TV

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sort-of documentary mischievous look at War of 1812

  • Print

They say that history is written by the victors; if that's true, then it's appropriate that a Canadian wrote the mischievously mirthful sort-of documentary The War of 1812: Been There, Won That.

On this side of the Canada-U.S. border, the 200th anniversary of this mostly forgotten conflict is ample reason to look back proudly at a moment of military triumph.

"(There are) lots of terrific reasons to remember it," says host/narrator Peter Keleghan in the opening minutes of this tongue-in-cheek Doc Zone feature, which airs tonight at 8 on CBC, "not the least of which is that we won. We whupped their a**es. Whupped them real good. And everyone knows that -- everyone, that is, except the Americans."

It's true. As far as the American historians and political pundits interviewed here are concerned, the War of 1812 was either an indecisive American victory or a tie, or perhaps something that certainly can't be called a loss because it was never really a completely war-ish kind of war.

Their bumbling perspectives are both silly and funny, and they set the stage nicely for the irreverent two-hour examination of history that follows.

Keleghan, who has played the blissfully unaware bumbler to perfection in such Canuck-TV series as Ken Finkleman's The Newsroom, the showbiz satire Made in Canada and The Red Green Show, is a perfect choice as tour guide through this murky chapter of Canadian history. His voice is authoritative, but his demeanour is more inclined toward winks-and-nudges tomfoolery.

There's a fair amount of factual information dispensed, and if you listen carefully to Keleghan's narration, you'll learn all you need to about the Old World politics and economics that prompted the Canada-U.S. spat in 1812-14, the tactical brilliance and/or ineptitude of the commanders on both sides (hint: Brit Gen. Isaac Brock was a military genius, while U.S. Gen. William Hull was pretty much an idiot), and the ultimate end-game results of the war.

But if you watched Been There, Won That with the sound off, you'd find the visuals much more amusing than enlightening -- filled with roughly drawn, Dudley-Do-Right-ish animation, Monty-Python-esque mapmaking and event re-creations that are more sketch comedy than historical re-enactment.

As Keleghan recounts the story of a U.S. army courier who delivers a crucial message into the hands of the Brits, we see a guy on a racing bike and modern cycling gear pedaling along an Ontario highway; when it's time for the red-coated British soldiers to take their positions and defend Canada, Keleghan has to roust them out of line at a modern-day Tim Hortons to get them back to work.

And when the historical timeline calls for an explanation of a battle that took place near Montreal, on ground now 10 metres underwater because of flooding caused by construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Keleghan expounds while red-clad actors wearing goggles and flippers splash into the water and "re-create" the skirmish beneath the waves.

It's silly, but it's smart. And even though it might not be -- and clearly, from segments shot south of the border, is decidedly not -- what the Americans might not want to hear about the War of 1812, Been There, Won That is a perfect mix of historical exploration and flag-waving mischief for viewers on the chillier (and, in 1812, victorious) side of the border.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

TV REVIEW

The War of 1812: Been There, Won That

Hosted by Peter Keleghan

Tonight at 8

CBC

3 1/2 stars out of 5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 4, 2012 D8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Steve Ashton Leadership Bid

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A goose flys defensively to protect their young Wednesday near Kenaston Blvd and Waverley -See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 16 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think the provincial NDP’s approval rating could drop below the current 26 per cent?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google