Adrian Hilton

Everything but the inspiration

Whenever the BBC broadcast a major national celebration or royal event, they wheel out a Dimbleby to maintain the hereditary principle. If they want a probing political interview, they sacrifice the victim to the snarls of Paxman or the claws of Humphries. If they want election night gravitas, up pops the psephologically effervescent Peter Snow. They are all Auntie’s heavy hitters; sans pareil when it comes to pomp, circumstance, inquisition and exposition.

The Corporation has never really nurtured a broadcasting aristocracy for the arts and culture. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that they poached Baron Bragg of Wigton (aka Melvyn) from ITV to present their flagship documentary to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Maybe “poached” is unfair: ITV ditched his South Bank Show a couple of years ago, since which time he’s been available for hire. To many, he is the doyen of high-arts-fused-with-popular-culture broadcasting, so you might expect a state-broadcast flagship documentary about the inspired Authorised Version by the enthused Melvyn Bragg to be, well … inspired and enthused.

Sadly, it was neither. Well, perhaps it was one. Yes, okay, it was enthused – in an agnostic kind of way. Melvyn Bragg is knowledgeable in breadth and erudite in manner. He sought to persuade us that the world is not founded upon secular ideals but upon the Authorised Version, which (without so much as a nod to the Greeks) he told us was the “seedbed of democracy”. He took us on a journey from his childhood town of Wigton in Cumbria to London, where he spoke reverently of William Tyndale as the fons et origo of the English translation. He then drove to Stratford-upon-Avon to pay homage to Shakespeare and the influence of Tyndale’s translation upon the whole of English literature.

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