Shakespeare's Restless World is a BBC radio series (podcast link) where the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, explores England during the lifetime of William Shakespeare as represented by twenty objects, much in the way of his earlier A History of the World in a 100 Objects (previously). The focus is on Shakespeare's plays and how they were understood by his contemporaries. The series was also published as a book.
The BBC will be covering World War One in great detail over the next four years. They've already started, with podcasts, interactive guides, online courses, programs new and old plus much, much more. Perhaps it's best to start at the beginning, with Professor Margaret MacMillan's Countdown to World War One (podcast link) or the account of her fellow historian Christopher Clark, Month of Madness. Of course, how the war started is still contested by historians, as recounted in The Great War of Words. The latter two are also part of the main WWI podcast. Or you can dive into the Music and Culture section, go through an A-Z guide or look at comics drawn by modern cartoonists.
The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records is a radio series on BBC written and narrated by Stuart Maconie. Each episode focuses on one particular pop song and tells the story of the song as well as what social trends it mirrored, for instance the episode on Telstar by The Tornadoes focuses on the technological progress, especially in space travel and music, and the story of songwriter and record producer Joe Meek. 25 episodes have been broadcast, including ones on Dizzee Rascal's Bonkers and 21st Century Britain, Cornershop's Brimful of Asha and the British-Asian experience , and Serge Gainsbourg's Je T'aime and sex. There are 25 more to come. There is also a blog and profiles of the songs already discussed. [Previously on MeFi]
The Value of Culture is a five part BBC radio series by Melvyn Bragg (which can be downloaded as a podcast) which explores the modern concept of 'culture' from its roots in mid-19th Century Britain, specifically Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy and Edward Burnett Tylor's Primitive Culture (vol. 2), and exploring the discourse and uses of the concept until the present day. There are five episodes, each a little over forty minutes long, focusing in turn on Arnold and the roots of the concept of culture, Tylor and the anthropological conception of culture, C. P. Snow and the 'Two Cultures' debate, mass culture and culture studies, and then ending with a debate on the value of culture today.
The Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Review YouTube channel has a lot of videos of film reviews from the livestream of their BBC radio show and podcast, going back about five years. They are sorted by genre, film rating, geographic origin and one special category, Classic Kermodean Rants, which includes his reviews of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Sex and the City 2, in which he ends up sing-shouting The Internationale, and Angels and Demons, which woke a man from a coma (mp3, story starts at 5:10, and it is followed up here, beginning at 5:30).
A few sketches aired during the original run of Monty Python were subsequently lost. Half an episode, the tenth of the third series, was censored by the BBC. All that survives is the script. Also, never shot, but written, was the King Brian the Wild scene from Holy Grail. Additionally, a few sketches were either slightly censored post-broadcast or erased for other reasons. A couple of those sketches have have been found on tape [Warning: Autoplaying video]. The two sketches are Political Choreographer (here with a short bit exhorting you to support Channel 11 in Chicago), and an interstitial animation by Terry Gilliam. Also, the uncensored Summarize Proust sketch.
More Mayo is the podcast version of BBC's Simon Mayo Drivetime. Mayo is best known outside of the UK as one half of the Mayo and Kermode's Film Reviews. The centerpiece of the More Mayo podcast is the confessions, where listeners write in asking forgiveness for past transgressions. They are often funny and sometimes jaw-dropping (such as the first one in the latest episode). The podcasts are generally around a half an hour long and contain three or four confessions and a short interview with anyone from huge celebrities to debut novelists to children. The podcasts are available to download for 30 days.
A Brief History of Mathematics is a BBC series of ten fifteen-minute podcasts by Professor Marcus du Sautoy about the history of mathematics from Newton and Leibniz to Nicolas Bourbaki, the pseudonym of a group of French 20th Century mathematicians. Among those covered by Professor du Sautoy are Euler, Fourier and Poincaré. The podcasts also include short interviews with people such as Brian Eno and Roger Penrose.
BBC World Service has over 500 audio documentaries you can download. The subject matter is incredibly wide ranging, for example, internet cafés, the influence of Islamic art on William Morris, South African female AIDS activist Thembi Ngubane, Yiddish, the importance of cows, novelist Chinua Achebe, financial risk management, Obama as an intellectual, the physical and emotional effects of a car crash and many, many more. If the quantity and variety are overwhelming, you can subscribe to a podcast, which delivers a new documentary to you every single day.
The Goon Show was a highly popular and immensely influential radio show on the BBC in the 1950s featuring Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan. They would sometimes do live readings of episodes, here's a video recording of The Whistling Spy Enigma (parts 1, 2, 3) and a much later recording of Tales of Men's Shirts (parts 1, 2, 3). The first features Ray Ellington, musical director of the Goon Show, and the second John Cleese, who, like his fellow Pythons, was a huge fan of The Goon Show growing up. In the 50s BBC turned The Goon Show into a TV show with puppets, called Telegoons. A number of shows exist online: The Lurgi Strikes Britain (1, 2), The Nadger Plague (1, 2), Captain Seagoon RN (1, 2), Tales of Montmartre (1, 2), The First Albert Memorial to the Moon (1, 2), The Hastings Flyer (1, 2), The Affair of the Lone Banana (1, 2), The Africa Ship Canal (1, 2), The Booted Gorilla (1, 2), The Ascent of Mount Everest (1, 2), The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill on Sea (1, 2), Fort Knight (1, 2), The Terrible Revenge of Fred Fu Manchu (1, 2), The Lost Colony (1, 2) and, finally, back where we first began, the Telegoons version of The Whistling Spy Enigma (1, 2).
Horrible Histories is a sketch comedy show made by the BBC for children. It's subject is history. Here are twenty-five sketches, including the stupid death of Edmund II, the pirate's rulebook, witchfinders direct, the song about Henry VIII's wives, Christians vs. Lions and crazy Caligula. [via Kate Beaton's twitterfeed]
The BBC World Service has put together a special report on the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe (they also have a simpler portal). There is a wealth of material, including TV reports on key events from the BBC archives, interviews, a map timeline, a report on Catholicism's role in the 1989 revolutions, a first-hand report of what it was like to gather news in East Germany during that time and much more.
Skateboard Kings is a 1978 BBC documentary about the Dogtown skateboarding scene in late 70's Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Featuring a lot of footage of the skaters' daily life as well as an exploration of the business side of skateboarding, the documentary is a time capsule of late 70's Southern California. For more about Dogtown go to z-boys.com. [previously on MetaFilter]
BBC Introducing is an excellent way to keep tabs on what's fresh in the British popular music scene without having to live in a rainsoaked armpit. There are four podcasts for you to download, the flagship Best of Unsigned Podcast, Homegrown Mix with Ras Kwame, Scotland Introducing and BBC Radio Northampton's Weekender. All feature bands that are either unsigned or just recently signed and the music ranges from hip hop to punk rock to what sounds awfully like the soundtrack for a NES game with half-hearted chanting over it. This is an excellent resource whether you're casual searcher for new songs or the kind of anorak who knows which British indie band was first to use an 808.