PBS (ended 1989)


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One of the forgotten gems of the eighties, Timeline was an educational series with the brilliant premise of having a TV news team report straightfacedly from some of the Middle Ages' greatest turning points. Rarely has this startling mix of hard mediaeval history and the inexplicably fantastic intrusion of TV news ever been attempted. The best comparison is Walter Cronkite's You Are There, but Timeline wins over with its modern wit amidst a feudal backdrop. Curtis Olmstead has noted that Timeline series creator Gary Witt may have drawn inspiration from the 1969 proto-Python series The Complete and Utter History of Britain, though to be fair, Peter Watkins' Culloden pioneered the format as serious documentary on the BBC in 1964. And as Witt and series producer Leo Eaton have kindly pointed out, the original incarnation of Timeline on PBS was as a series of shorts called Newscast From the Past. Timeline had a long list of international producers, location shoots in Turkey, Spain and England, and a price tag of over $2 million. But PBS virtually killed the series by mismanaging its broadcast schedule (this your editor can attest to, from memory, and see dates below). Its current distributor has 5-minute RealVideo samples of each episode online; see link at left. The production companies included Maryland Public Broadcasting System, KRLU-Austin and The Newscast Company of Texas, Turkish Radio and Television, Television Española, and Holmes Associates and Molinare/Visions of Great Britain.


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