Review: 1940’s House

September 20, 2009 - No Comments

by Jim Barnes

Some years ago, when the “Reality Show” craze was picking up steam, PBS and the BBC fielded a few entries which dealt with historical subjects and required modern families to experience the lifestyle and, often, deprivations which previous generations had experienced.

In 2001, the BBC released this entry in the “Reality” genre,  which featured a British family , the Hymers, who were picked to relive the WWII years in an English house which had been remodeled and furnished as a house in that particular London neighborhood would have been in 1939. The experiment was to last for 9 weeks and took the participants through an accelerated verision of the war ending with V-E Day in 1945. I had seen parts of the show when it first came out and thought it would be interesting to watch it again, all the way though. So, I located it on Netflix and ordered it.

The introduction to the show outlines the process of advertising, interviewing and finally, picking the folks who become the wartime family. It also shows before and after shots of the house which is retrofitted to the proper configuration.

The family consists of a husband and wife and their grown, divorced daughter and her two young sons. The husband is a history buff with a serious interest in the war years. It wasn’t much of a surprise then, that he would be serious about the project, but watching the rest of the family adjust to life in the early forties provides most of the drama.

The creators of the show went to great lengths for realism and assembled a team of historians and   other experts to enforce rationing and blackout curtain regulations on the home. They even send the family a bomb shelter kit, which is later wired for sound to simulate the noise of air raids when the family are inside of it, having responded to the warning sirens.

While this sounds like it might be a little hoky, it actually comes off pretty well. I found that it was handled as well as it could be expected to be. I also found that the family grew on me and I became quite interested in what eventually happened to them.

This is pleasant viewing and you might even learn a bit about the British homefront during the war. I recommend it. There are also several shows in a similar vein (1900’s House, Frontier House). If you haven’t seen any of these, they offer something a bit different to the history addict.

http://www.netflix.com

http://www.amazon.com

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