TV Highlights

Angle of Attack

PBS America - 9pm

Who's in it?

How did the first aircraft carriers come to be? We found out last night, in this rip-roaring, full throttle, but also rather thoughtful show aimed squarely at all the wannabe pioneers out there.

In a nutshell

As channels go, PBS America is usually a subtle refuge from the norm: a place to go for wistful jazz documentaries, fact-filled musings on Ancient Egypt, and folksy chronicles of Prohibition-era America. It's the kind of channel you put on when you just want to relax on the sofa, pleasantly nodding off every so often. While this particular show also had the usual softly-spoken PBS narration, and lots of scratchy PBSy footage from ye olden days, it also featured daring pilots whooshing across oceans in sleek death machines. Which was cool.

A lot of it was about Eugene Ely, a brave pioneer of the air who managed to take off and land on a ship for the first time. A far cry from today's aircraft carriers perhaps – and there was something almost comical about seeing photos of the rickety, skeletal wooden planes bobbing over ships, but it was a huge step forward in the evolution of warfare. Ely himself would die in a plane crash in his mid-20s, and his story was just one in a number of fascinating trivia-filled anecdotes told here – expect to find out more about World War Two, and today's ominous world of drone craft, in the second part.

What's the verdict?

Another winner from PBS America, this, with a bit of history, a bit of wistful Americana, and a lot of aerial photography showing just how seemingly impossible it is to land a jet on an aircraft carrier. And we thought squeezing into a parking spot at Tesco was tricky.

Star rating: 4/5

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07-07-2011