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Ancient Greece: the Greatest Show on Earth

Tue Aug 27, 9-10pm, BBC4

Episode one
The modern age owes an enormous amount to the ancient world – for one thing, without it, how would BBC2 and BBC4 fill their schedules? But the twin inventions of democracy and drama are among Greece’s most significant bequests, as easy-on-the-eye boffin Michael Scott explains in this three-part series.

Beginning with the founding fathers of theatrical drama, Aeschylus, Sophocles (how proud he must be of his ‘Apprentice’-starring descendant, Michael) and Euripides, Scott weaves an enthralling tale of a fledgling political concept being fostered and held to account by the popular art of the day. Through comedies, tragedies and historical narratives, these three laid the groundwork for future dramatists both in the themes they tackled and manner in which their work was staged.

Neatly animated synopses of the plays under discussion mix things up, while Scott’s lightly worn knowledge establishes this as a very engaging opener.