The 50 best TV shows of 2017: No 9 The Vietnam War

The 50 best TV shows of 2017: No 9 The Vietnam War

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s sprawling 10-part masterwork unpicked every element of the American military disaster, from its seeds in 19th-century French colonialism to its cultural legacy today. Britain’s TV industry should take heed

If television were a war, drama would be the current superpower, with reality and talent shows providing supporting firepower. Helpless against this advance, the forces of documentary huddle on a last thin strip of unsurrendered territory, starved of funding and troops, with the British fort defended by a 91-year-old general, David Attenborough.

Given this battlefield, it is heartening that this year should have seen one of the highest achievements of factual programme-making – although chastening to UK viewers that it came not from our own huge public service infrastructures, but America’s PBS.

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