My wife once described British TV to her mother as having an obsession with the war. Sitting in their smart North American kitchen I leapt to the defence of our broadcasters.
On our return to these shores our first evening had (in those days of 5 channel TV) two different war documentaries and an episode of Dad's Army on the telly. Well that told me then, didn't it. She was right.
I find it to be rather unhealthy. It is not necessary to recycle in tiniest detail the events of nearly 70 years ago when the rest of the world has moved on. Of course it's important to preserve the memory of the war's victims, but the incessant rehashing risks devaluing everything.
There's one aspect I find particularly disturbing though, casting German actions in terms of theatrical evil while lionising exactly the same things done by the Allies.
It's very easy to do. The Nazis were evil, right? The Holocaust. Received Opinion at its most fundamental. But what about the Germans who were just ordinary people fighting a war in the same fashion as their opponents? Just like the Brits, Canadians, Aussies, Americans, Russians and countless more. Your dad, your granddad, your uncle. Germans doing the same things as them, because they were German and their country was at war. No war crimes, just the horror of conflict. Still evil? No more than your granddad.
Unfortunately not in the eyes of documentary makers. A couple of ones I've seen recently spring to mind: one about air defences in which Dad's Army style Home Guard anti-aircraft gunners were described in those terms, and one about the German plans to bomb America. That last one had plenty of justifiably nasty stuff to talk about in the underground slave labour factory making rockets, but then they started talking in the same terms about Luftwaffe pilots planning near-suicidal missions using long range seaplanes as bombers, or even the team of spies sent to plant bombs in New York. At the same time as we were pulverising their cities with thousand bomber raids and sending teams of SOE spies - or in modern parlance, terrorists - in to plant bombs in German targets. Still theatrical evil? Time to look in the mirror. And then perhaps time to read for a moment about the bombing of Dresden.
I believe it is the power of television that has done most to keep us largely at peace over the last 60 years or so. The horror of what is being and has been done on their name can no longer be completely concealed from the populace when high definition colour video lands on their screens the next day. The Americans learned this in Vietnam, a war lost as much in the living rooms of Middle America as in the jungles of Indo-China.
I feel something's been lost though in the way British television deals with the Second World War. We're presented a nauseous pantomime of recycled horror that is as formulaic as a real pantomime, something that significantly cheapens the very important message. It's important to never forget, but we have to move on from this.