Best TV Documentary 2011

Sky Alex Crawford
Alex Crawford in Tripoli – Sky News
Best dramatic moment of the year has to go to Alex Crawford’s fierce and fearless ride into Tripoli on the night the Ghaddafi regime came to an end. Scooping every other news operation in country (most of whom, admittedly, were trapped in the Rixos hotel) her journey into Green Square in the back of a pickup truck all the while talking to camera was rivetting.

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace – BBC
This was a little more slapdash in thinking and argument than many of Adam Curtis’ previous efforts (his views, for instance, on the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis seemed to scream confirmation bias) but it was still a fantastic program. As ever the archive research, soundtrack and editing were breath-taking. Who else, after all, could dig up footage of Zaire’s space program and coordinate it so majestically to Solomon Burke’s crooning?

Made in Britain
Made in Britain – BBC
Absolutely superb examination of Industrial policy and progress in 21st century Britain and the place it has in our economy. Handled in a very sober fashion by Evan Davis this was a gently delivered rebuke to all everyone who believes in the romantic attractiveness of manufacturing for it’s own sake. It was also…whisper this…pretty unapologetically right wing: a rare delight from the BBC.

In Confidence
In Confidence – Sky Arts
The stripped down hour long one-one-one interview format from Sky Arts goes from strength to strength and this episode (the second part of a double bill with his brother Peter) with Christopher Hitchens was excellent. Very disturbing to see the grip that cancer has on him but that has not slowed his mind down in the slightest.

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The Story of Film: An Odyssey
The Story of Film: An Odyssey – More 4
Film critic and historian Mark Cousins travelled the world for six years, interviewing cinema’s leading pioneers and analysing hours and hours of moving image. The result is a document of film that should last forever and be the defining document of World film. A quite astonishing triumph.

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Prohibition
Prohibition – PBS
This would have been fantastic on its own merits given the depth of research by the Burns team but it was even more fun as a companion piece to HBO’s Boardwalk Empire which aired concurrently and fictionalised Arnold Rothstein, Al Capone, Johnny Torrio, George Remus and a host of others depicted in the documentary.

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The Human Planet
The Human Planet – BBC
Big production nature doco from the BBC: well you got to stand up and salute when they play the national anthem, don’t you?

The Frozen Planet
The Frozen Planet – BBC
Ditto for the latest outing for Attenborough. Got even more love for killer whales now.
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Derren Brown: The Experiments
Derren Brown: The Experiments – Channel 4
Brown up to his usual tricks of psychological manipulation of unsuspecting audiences and attention seekers. These four films were equal part entertainment and provocative insight into our own fear, greed, charity and spite.

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The Fight of Their Lives
The Fight of Their Lives – ITV
ITV has long been the home of boxing in the UK, so who better to produce the document of record for the unforgettable 1995 super middleweight clash between Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellen? The producers make phenomenal use of archive film and audio leading up to the bout, never-before-seen footage of the fight itself and present day interviews to create one of the more disturbing hours of television this year.

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