Escape in Time



Ben Fogle


Lion Television for BBC Two, 5 July to 6 August 2010 (20 episodes in 1 series)


Two families compete over the course of a week in various rural skills of the past. Made by the team behind the Victorian Farm documentary series, in the same location (Acton Scott Estate in Shropshire), though the experts from that series aren't involved in this one.

Ben (who for some reason gets to take his pet to work) with two competing families, the Doiges and the Mills

Each day there are three challenges - one for the mums (generally on domestic skills such as cooking and crafts), one for the dads (usually farming-related), and one for the children (which could be anything; the first week's tasks ranged from mucking out pigs to an archery competition). Fridays are a little different as there are five tasks, all on a theme, and the family members compete in different combinations. The family who win the most challenges each day get a prize, but these are quite token in nature, generally some produce, or products, from the estate. And when it's food, it tends to get shared out between them all anyway. The big weekly prize is still token but is something a bit more long-lasting - a wooden stool or a door knocker, for instance.

"Blest wi' content and milk and meal, O leeze me on my spinnin-wheel..."

It's easy to snipe at a programme like this for reducing historical recreations to a game show, but actually it's far more honest to say upfront that it's a game show, rather than pretending - as an entire genre of programmes from The 1900s House onwards has done - that the experience of modern people in a highly-controlled "historical" setting is equivalent to the experience of those who actually lived it. Nobody's going to contract cholera, so get over yourselves. Escape in Time doesn't pretend to be a "social experiment" or an authentic re-creation; it's basically two families being filmed on an activity holiday, and eschews the spurious claims of other shows to be anything more important than that.

The Bray family receive the week's grand prize - an iron door knocker - from "Lord of the Manor", Thomas Stackhouse Acton

It's all quite inoffensive, gently educational (thanks to this show, we now know everything there is to know about damson butter - really, everything there is to know) and it seems like a good time is had by all. For a daytime show, that's probably enough.

Key moments

The dads being about a trillion times more competitive than anyone else.


A nice aspect to the show is that it catered to different sizes of family and different age ranges for the children - the first week had families with two teenage children, the second, families with two children aged 5-8, and the third had families with four children.

Although the on-screen title is just Escape in Time, for some reason the BBC have been very keen to promote it as Ben Fogle's Escape in Time. He seems a decent chap, kind to animals, does a lot of work for charity and all, but is it just us who are a little surprised the Beeb consider him that big a draw?


David Upshal

Theme music

Graham Reilley

Web links

BBC programme page

See also

Weaver's Week review


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