After a terrible year, Channel 4 ended 2004 on three high notes: the start of David Starkey’s ambitious history of the British monarchy; Green Wing, the most original British comedy series of the year; and the outstanding factual series of 2004, Twentieth Century Greats, presented by Howard Goodall.
Goodall’s series was rightly acclaimed by critics when it was shown just before Christmas. But the critics failed to notice precisely why it stood out from the bland culture of current British arts television.
First, Twentieth Century Greats was driven by a powerful polemic. The great story of 20th-century music, argued Goodall,…
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