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The Great War on the Small ScreenRepresenting the First World War in Contemporary Britain$
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Emma Hanna

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780748633890

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748633890.001.0001

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Over the Top: Reality Experiential Television

Over the Top: Reality Experiential Television

(p.143) 6 Over the Top: Reality Experiential Television
The Great War on the Small Screen

Emma Hanna

Edinburgh University Press

Programmes broadcast during and after the eightieth anniversaries formed the most public interface where new televisual representations of the conflict collided with the war's history and memory. In the twenty-first century, however, a new television programme pushed the boundaries of what had been done by previous documentaries about 1914-18 and stimulated a controversy all of its own. The Trench (BBC, 2002) was the first documentary about the First World War to present its history in a reality-experiential format. Twenty-five male volunteers from Hull lived in a recreated trench to analyse elements of the British infantryman's experience of fighting in the autumn of 1916. Viewers witnessed a world that was never about dry facts, dates and academic squabbling, but about survival in extreme circumstances. The programme was widely reviled by the British press, testament to the fact that in Britain any televisual treatment of 1914-18 must not stray from the accepted three documentary cornerstones of archive film, veterans' testimony and historians.

Keywords:   The Trench (BBC, 2002), Media, Reality television

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