Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds: A Tale Of Three Cities
Friday, 15 August 2014

Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds: A Tale Of Three Cities

A fascinating look at the Austrian capital’s pre-war heyday

Written by Ben Felsenburg
Ben-Felsenberg-176A ‘laboratory for the end of the world’ – that magical writer Karl Kraus captures the promise and dark portent flowing through Vienna a century ago. In a new series, Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds: A Tale Of Three Cities (BBC Four, Wednesday, 9pm), historian James Fox examines three cities at crucial moments of global influence.

Paris in 1928 and New York in 1951 are to follow, but he begins in Vienna, 1908, and what a waltzing whirligig of culture and politics he uncovers. It was the moment when Professor Freud unleashed his theory of the Oedipus complex, while not far away a young Adolf Hitler had wandered in from the provinces with high hopes, only to find his ambitions in art foundering on his mediocrity.

Every day at the Café Central they nursed their coffees and newspapers just a few tables away from one another, while under the same roof, Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky whiled away his time in exile, playing chess. For some, life couldn’t have been better; the glittering art on display at the exhibition to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef boasted sumptuous beauty, most of all Gustav Klimt’s latest work, The Kiss. Little could the great and good, gathered round to witness its unveiling, have guessed that their way of life was doomed, yet such it was after the bloodless annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in October set in motion the chain of events that would inexorably lead to global war. Watch – and wonder what we’re overlooking now.



Richard III: The New Evidenc e Channel 4, Sunday, 9pm
You’d think he’d suffered enough after Shakespeare’s character assassination, but now the experts prod Richard’s remains to gain insights.

New Tricks BBC One, Monday, 9pm
The Old Reliable of crime dramas returns, with new members Tamzin Outhwaite and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

Dogs: Their Secret Lives Channel 4, Tuesday, 8pm
Vet Mark Evans fronts a new series doggedly following our favourite pets. This week: why hounds are piling on the pounds.

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