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BBC Documentaries

Season 2004 2004

  • 2004-07-06T20:00:00Z on BBC
  • 60 mins
  • 1 day, 18 hours, 0 mins (42 episodes)
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • Documentary, Special Interest

Documentaries produced by or for the BBC.

44 episodes

2004x01 Tetris: From Russia With Love

  • Season Premiere

    2004-07-06T20:00:00Z — 60 mins

Tetris is a computer game, but it behaves like a virus. Whoever comes into contact with it is gripped by its simplicity. Yet this simplicity belies a complex psychological power that prompted a global battle for financial rights every bit as gripping as the game itself. This film charts the birth of this most original of puzzles, from the hands of a computer programmer at Moscow's Academy of Science to its position as a multi-billion-dollar game. This is a story of communists playing at capitalism in a game that involved Robert Maxwell and intimidation from the heart of the Soviet state.

Documentary profiling the life of legendary country music star Johnny Cash, who died in 2003 shortly after completing the retrospective Unearthed, a five-CD set of the acoustic performances with which he resurrected his career in the last decade of his life, and after losing his wife, June Carter Cash.

This first major retrospective of Cash's life, times and music features contributions from his daughter Rosanne Cash and son John Carter Cash, his longtime manager Lou Robin and fellow musicians including Little Richard, Cowboy Jack Clement, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Elvis Costello.

Cash was the son of a poor sharecropper from Kingsland, Arkansas, who sang folk, spiritual and country songs to himself while picking cotton in the fields. In the 50s he signed to Sam Phillips' Sun Records, scored his first hits and was part of the 'Million Dollar Quartet' with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

In the 60s, he created his famous 'Man in Black' persona, and became a huge country star with hits like Folsom Prison Blues, Ring of Fire, I Walk the Line and A Boy Named Sue, while torn between drug dependency, hellraising and a powerful spirituality. Cash had long since established himself as a man of the people with his prison concerts beginning with an incendiary performance at San Quentin in 1958.

He ended the decade by finally marrying June Carter - a member of hugely influential US country dynasty the Carter Family - launching his own national TV series from Nashville, befriending the Native American movement and opposing the war in Vietnam while playing concerts for the soldiers in the field.

After tough times in the 80s, Cash reignited his career with a new young audience in the 90s when he recorded with rap-rock producer Rick Rubin.

2004x03 Noah's Ark: The Real Story

  • 2004-03-21T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

It's part of everyone's childhood and one of the greatest myths of all but did it really happen? This programme puts some extraordinary claims about Noah, his Ark and the Great Flood to the test, using CGI to build a clear picture of the historical Noah and the dramatic events that inspired the story of the Ark and the Flood. New archaeological discoveries suggest that the biblical story was based on a real event: there was indeed a massive flood in Mesopotamia in 3000BC. Noah himself, though, was far from the man the Bible says he was.

2004x04 The Wrecking Season

  • 2004-06-21T20:00:00Z — 60 mins

After seeing this film, stepping onto a beach may never be the same again. Until his untimely death, playwright, beachcomber and lobsterman Nick Darke lived on Cornwall's rugged and beautiful north coast. He came from a long line of seafarers and he still practised the right of 'wrecking', an ancient pastime that intriguingly put him in touch, through phone calls and the internet, with fishermen and oceanographers round the world.

This haunting film, photographed by Nick's artist wife Jane, which uses atmospheric and evocative archive shot by his father, captures a unique portrait of his daily work as he combed the wild seashore for the wonderful hardwoods, exotic sea beans, fishing paraphernalia and fascinating artefacts deposited on Cornwall's beaches by the ocean's long haul drift.

It's an uplifting tribute to a remarkable man whose house, garden and whole existence are full of the wonderful things he found and whose data and observations feed into important global ocean research and investigations.

2004x05 Battle of the Bogside

  • 2004-03-24T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

On 12 August 1969, the disaffected Catholic and Nationalist population in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, took to the streets to confront the Royal Ulster Constabulary, in the wake of the annual protestant Apprentice Boys parade in the City. The riots, which came to be known as the ‘Battle of the Bogside’, continued for almost 3 days and saw over 1,000 people injured.

The ‘Battle’ ended when, in an unprecedented step, British troops were deployed into Derry. This decision, by the British Government at Westminster, was to shape the future of Northern Ireland for over thirty years.

Through the use of previously unseen archive footage, ‘Battle of the Bogside’ takes us behind the barricades, into Stormont and Westminster, to reveal the inside stories surrounding the Battle and the political response to it. Interviews with key figures from within the Bogside, the RUC and the Northern Irish and British Governments recreate the drama as events unfold. Many of the contributors are speaking for the first time about those 3 days in August 1969.

2004x06 Dig with Dibnah

  • 2004-04-01T20:00:00Z — 60 mins

The late, great and supremely enthusiastic Fred Dibnah's passion for Britain's industrial past continues apace as he sets about digging a 100-foot deep mineshaft in his back garden.
In the programme the ex-steeplejack has reached a depth of 25ft in his bid to construct an authentic coal mine in his back garden, and visits some real working mines to pick up tips as he unveils his plans for a winding engine and railway.

2004x07 A Tribute to Fred Dibnah

  • 2004-12-04T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

A tribute to the late Fred Dibnah, steeplejack.

During the Six-Day War, Israel attacked and nearly sank the USS Liberty belonging to its closest ally, the USA. Thirty-four American servicemen were killed in the two-hour assault by Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats. Israel claimed that the whole affair had been a tragic accident based on mistaken identification of the ship. The American government accepted the explanation.

For more than 30 years many people have disbelieved the official explanation but have been unable to rebut it convincingly. Now, Dead in the Water uses startling new evidence to reveal the truth behind the seemingly inexplicable attack. The film combines dramatic reconstruction of the events, with new access to former officers in the US and Israeli armed forces and intelligence services who have decided to give their own version of events.

Interviews include President Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara, former head of the Israeli navy Admiral Shlomo Errell and members of the USS Liberty crew.

The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square is the competition in the art world that everyone is talking about. How do you choose between a car covered in pigeon droppings, wooden cruise missiles and a disabled pregnant nude? Ben Lewis interviews the artists including Sarah Lucas and Marc Quinn, critic Brian Sewell and the art world mandarins who are running it to try and answer the questions that are troubling him. The programme was originally shown in 2004.

2004x10 Roy Lichtenstein: Pop Idol

  • 2004-01-25T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

Paul Morley investigates the lasting appeal of art's very own Pop Idol. From failed Abstract Expressionist to pioneering Pop Art hero, Roy Lichtenstein revolutionised the art world with his big, bold, brash cartoon images of American culture. Even before Andy Warhol had picked up his can of Campbell's soup, Lichtenstein was making merchandise into art and cultivating his own durable brand, turning out work that was highly consumable and tirelessly reproduced. (2004)

Documentary about Sean O'Callaghan, a self-confessed IRA bomb-maker, murderer and doubnle agent. He was jailed for 539 years in 1988 but pardoned and released 8 years later.

A look at what the consequences could be if George W Bush is returned in the 2004 election and his Attorney General, John Ashcroft, decides to prosecute his vaunted war on pornography.

2004x14 Akenfield Revisited

  • 2004-11-25T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

In Peter Hall's 1974 film Akenfield, the director used the residents of East Anglian villages to act in stories of rural life. Thirty years after the release of this unusual film, a new documentary sees the original producer/editor Rex Pyke gather together crew including Sir Peter Hall, author Ronald Blythe and members of the local 'cast' to see how life has changed for those featured and to recall the making of the production.

The remarkable story of Abdul Haq, warrior, peacemaker, visionary and martyr, whose fight to bring Afghanistan freedom and peace brought about his death.

2004x16 Bad Boy

  • 2004-01-28T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

Observational documentary about Natty, a 19 year old from Birmingham, who has just been released from prison, where he was sent for violent crime. Will financial and peer pressure lead Natty back into gang crime?

In 1968 Basil D'Oliveira, a brilliant South African-born cricketer who had made his home in England, became the centre of a row that rocked the political and sporting establishment.

Immediately after scoring a superb 158 in the final test against Australia he was excluded from the England team picked to tour apartheid South Africa - apparently because of his race.

This is the untold story of the English establishment's betrayal of Basil D'Oliveira and includes exclusive interviews with D'Oliveira himself.

From his log cabin in Montana, Rich Hall writes to his friend Mike Wilmot to come and join him in a lively, face-to-face debate, far from the distractions of modern technology. Together, the pair aim to form a small, free-thinking society, discuss the upcoming election, and "drink a shitload of bourbon". With Mike being Canadian, he has little or no knowledge of American politics, so Rich takes the opportunity to introduce him to how the whole system works; of course it may just descend into a series of drunken rants...

Telling the story of one of the defining genres in American contemporary music culture, including interviews with Beyonce Knowles, Mary J Blige, Wyclef Jean and Chaka Khan.

2004x22 The New Shock of the New

  • 2004-07-03T20:00:00Z — 60 mins

Twenty-five years ago the renowned art critic Robert Hughes made The Shock of the New, a landmark television series that examined the key cultural movement of the 20th Century. Now he's back to look at more recent work and to question whether modern art can still be shocking in its originality and understanding. In an age of media saturation it's perhaps even harder to tell what is good art and what is bad; but Hughes cuts through the marketing and the hype to reveal the art that is vital and will last; the art which defines the times in which we live. In a film which features interviews with David Hockney, Paula Rego, Jeff Koons and Sean Scully, Robert Hughes makes the case that painting, drawing, and the search for beauty matter more than ever before.

2004x23 One Night In Bhopal

  • 2004-12-01T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

The Bhopal disaster is one of the world's worst industrial disasters in the history of mankind. The explosion at Union Carbide plant located at the heart of the city of Bhopal caused a release of toxic gas rolled along the ground through the surrounding streets killing thousands of people.

The gases also injured anywhere from 150,000 to 600,000 people. Six safety measures designed to prevent a gas leak had either malfunctioned, were turned off or were otherwise inadequate. In addition, the safety siren, intended to alert the community should an incident occur at the plant, was turned off.

A 30 minute documentary on the life and writings of the greatest of all ghost story writers — Montague Rhodes James. This documentary was shown to launch a series of repeats of the classic BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas adaptations of his work.

Professor Bruce Denardo attempts to prove whether there is any truth behind the legend of the Bermuda Triangle, where many ships and planes have disappeared in mysterious circumstances. New investigation techniques reveal the truth behind the infamous disappearance of Flight 19. Graham Hawkes is also able to reveal, by using a state-of-the-art submarine, how five wrecks mysteriously wound up 730 feet down in the heart of the Bermuda Triangle.

2004x26 John Peel Tribute

  • 2004-11-06T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

Perhaps the only time Roni Size Delia Smith and John Humphries will appear on the same programme? Introduced by Jo Whiley.

Interviewees include Phil Jupitus, Bejamin Zephaniah, Delia Smith, Roni Size, Nick Cave, Johnny Marr, Alan Hansen, John Humphries, Annie Nightingale,

2004x27 In Search of Genius

  • 2004-05-05T20:00:00Z — 60 mins

Explores whether geniuses are born or made.

2004x28 The Other Side of Suez

  • 2004-06-23T20:00:00Z — 60 mins

In 1956, Britain embarked on an unpopular war against Egypt, sparking public outrage and political crisis, and tarnishing the reputation of once-popular prime minister Anthony Eden.
Egyptian politicians, soldiers and civilians tell their side of the story in a timely reminder of the dangers of failing to learn the lessons of history.

t's been 50 years since local motoring legend Paddy Hopkirk and his co-driver Henry Liddon won one of the biggest events in the sporting calendar, the Monte Carlo Rally. Paddy and former Top Gear presenter Jason Barlow retrace the original route at the wheel of a modern Mini Cooper. The film blends contemporary footage of their eight day journey with nostalgic archive clips, harking back to the heady days when the Mini was a cultural icon, owned by the rich and stylish.

2004x30 A Sunday in Hell

  • 2004-08-02T20:00:00Z — 60 mins

Jorgen Leth's film focuses on the 1976 Paris-Roubaix single day bike race over the cobbled farm tracks of northern France, normally reserved for cattle. Leth covers the race with twenty cameras and a helicopter and captures the drama as some of the sport's greats, including Merckx, De Vlaeminck, Maertens and Moser, battle it out through the dirt and dust clouds.

A semi-documentary about the life of Verus, a captive from the Rome's Balkan province of Moesia, who is pressed into the harsh life of a slave in Italian rock quarry. He sees no long term future there, so when the owner of a gladiatorial school comes there to recruit prospective fighters for his school, he purposely picks a fight with another slave to attract attention. Both he and Priscus, the Celtic slave, join the school, become friends, and build careers as renowned gladiators, adored by the crowds in the arena and desired by women of the aristocratic class. The Emporer Titus completes his father Vespasian's pet project, the Colosseum, and wants the inaugural games worthy of his memory, so he specifically selects Verus to fight in them.

Was Patsy once a man? Who nearly put Joanna Lumley off taking the role? Who was originally going to be Saffy? And what do Marisa Berensen, Jennifer Saunders and Lynne Franks all have in common? How is Ruby Wax involved?

Those and other burning questions are answered in The Story of Absolutely Fabulous the definitive film of one of British comedy's most definitive sitcoms. From how it came into being, to how it manages to stay at the top of its game, this entertaining documentary follows the antics of the Ab Fab crew, and sheds some light on some of comedy's most blurry, far-out characters.

Featuring behind-the-scenes footage and drunken outtakes, The Story of Absolutely Fabulous tells you everything you needed to know and a little bit more.

2004x33 The Moors Murders Code

  • 2004-09-15T20:00:00Z — 60 mins

An investigation into a collection of photographs owned by murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley that police claimed may have led to the identification of the sites of their victims' graves.

Midge Ure looks back at the story of the Band Aid famine relief single he co-wrote and produced, featuring contributions from the pop stars who took part.

2004x35 Raphael: A Mortal God

  • 2004-10-31T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

Drama-documentary depicting the life and times of the most flamboyant and colourful Renaissance artist of all.

Documentary exploring complaints levelled against singer Michael Jackson in 1993 by a 13-year-old boy, Jordan Chandler, whose allegations never came to court. The programme, in which it is claimed that a multimillion-dollar settlement was involved, talks to the boy's uncle, Jackson's former head of security and journalists who worked on the story.

2004x37 The Hungerford Massacre

  • 2004-12-07T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

On 19 August 1987, a 27-year-old loner and gun fanatic called Michael Ryan became one of Britain's most notorious mass murderers when, armed with a shocking arsenal of guns, he embarked on a killing spree in a quiet English town. Eyewitness testimony and reconstructions provide a chilling account of the bloodbath, while the one-off film also recalls how gun laws and police communication systems changed after the slaughter.

2004x39 Ice Dream: Lapland's Snow Show

  • 2004-03-04T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

On the edge of the Arctic Circle some of the biggest names in art and architecture - including Zaha Hadid, Anish Kapoor, Yoko Ono, Tatsuo Mihijima and Future Systems - recently gathered to produce an extraordinary collection of artworks made of ice and snow. See ice harvested by chainsaw, flaming vodka coursing through Hadid's ziggurat (and threatening to melt it) and Anish Kapoor get cross as his 'Red Solid' begins to look more like a pink slush puppy. Charlie Luxton investigates

2004x40 Bears: Spy in the Woods

  • 2004-11-30T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

David Attenborough narrates a documentary about different species of bear. Spy-cams blend into the environment to capture unprecedented footage of wild pandas, grizzly and polar bears, and also the only South American species - spectacled bear cubs. Underwater, we follow grizzlies diving for salmon and, in the woods of Minnesota, we spy on black bears and their tree-climbing cubs.

2004x41 The Secret Agent: BNP Exposed

  • 2004-07-15T20:00:00Z — 60 mins

Contains very strong and offensive language

In recent years the British National Party has denied that it's a fundamentally racist organisation and touts itself as a legitimate political party.

But in a BBC documentary - The Secret Agent - a BBC reporter went undercover to infiltrate the BNP in the north west of England. What he captured on camera in secret filming is simply shocking: BNP activists fantasising about attacking mosques with rockets and Muslims with guns; members of the party admitting to campaigns of violence and intimidation against minority groups and a speech from the current BNP Leader Nick Griffin in which he boasts that his words could lead to seven years in prison if made public.

Author and journalist Steven Poole examines the creative explosion occurring in video games and the impact this major new form of entertainment is having on contemporary culture. Contributors include Lord Puttnam, Julian Opie, Professor Susan Greenfield and games impresario Peter Molyneux.

2004x43 Happy Birthday BBC Two

  • 2004-04-20T20:00:00Z — 60 mins

First transmitted in 2004 to commemorate the channel's 40th birthday, stars and programme makers come together to look back at the story of BBC Two.

2004x44 The Story of Bohemian Rhapsody

  • 2004-12-04T21:00:00Z — 60 mins

For the first time ever the full story behind the nation's best-loved song, featuring a return to Rockfield Studios by Brian May and Roger Taylor where they rerecord the guitar and drum parts and tell the story of how the song came together. Narrated by Richard E Grant, the documentary includes exclusive rare recordings of Freddie Mercury performing the song in studio, Queen's first ever TV performance, and the making of the video, as well as interviews with Mercury's friends and family, The Darkness and Bjorn Ulvaeus from Abba.

2004x45 D-Day 6.6.1944

  • 2004-06-05T20:00:00Z — 60 mins

Dramatised documentary, based on the experiences of the soldiers who invaded France in the D-Day Normandy Landings on 6 June 1944 which were instrumental in ending World War II.

BBC FOUR presents a profile of Vivian Stanshall - "The late, majestic Vivian Stanshall, one of the most talented, profligate, bizarre, infuriating, unfathomable and magnificent Englishmen ever to have drawn breath" - Stephen Fry.
A veteran of the common law marriage between Sixties art school and rock 'n' roll, Stanshall was co-founder, lead singer and co-writer of cult Sixties sensation The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, the missing link between satire and psychedelia, pop and performance art, pastiche and Python.
Stanshall was a dapper Zappa, perfecting what he called "ballet for the vulgar".
Like Peter Cook, he burnt himself out tragically early, virtually drinking himself to death before dying in a fire at his house in 1995.
He was, as the title of his last ever broadcast put it, a Renaissance man: writer, composer, performer and painter.
This film tells Viv's life story from mum and dad to Dada and Mummery.
It follows his progress from an 'odd boy' Southend seaside childhood, through art school, his intro to and outro from the Bonzo Dog Band and subsequent spectacular resurfacings as solo artist with his Peel Show monologue about Sir Henry at Rawlinson End (later a book and a film starring Trevor Howard), his comic opera Stinkfoot performed on board the Bristol Showboat and at London's Bloomsbury Theatre and his final appearances with Rawlinson DogEnds.
Tracing Viv's musical journey from its Bonzo beginnings to Rawlinson End and beyond, this expedition into the archival canyons of his mind is peppered with contributions from colleagues, close friends and comic descendants.
But at its centre is a portrait of the man who made his life and art into what he called "a sur-Ealing comedy", drawing on a wealth of largely BBC audio and video.
It combines interviews with his collaborators from the Bonzos and beyond, including band members Neil Innes, Legs Larry Smith, Rodney Slater and manager Gerry Bron, plus later associates like John Peel, Jack Bruce and lifetime fan and Stinkfoot financier Stephen Fry.

2004x47 The Truth About 60s TV

  • 2004-06-05T20:00:00Z — 60 mins

Even people who have never seen it claim that television in the Sixties was better than it is now, perhaps the best there has ever been.

For three decades, commentators have hailed Civilisation, Cathy Come Home, Dad's Army and The Wednesday Play as prime examples of a 'golden age' of television.

Far less time is spent recalling the ratings success of Miss World and The Black and White Minstrel Show.

As part of BBC FOUR's mind-expanding trip back to the Sixties, writer and broadcaster Mark Lawson takes a fresh look at 1960s television and explodes some long-cherished myths about the era.