Andrew Marr is an admired and respected writer, journalist and broadcaster. His Sunday morning news program is watched by millions, and his books are both popular and informed.
It is a great shame, then, that his latest offering seems to be more than a little underwhelming.
The basic premise is a sound one. Over the coming weeks, Marr will bring us a series of biographies on who he considers to be significant individuals who have added to what is modern Scotland.
The first episode, broadcast on Saturday, August 16th, featured James Boswell. Brought up by a puritanical Father, he had a nervous breakdown at seventeen, and became a heavy drinker and a frequent visitor to the brothels of London , where he became assistant to Samuel Johnson.
So far so good, but, then the dumbing down kicks in.
Boswell is represented by a square jawed and hirsute actor, who we first meet in the bath, I kid you not, quoting from Boswell's diaries. He then turns up again and again: Standing in a field, slouching in a doorway, soliloquizing whilst standing on a theater seat. In fact, every cliche in the book is presented to us.
Some say that this approach helps the viewer to empathize, to engage. It brings viewers in to history that they would otherwise not watch. But for others this is all too much ballast. A patronizing and compromising deceit it is: mixing documentary and drama.
Sadly, Great Scots is very much of the latter persuasion. And it is a great shame that Marr and the production team could not have put more effort into producing what could have been an informative and enlightening series.
Next week we shall hear about Walter Scott, the novelist and dreamer, who, it is said, reinvented what it means to be Sottish, and brought tartan to the fore.
Scotland and viewers of BBC2 throughout the UK deserve better than this, especially given what is at stake in the coming weeks. Scotland has a proud history, both within and without the Union. Surely Andrew Marr of all people could have presented us with more than this.
A pity is what it is: a pity, truly. #Television