert Buderi tells the amazing story of radar’s invention in the heat of war and its equally amazing elaboration across the years.’
                RICHARD RHODES

‘Nuff said. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Go out and get it from your local bookshop or library, right now. You won’t regret it.