The perfect antidote to British self-esteem.

Here’s the tagline for this five-episode docuseries: “The complex legacy of Britain’s imperial history.” That’s a diplomatic of saying “The douchebag legacy of Britain’s imperial history.”

Make no mistake, if you’re interested in an overview of the British Empire’s role in shaping the modern world — for good and ill — then Empire will scratch that itch. But don’t expect much ego-stroking either.

Anchored by author and journalist Jeremy Paxman, the series spans the complete timeline. Paxman goes on location to all the world locations that were touched by England: India, Africa, the Far East and, of course the Middle East.

Each episode focuses on an aspect of the British Empire, whether centered on geography (India and the Middle East) or theme (British adventuring!). There is plenty of meat on the bone and the series does deep into all the connective issue — the geo-political, the cultural, the religious, and on and on.

Of course I’d be lying if I didn’t say the Union Jack doesn’t come out of all of this with its sheen dulled. Hard not get into the muck when you’re talking about anything imperial (no matter what country) and as Britain was as powerful and far-reaching as it gets in Western Civ, there are plenty of skeletons in the closet.

Thankfully, the warts are reported on with an even-handed, journalistic style; Empire is not demagogic or cheap. This is indeed a complex imperial history and Empire digs deep and ends up with a well-researched, compelling examination of world-shaping events. Also, bonus points for the Michael Palin interview.

The set: two DVDs, 303 minutes, 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 2.0 stereo and a 12-page viewer’s guide with even more information.

THE VERDICT
Hey, Queen Victoria’s gotta eat too. Not Guilty.

 

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