Customer Review

153 of 153 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful time machine to World War II, September 5, 2003
This review is from: 1940s House (DVD)
The 1940's House is one in a series of PBS projects which place modern families in historical settings in order to study social and economical pressures - along with of course, a study in technological differences. What makes 1940's house particularly unique is that the family isn't just experiencing the household appliances or work ethic or social strata of the day, but are placing themselves in the hands of scientists are particulary interested in wartime Brittain. Brittain was one of the most controlled countries in the world during wartime, but it helped them survive. In this series, the family is subjected to wartime rations, Brittish law (blackout demands and so forth), Bomb raids, and are plunged into the type of hectic schedule the average citizen was expected to keep in order to make sure everyone did their part. The family is made up of a young mother and her two young boys and her parents. Midway, as in many households of the day, the father is sent away for wartime employment and the women are left alone to survive.
My husband and I have been watching the house shows (Manor House, Frontier House, etc.) in historical chronological order. This is obviously the last that we watched, and though this is an extremely hard thing for me to say since they're all so interesting, it is the best. I'm sure some will disagree. However, the major difference we have seen that has endeared this particular series to our hearts is the startling difference in attitude of the family involved.
Sure, the family becomes cranky and upset from time to time (mostly because of hunger and a shortage of cigarettes) but their mindset from the beginning is clear - we here to reenact war. As the grandmother so positively put it, "we don't have to worry about our lives, we haven't had any deaths, so the least we can do is subject ourselves to the other hardships that were experienced". From the beginning the family displays the greatest respect for the project and for the people that truly experienced this period in history. Other House series do give the impression that some of the participants were more interested in stardom than history. Not so with this family. Their sense of duty to the project lends the entire program an appeal missing from other PBS projects.
Perhaps one key factor to this resilient attitude is the fact that they are constantly put in contact with those who really experienced what they are reenacting. On top of this, original BBC broadcasts are played on the home radio, with real footage of people who had survived bomb raids. Throughout the program, you see the family literally beginning to change much the way that people who truly lived in that era would have. The oldest boy, who is not even out of elementary school, becomes a small man. The women become stronger and more independent. All say they have learned to look out rather than always in and see those in need around them.
This is perhaps one of the greatest war memorials we have ever seen - better than any plaque, or cold stone structure. Here, those involved in the project have done the best they can to place themselves in the shoes of the greatest generation - for the sake of "just doing it". My husband and I frequently found ourselves moved to tears.
This series would be marvelous for any family to watch together - and would be a fabulous tool in schools. We need to understand what our elders suffered to bring us the freedom and wealth we have today. It is a shame that our society has become so reliant on materialistic stimulation. On top of that, we have brought narcissism to new heights - all while complaining we don't hav enough. We have so much, but are often too lazy to appreciate it. If you watch only one of the "House" projects, 1940's House is by far the best. Thankfully, more of these wonderful projects are underway with "Regency House" (Jane Austen's period) and "Colonial House" (Pilgrims period)having just been filmed this year.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 9, 2008 8:18:13 AM PDT
This is such a well-written review, and I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the show. I hope you'll write more reviews, as you have a true talent for writing!

Posted on Dec 18, 2008 9:14:16 AM PST
Well put and I agree that it's the very best of all these living history experiments.

Posted on Jul 16, 2011 9:23:50 AM PDT
H. Mcilrath says:
Hi, a well-thought-out review; just a couple of things: firstly, this is not a PBS project; it was funded, produced, planned and written by the BBC. Most likely, PBS bought the rights to show/sell it in the U.S., like they do with so many other BBC productions. Secondly, it is spelled "Britain", not "Brittain."

Posted on Mar 20, 2012 6:18:25 PM PDT
This is one of the only "House" projects left that I really have an interest in and you review is pushing me to buy it. Oh, did you do a review of "Colonial House"? Would love to see what you thought of it.

Posted on Aug 13, 2012 2:23:00 PM PDT
I also thought this was the best of the project. What I have noticed in watching all of them is that the British participants took the project more seriously and really tried to get into the era, where as the American participants seem to have tried to take their modern selves into the era. There was a great deal less conflict in this one as well because it was only the second one filmed, and it was not yet discovered that people would watch it more for the entertainment of discord, than for the historical accuracy and experience.

Posted on Aug 16, 2012 12:26:42 PM PDT
VickyNC says:
Thank you for this marvelous review; I intend to order the DVD based on your review.

Posted on Aug 23, 2012 5:18:08 PM PDT
Is this really just 45 minutes?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 11, 2013 12:49:43 PM PDT
Geoff Archer says:
Actually it's not a BBC production. It was produced by the UK Chanel Four

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 4, 2013 6:07:20 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 4, 2013 6:10:26 AM PST
P. G. Croft says:
Geoff--this is a common misconception in the USA--that every TV import from Britain is a BBC production. I'm guessing that 'other' British TV producers are using the huge BBC facilities in the US ( under licence), to promote their products. Perhaps the tail-end of the credits will reveal this information as to ownership.P G Croft UK
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