While I lived in Ireland, I watched this entertaining series on the BBC called Great Britons. It was kind of a historical American Idol (or Pop Idol, as it was first known in Britain–the US imports all of its best reality TV from Europe). They ran ten one-hour documentaries about ten great British people through history. The documentaries were pretty informative, and each episode had a media figure who acted as an advocate for the person. Then, the public voted on who they favoured.
The show had some major statistical problems. How, for example, did they account for the increasing popularity of the show? The final episode received a far greater viewership than the first. Regardless, it’s reflective of the British’s love for the mundane that they almost gave the crown of greatest Briton to one Isambard Kingdom Brunel over such luminaries as Shakespeare and Darwin. Sure, designing railway bridges and trans-Atlantic steamships is impressive, but does it compare to discovering evolution and the most important literature of the last millenium?
Like 21 other countries have already done, the CBC is running the same sort of series to seek out the greatest Canadian. Who would be on the short list?
- Pierre Elliot Trudeau
- Sir John A. MacDonald
- Wayne Gretzky
- Farley Mowat
- Neil Young
- Terry Fox
- Glenn Gould
- Charles Best and Frederick Banting
- Margaret Atwood
- Joni Mitchell
- Maurice Richard
My money’s on Trudeau. Not because he necessarily deserves it, but he’d be the people’s choice.