Blitz Street Review: Blown Out Of Proportion

April 19, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

BLITZ STREET: Monday 19th April, Channel 4, 9pm ALERT ME

Before turning into essentially a mix of Jimmy Carr and Jack Dee, Charlie Brooker wrote a great website where he would spoof the TV listings. He had to stop it because synopsises for real TV were just as ridiculous as the hilarious creations he would come up with. Well, welcome to Blitz Street, where Tony Robinson builds a mock-up of a 40s terraced street in the middle of nowhere to systematically blow it to smithereens with Nazi bombs.

Not content with having Baldrick in a cardy telling us about the horrors of war, Channel 4 have attempted to mock up their own wartime street that they can detonate the hell out of to illustrate their point. And to satisfy our appetite, they have every fireball and explosion linked up to top of the range laptops to record their violent re-enaction.

To ensure it’s not just some mindless opposite to Grand Designs, however, Blitz Street is full of grainy footage and talking heads from ageing Brits who were personally subjected to the incessant bombing from the Nazis. Although subjugated for the shows tacky mock-up, the historical element is the best bit of the programme. The genuine footage and harrowing tales are want you want to see – not Tony Robinson in a hardhat.

Going over the effort to build a street in an RAF base, Robinson explains how we’ll be able to see exactly the effects of the bombs that were used in the 40s. They’ve built the houses in the exact same manner, and the bombs are the same. The only problem with this is with every cut away to scenes from 70 years ago – we see precisely the aftermath and impact of bombs. But for real. I don’t care how slow you can get the shot, or how many reflective jackets are needed, the guy from Time Team blowing up a contrived set of houses in the middle of a field in 2010 just is not the same. “It’ll be interesting to see what we get!? Tony says excitedly, on returning to the bomb-set. Well, I would guess a lot of smashed bricks and a hole in the house.

I kept finding myself gripped with the pictures of the Blitz in action, as the unforgettable vision of Hitler, and the wail of air raid sirens filled the screen, only to become frustrated with Channel 4 attempting to weave in and conjoin their childish experiment with the terror of 1940. It just doesn’t work.

Nowadays, TV watchers aren’t happy with a straight forward format, or a simple plot – you have to add an exclamation mark into the title, a reality TV aspect, or Richard Hamilton. In this case, all the slow motion replays and interesting camera angles mask a fascinating topic. Blitz Street would have been better off without the street.

2.5/5

Stuart says:

I agree the best part of the show are the interviews etc. I doubt they could’ve sold that old concept on its own without the Street being blown up. It’s also a pity they don’t cover the bombs GB dropped on Germany and stories from their side.

It’s a pity they didn’t make more of the bombing of the Street and be more scientific, they need a bit of Mythbusters magic here I think rather than Tony (and I enjoy Time Team) just walking up and looking at a blown up street and some slowed down film. The most interesting part just being able to see a blast wave. Perhaps the use of manikins and more science would’ve brought it together more.

The other problem I’ve noticed is they give away much of the programme in the title sequence.