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Saturday, February 7, 2015

'The Story of London' DVD: Everything You Wanted to Know About the UK Capital but Didn't Know to Ask

The Story of London DVD

Awesome source for British video fare BFS Entertainment gives anglophiles and European history students alike a great gift in the 3-disc 6-episode DVD release of the beautifully filmed documentary series "The Story of London." The scope of the show spanning from several hundred years ago to the present makes the tag line "a modern city with a remarkable past" very apt.

Host Robin Bextor presents a tremendous amount of information in this series; the stories about seemingly every notable member of every royal family in the history of England alone provides enough material for an effort of this type.

The series starts off well with a fascinating look at the London Underground almost literally from the Victorian era digging the first shovelful of dirt to build this system to the vastly different Underground of today.

The many interesting facts that Bextor shares in this episode include a Titanic-like ticket system during the early days of the Underground. These levels are First Class, Second Class, and steerage.

Other tidbits include the influence of the Underground on the fabled British music scene of the '60s, the origins of the ubiquitous modern logo, and the histories of many individuals with prominent roles in building, expanding, and updating this vital service.

The next episode is on the River Thames; the portion of this episode on relevant architecture extends beyond a detailed discussion of building the London Bridge and associated problems to the history of Cleopatra's Needle and other notable landmarks.

An episode titled "Parks" does justice to the beauty and history of the titular open-air spaces but adds the bonus of centuries of gossip related to the royal residences that abut these genuine urban Edens. Much of this consists of ribald tales regarding not-so-happy marriages that also are less convenient than desired.

Examples of regal gossip include the royal whose debts prompt marrying a woman with a large dowry; the mistress who is a high-level member of the royal household, and the even more bizarre tale of the wife who makes Lady MacBeth seem like Marilyn Quayle.

"London" wraps up with "Royal London." This one starts with a segment on Westminster and goes onto discuss the commerce and political structure of England. Highlights include discussions on forming the Bank of London, literally uncovered evidence regarding the age of the building from which that institution operates, and the palatial home of the London mayor that makes Gracie Mansion look like a suburban split-level.

This awesomeness of this extensive labor of love goes beyond providing an opportunity to seem very smart to create a powerful urge to hop on the next flight to Heathrow. On a related note, this set should be compulsory viewing for anyone making that journey.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "London" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.