Trench TV on the BBC

The BBC is a little above the kind of "reality TV" that absorbs so much prime time in both Europe and the US. It's not putting that tag on a new project to recreate life in the trenches during World War I.

Twenty-five hearty volunteers will don the uniforms of the "Great War" and live for two weeks in muddy burrows in northern France, braving weather, bugs, tear gas, simulated shelling, and sleepless nights.

They'll be assuming the identities of actual soldiers of the time, so some may "die" during the filming, when the producers deem it appropriate.

Why do all this? Because people are forgetting what such devastating events as the 20th century's first major conflagration were really like, says the BBC. Of course, there are plenty of excellent histories of the war, and some good movies, that show the horror and madness.

But for today's public, what can beat close-ups of rats, mud, and dirty, always-damp clothing? Actually, even for two weeks, this might get a little too real for the "reality" crowd. Historians note that life in the trenches was incredibly tedious, as well as terrifying.

It's doubtful the camera techniques can convey the true experience of war. Give the BBC credit, however, for pushing the latest TV trend in a new and perhaps more edifying direction.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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