So far, so good. That is to say (hooray!) people seem to have liked the first episode of Ultimate Rome. And A A Gill appears to be away, so no assaults from that quarter.
I feel a combination of pleasure and intense relief. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the team work of a programme like this. What I didn't mention there much was the intellectual heavy lifting that goes into a programme like this -- all the problems of sharing the difficulties of understanding Roman history without making it look a hopeless pursuit, and the careful balance between some up-front myth busting and the nihilism of the extreme myth buster. I mean however little we think we know about ancient Rome, we know an awful lot more than we would ever expect. Who would ever have thought that we would still have a Roman general's own account of his campaigns (that's Caesar in Gaul), or the private letters of a leading politician stretching over most of his career (that's Cicero). True a lot of myths need busting, but a lot of extraordinary survivals need celebrating.
The big challenge of the first episode was to tell the story of 700 years of Roman history without turning it into a telegram or a series of battles. We did that by concentrating on a some key themes and some key characters, some well known, some far less famous. I feel especially pleased to have given Scipio Barbatus his five minutes in the limelight. But the decisions weren't easy. Someone tweeted to object to the omission of Crassus, someone else emailed to ask what had happened to the 'Struggle of the Orders'. Both are important. But the point was that we were focussing on the growth of the Roman empire and its consequences. So spending some time on Pompey captured the richness of the material and the extraordinary survivals of his power (I love the way that some of the buildings in the centre of Rome still reflect the layout of his vast urban development 2000 years ago and that we still have a big bronze jar which was carried in his triumphal procession). And it made some big points about the rise of one man rule.
The next episode (on Weds at 9.00pm) has a rather different focus, and different issues.