The BEST episodes directed by John Paul Davidson

New World
180 votes

#1 - New World

Stephen Fry in America - Season 1 - Episode 1

In episode 1, Stephen Fry explores the New England states. Starting in Maine to learn about lobster, he then heads over to New Hampshire during the height of presidential primary activity, from there he makes a stop in Vermont and the Ben and Jerry ice-cream factory before attempting some deer hunting in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. The next stop for Stephen's hired taxi is Boston followed by New York City where he meets up with musician Sting and gets a feel for the "Goodfellas" social club types in Queens. Quick stops in Delaware and Maryland, then to Washington DC, where Stephen chats with Wikipedia founder James Whales before wrapping up his New England tour with some political satire from Capitol Steps and a Lincoln impersonator in Gettysburg.

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109 votes

#2 - Babel

Fry's Planet Word - Season 1 - Episode 1

In this first episode, Stephen seeks to uncover the origins of human language and how and why we are the only species on the planet to have this gift. From attempts to teach chimps to speak to the so-called singing mice who have been given the human 'language gene', Stephen uncovers to what extent our brain is uniquely hard-wired for language. Watching how a child acquires language, Stephen hears from psycholinguist Steven Pinker how grammar is an innate quality, yet still has to be nurtured. Case studies of feral children, like Victor of Aveyron, illustrate how difficult it is to be certain which is more important. And at the National Theatre of the Deaf in Connecticut, Stephen learns why sign language is a true language. Taking part in a Klingon version of Hamlet prompts Stephen to ask the question why we have created the 6,000 plus languages which exist on the planet and with philologist Wolfgang Klein, he understands Grimm's law, which shows how over 2,000 Indo-European languages have all come from one source.

78 votes

#3 - Identity

Fry's Planet Word - Season 1 - Episode 2

What is it that defines us? Stephen argues that above all, it is the way we speak. Be it a national language, a regional dialect or even class variation - we interpret and define ourselves through our language. From markets in Kenya to call centres in Newcastle, Stephen charts the shifting patterns of lingua franca and the inexorable spread of Globish (Global English). As many of the world's more than 6000 languages are threatened with linguicide, Stephen seeks out examples of this rise and fall. In Ireland he learns how TV soaps are keeping Irish alive, whilst in Southern France, Provencal and other Oc languages are struggling to survive after 200 years of suppression by Parisian orthodoxy and the heavy hand of the Academie Francaise. But even amidst the imminent death of some, other languages like Basque survive, whilst Hebrew in Israel is reborn. Variety is the spice and in Bradford poet Ian McMillan teaches Stephen the subtle variations of dialect, whilst in Norwich Stephen finds his ultimate sense of identity in the chants of his beloved Canaries, Norwich City F.C.