Archives for September 2012

Nigellissima: How we built the kitchen set

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Jennifer Fazey Jennifer Fazey | 14:21 UK time, Friday, 28 September 2012

The essence of the new series Nigellissima is to show how easy it is to bring the spirit of Italy into the kitchen and onto the plate - using ingredients available in any English supermarket.

As the series producer it's my job to pull all six programmes together and deliver them on time and in budget.

This is only possible if you have a great team like I have with Nigella's camera crew and director, who have worked with her for many years.

One of the early decisions to be made is always where to film.

In a perfect world we would film Nigella Lawson in her own kitchen where she feels most at home cooking.

But this would be impossible to do safely considering all the camera and lighting kit that is involved. And that's before adding all the crew into the mix.

I'm not sure Nigella's family would be too keen to have 14 of us hanging around for 12 hours a day for a six week stretch.

The next best option was to recreate Nigella's kitchen in a studio.

Nigella would still feel confident cooking in a familiar kitchen layout and the camera and sound crew would have the control, space and flexibility they needed.

Once we'd found a suitable studio we had eight days to build a fully functioning kitchen and patio garden from scratch.

Day one was spent putting fake walls or 'flats' up to create our room within a room.

Our kitchen only has three walls - the cameras and monitors all sit where a normal fourth wall would.

Just as in Nigella's own home we all wanted our set kitchen to have a large bookcase.

We needed this to be as light as possible so that we could physically move it safely when we needed to reposition the camera or lights.

Our design assistant Vicky came up with a fantastic idea and if you look closely at the pic above you'll see on the floor spines of books made of cardboard.

See below how they were mixed in with the other real books, most of which are Nigella's own. She's quite a reader.

Our small patio garden was based on something similar that Nigella has in her London home.

Luckily the studio had a large brick wall (see below) so that made for a great natural backdrop.

We then hired lots of large bushes and plants. With no natural light they had to be kept alive with a special lamp which we put on each night after we had wrapped shooting.

The plants needed even more watering than usual too because of the hot studio lighting.

We laid a real concrete patio and even brought in live moss to fill the cracks.

After bringing in many of Nigella's own pots, pans and props the last stage was a lick of paint on the floor and we were ready to go.

One of the common questions is what happens afterwards?

Well, the set goes into a special BBC storage area for the next time. The books and props all went back to Nigella's home.

The plants are returned to thrive in the natural light and hopefully get a little more TLC than they got from our very un-green fingered crew.

Jennifer Fazey is the series producer of Nigellissima.

Nigellissima continues on Monday, 1 October at 8.30pm on BBC Two. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

The Paradise: Bringing the set to life

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Hannah King Hannah King | 13:28 UK time, Tuesday, 25 September 2012

BBC One's new eight-part period drama The Paradise is based on the classic French novel Au Bonheur des Dames by Émile Zola.

Adapted by Bill Gallagher (Lark Rise To Candleford) and set in England's first department store in the 1870s, The Paradise is an intoxicating love story starring Sarah Lancashire, Joanna Vanderham, Elaine Cassidy, Matthew McNulty, David Hayman, Patrick Malahide and Emun Elliott.

As filming moved into its final stages I visited the set at Lambton Castle in County Durham and managed to steal a few moments with some of the team involved in creating the enchanting backdrop to the drama.

Production designer Melanie Allen and assistant art director Rebecca Mason talked to me about how they created the look of the series.

Melanie began our tour by explaining that there are three main types of props: specially made items, antiques bought mainly in auctions or hired and reproductions found in ordinary shops and wholesalers.

Apparently you can usually spot the antiques as they are unique - all varying in shape and colour.

Silver teapot

In contrast, where you have several identical pieces the repetition hints that they're probably reproduction items.

"Replicas give us the opportunity to repeat products and that's what you need in a department store," she explains.

"It's always a mixture," Melanie says, "so here we've got candlesticks that we bought from a supermarket mixed in with antiques on the shelf below."

Antique candlesticks

These glass dispensers came from a department store in America.

"Victoriana is quite large in America," Melanie explains, "so they make reproductions and sell them in the shops.

"The equivalent in department stores here are very plain and simple, so we had to get them imported."

Victorian looking glass dispensers

"When you're doing stuff for TV and film you've got to accept that 90% of what you do, if not more, just blends into the background," says Rebecca.

"You're trying to create things that add to the visual of the set without drawing attention to it.

"Lots of things are there to add the essential layers of detail, shape and colour in the background of the shop."

These wrapped empty boxes are examples of the 'deep background' props Rebecca is talking about - the secret to creating the impression of a fully stocked department store on a budget.

The boxes used on The Paradise set were all made in a box factory in Newcastle. As Melanie says, "It's all about the packaging."

Some of the labels were designed by the art department in period style. Originals from the period were also bought from historic label companies and replicated.

Company names used on the packaging are both real trading names from the period and ones invented by the production team.

Either way all the names need to be cleared for use according to copyright laws.

Copyright clearance can be got round by using clever wording that describes contents rather than a brand such as Finest Parisian Collars or even just Collars Ltd.

"The more expensive fabrics are on the rolls and they are literally wrapped once around foam," Melanie explains.

"Sometimes you have to say - it's going to cost too much, let's not stock that product."

Roll of green fabric

All the materials that appear must of course have been available at the time.

"We're lucky though," Melanie says, "all this stuff was around because the industrial revolution had already happened. That's one of the reasons why department stores evolved.

"You had the middle classes who suddenly had cash and could start spending and things were being reproduced so it was no longer a case of an individual craftsman making goods."

Bowler hat and top hat on stands

Everything in the department store had to look shiny and new but in Lovetts, the outdated rival store across the street, props had to feel like old stock with wear and tear, and had to be aged.

Melanie describes ageing as a real skill.

"Everyone has their own techniques. You take a new item, you spray it with dirty water, coffee or tea and in some cases, such as old boxes of stock, use sandpaper and a hammer to further wear them down."

Battered old silverware on show

Many items were sourced from modern day craftsmen with a brief on how they might have looked in the Victorian era.

"We might have used specialist television people if we'd been in London," says Melanie, "but because we're in County Durham we used a regular baker and a regular florist.

"People really enjoy doing it because it's different to their normal day job!"

They tried varnishing the bread to make it keep but it wasn't a great success.

Basket of breads

Finally, I asked Melanie what her and her team were most proud of.

"Everything's beautiful isn't it?" she says.

"It's the combination of everything together... When you add the repetition of items it stops it feeling like a museum or antiques centre.

"You totally know you're in a shop when you come in and that in itself was the greatest challenge that we've achieved."

Denise (Joanna Vanderham)

More on The Paradise
Watch the trailer.
Read Behind The Scenes In Paradise on the BBC College Of Production blog.

Hannah King is a researcher in BBC TV and iPlayer.

The Paradise begins on Tuesday, 25 September at 9pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Be Your Own Boss: See what it takes

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Richard Reed Richard Reed | 08:25 UK time, Tuesday, 18 September 2012

I read recently there are only three questions in life worth asking oneself: 'Am I having sex? Do I have a family? Am I intellectually stimulated?'

With three yeses you're basically in paradise, two will bring you happiness and one means you at least can survive.

I personally have a fourth one which is 'are my trousers comfortable?', but overall that three-question approach seems like a good, simple model for personal development.

I've got a similar three-question model when I'm having business ideas pitched to me.

Do I get excited by the idea? Have the team got the skills and energy to nail it? And is the investment at the right price?

Three yeses gets them my money, two gets them my respect, one gets them a free drink on their way out.

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Richard Reed talks about how to turn a good idea into a great business

Be Your Own Boss on BBC Three is me putting this model into action. On a larger scale.

In the series you'll hear me banging on and on about the quality of the idea and the quality of the team as I expose myself to 500 pitches from new entrepreneurs looking for investment.

There are some where I don't rate the idea but can see talent in the entrepreneur (step forward the Porridge Power lady), there are some where the idea would do much better if it could choose itself a new team and there are a few where the planets align and both are good.

And that's when we get to talk business.

I hope people enjoy watching the show. But more than that I hope it helps people who want to set up their own company.

It's designed to, by showing both what it takes to set up a business and what investors look for in funding start ups.

And as people watch the stages unfurl it will hopefully trigger the reaction I am most looking for in the viewer - one of, 'hang on, I could do that'.

And if you do find yourself thinking that when you're watching, you're right.

So switch the telly off and go get started on your business plan instead.

Richard Reed is the co-founder of innocent Drinks and appears in Be Your Own Boss.

Be Your Own Boss is on Wednesday, 19 September at 9pm on BBC Three. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Fake Or Fortune?: Five tips for art buyers

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Philip Mould Philip Mould | 09:48 UK time, Friday, 14 September 2012

The new series of Fake Or Fortune? begins with Fiona Bruce, Bendor Grosvenor and myself investigating a small work said to have been painted by Degas.

A massive name, a faker's favourite. To prove it would transform the fortunes of its owner Patrick Rice, who has devoted a large part of his waking hours in retirement to prove it.

Authenticating paintings is engrossing but fraught with dangers.

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Fiona Bruce retraces the footsteps of Degas at the Palais Garnier in Paris

The auction world is relatively unregulated and stepping past the landmines a collector's necessity. But there are simple starting points for telling a dodgy picture from the real thing.

So here are my five tips for when you're buying at auction. The same tools can be used in the buying process from antique dealers or gallery owners from whom it is often easier to get clear, protective guarantees.

Cheese in the trap

Question what you see. Pictures for sale can be signed by big names like Picasso or Turner or with exciting looking labels on the reverse indicating exhibitions or collections.

Be deeply cynical.

Have a look at the cataloguing. If the auctioneers have not made any reference to the obvious artist they normally know something you don't.

I call these Cheese in the Trappers (Trappers for short). They are extremely common, particularly in less well-known auction houses or on internet sites, and often estimated at under £100 to lure the unwary.

Framed by the frame

A frame can be an excellent way of outing a fake. Most fakes or trappers at sale are done in the last year and the frames are modern or wrong.

Most serious 20th Century artists made sure their pictures were properly framed, or at least their dealers did.

Wrong frames look too modern, or cheap, or cut-down from something bigger. Often they don't quite fit, like hand-me down trousers.

Bendor Grosvenor, Fiona and Philip

Bendor Grosvenor, Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould in Fake Or Fortune?

Health check

A knackered picture is relatively worthless. Many people are taken by paintings that may be old and possibly by good artists but that have been so over-cleaned or butchered by amateur restorers that no one wants them.

When an old painting has been savagely over-cleaned or overly-pressed onto a fresh canvas (called re-lining - a common process of restoring old oil paintings) the surface details are often lost.

Done more brutally still and the whole top layers go, leaving no more than the preparation layer.

At this level you can often see the gauze of the canvas beneath. Remove that and you have no more than the bare bones - ie raw canvas!

The usual way of dealing with wounds like this is literally to repaint those areas. It's called overpaint or inpainting. Whenever this in evidence it's a big warning sign.

So look out for raw canvas and overpaint, also later daubing that covers damage like a badly touched-up car chassis.

Another way of spotting overpaint is that it often covers over the craquelure - natural cracking found in old paint - in a way that looks stodgy and clumsy.

Plumbing the past provenance is often key.

Try to ascertain recent ownership. Trappers or fakes normally come from 'a little old lady' a 'house clearance' or 'we just don't know'.

Use your instincts here. Bluff has a way of sounding hollow or evasive.

Trust your eye

Get to see as much real art as possible and don't make too many apologies for the potential purchase in question.

Countless times I have been shown pictures that purport to be by a great hand on 'a bad day'. In my experience good artists don't have bad hair days - just the odd lazy or distracted moment, and the coiffeur remains detectable.

Philip Mould is an art expert and the co-presenter of Fake Or Fortune?.

The second series of Fake Or Fortune? begins on Sunday, 16 September at 6.30pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Dragons' Den: What's on Red Button?

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Sam Lewens Sam Lewens | 09:40 UK time, Thursday, 13 September 2012

I often describe myself as a storyteller. It's the reason I work as a TV exec producer - to find extraordinary people, and tell their extraordinary stories.

As a Dad, I regularly read stories to my three kids (not regularly enough they would say!).

But if I'm honest, I think I'm better telling stories at work, using cameras and computers than I am at home with a book.

So although I wouldn't describe myself as a Luddite, I am rarely what those in tech-land call an "early adopter".

It takes me a while to really embrace all the positives of new technology - please don't tell my wife, but I still have all my LPs in boxes in the garage, just in case Apple goes bust and takes my iTunes account with them!

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Episode one's red button film: Headphones and hair extensions

One piece of technology that I have found easy to embrace is the Red Button. When I discovered it, I realised it offered the perfect solution to an issue with Dragons' Den that I'd had from the very first series I worked on.

It was always nice to hear from the successful entrepreneur at the end of a pitch, talking about why they chose a particular Dragon, or why they were happy to give away more equity than originally planned.

But within the programme, you never got to hear why a Dragon was interested in making an offer, or how they managed to wrestle the deal from one of their rivals.

Putting extra footage on Red Button allows all those questions to be answered and more.

So in this week's Red Button episode, we interview a husband and wife team who stun the Dragons with what they've achieved with their product - let's just say they do what no one else has ever done across 10 series.

You'll also see one of the biggest characters we've ever had in the Den.

Vicki Edmunds is one of those people who just deserves more screen time. By pressing Red, as well as enjoying many of her entertaining comments, you'll get to see her wonderful impression of Hilary Devey!

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Episode two's red button film: Bath Time and the Dragon Charmer

Continuing throughout the series, as well as hearing from some of the favourite characters from that night's episode, you'll also be able to catch up on some of the investments from last series, have a look at the psychology of pitching to the Dragons, see how the set has changed over the years (as many viewers will have noticed that the Den has moved down a floor into the basement this year) and see inside the home of one of this year's successful entrepreneurs, as they watch the programme transmit along with their friends and family.

All in all, pressing the Red Button allows you to really get an all-round view of the Den - what it's like for the entrepreneurs, sneaking a peek behind the scenes, getting post-match analysis of the action, and simply more of your favourite characters.

For me it's when technology works best. When I just press red on my remote, it makes it easy for me to get what I want, when I want it, and without having to buy an extra piece of equipment.

Perhaps I should bite the bullet and start putting those LPs on eBay. Other auction sites are of course available!

Sam Lewens is the executive producer of Dragons' Den.

Dragons' Den continues on Sundays at 9pm on BBC Two. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Press the red button on your remote control after Dragons' Den finishes at 10pm (Freeview, satellite and cable) to watch the extra footage.

Scroll down to the Dragons' Den section on the What's on Red Button? Post on the BBC Internet blog for further details

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

The Thick Of It: Need to know

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Adam Tandy Adam Tandy | 17:00 UK time, Wednesday, 12 September 2012

With The Thick Of It back on our screens after a bit of a gap there may be more than a few confused viewers trying to remember who did what and needing a bit of a lie-down.

So here's a rough guide to what the panicking politicians are doing in the new series.

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Watch a trailer for series four of The Thick Of It

A long time ago (and given that even a week is a long time in politics, three years is almost geological) there was an election. The interesting thing was: no-one seemed to have won.

The biggest party, run by a team of public schoolboys, wasn't elected outright and could only sweep into government using the third party ('the in-betweeners') as a massive crutch, like some kind of electoral version of Long John Silver.

And this particular pirate's pact obviously included a share-out of the loot, and that included DoSAC (Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship).

The secretary of state's job went to Peter Mannion, jazz fan and long-time social affairs shadow minister, but he was forced into working with Fergus Williams, an MP from the in-betweeners.

Fergus is a hotheaded hotspur of a politician, keen as mustard to make a mark in what is probably his only chance of wielding power.

Fergus is a minister full of ideas making him an extremely dangerous proposition. Peter Mannion's out to neutralise this threat by giving Fergus the uninteresting bits of the job and ignoring him as much as he can.

Fergus, on the other hand, is doing his best to be noticed. All the time.

DoSAC's communications director Terri Coverley does her best to pretend they aren't there but then she's always had a bit of a thing about Peter, ever since they were photographed together with a sustainable salmon for the Waitrose staff newsletter.

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New secretary of state Peter Mannion gets to grips with DoSAC

Fergus has got a team of two advisors - Glenn Cullen and ex-Daily Mail hack Adam Kenyon - versus Mannion's long-standing team of Phil Smith and Emma Messinger.

To say there was tension between Glenn and Adam on one side and Phil and Emma on the other is a bit like saying the Arab Spring was 'quite lively'.

Emma and Phil used to share a house and Emma used to go out with a guy from the opposition called Olly Reeder, but that's all political history now.

Glenn used to be a mate of Olly's too but hasn't spoken to him since Glenn defected to the in-betweeners.

It seemed like a good idea at the time but Glenn didn't expect to be in a coalition with the very people he despises most.

Ambitious as ever Olly thinks he's making the most of being out of power having held onto a job as policy advisor to the new leader of the opposition.

But by a staggering coincidence his new boss is the same as his old one, former DoSAC secretary Nicola Murray who got elected as party leader through an over-complex accident of transferable voting.

Some might call Nicola a claustrophobic neurotic.

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Nicola Murray, the new leader of the opposition, with her loyal and hardworking team

She hasn't enjoyed the last couple of years as her colleagues (people like 'Big' Ben Swain and deputy leader Dan Miller) are blaming her inability to come up with anything like a coherent set of policies as the reason why they aren't doing well in the polls.

Nicola has Olly's 'unwavering' support, of course, as well as the 'solid' backing of her other policy advisor Helen Hatley.

And she thinks she has the support of Malcolm Tucker, feared throughout SW1 for his delightful way with words and his career-lethal contacts.

Malcolm's always undyingly loyal to the party, but is that exactly the same thing? We'll find out.

Adam Tandy is the producer of The Thick Of It.

The Thick Of It is on Saturday, 15 September at 9.55pm on BBC Two. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

China On Four Wheels: In celebration of the bread van

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Jane McMullen Jane McMullen | 13:02 UK time, Thursday, 6 September 2012

"Are you mad? Those vans won't go above 80kmph! And they break down after a few hundred miles. And you're planning to go how far?"

My mission to rent a bread van wasn't going smoothly.

The loaf-shaped car of the people is driven by millions throughout China - farmers and business people alike.

While not exactly nippy (we're talking about a one litre engine) it's cheap and reliable.

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Justin Rowlatt gives the bread van a go at Ordos International Race Track in China

As the assistant producer on China On Four Wheels one of my tasks was to find the cars for our two road trips.

With bread vans so common I wasn't expecting it to be hard to find one for our presenter Justin Rowlatt.

Justin was to drive the bread van through the dusty back roads through the remote, poor west to explore life for those left behind by the boom.

In contrast our co-presenter Anita Rani was to drive a luxury Chinese-made Great Wall 4x4, or SUV on the high road through the industrialised east looking at how the economic boom was changing lives for China's 'haves'.

SUVs are the car of choice for status-conscious Chinese urbanites.

Great Wall is China's biggest manufacturer of SUVs. It started selling in the UK this year although it only made its first car 10 years ago.

But days into my search I had got nowhere.

Due to the bewildering idiosyncrasies of the Chinese bureaucracy we were obliged to find rental cars for our presenters: their temporary driving licences wouldn't allow them to drive privately owned cars.

So I was looking for Beijing rental companies stocking these cars and more importantly, willing to rent them to foreigners on a filming trip across a country the size of a continent.

Rental companies are new to China but they've grown rapidly. The biggest players have fleets of thousands - but they laughed at us.

"Why would you want a Chinese car? Why not a Buick or a Toyota? They're much better quality than the Chinese makes."

In a country where the car you drive is a badge of status, the majority of cars bought in China are foreign brands.

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Anita Rani meets members of the China Supercar Club in Beijing

Just days before the filming was due to start we found a small SUV club on the outskirts of Beijing.

The club organises 'self-driving' tours, helping a new breed of Chinese holiday-makers to shun the coach tour for a more independent experience.

To our relief among their plethora of imported Jeeps and Mitsubishis was a Great Wall.

But the bread van? The search got more obscure and the response increasingly scornful.

"It's the car of the people", we pleaded. But not the car of status-conscious Beijingers it turns out.

Luckily we then found Xu Shiqiang, 'Boss Xu', who you'll see in episode one, and his company Dongfang.

Mr Xu agreed to buy a bread van for us, register it as a rental car, and then rent it back to us.

Convoluted and bureaucratic certainly, but a solution. After weeks of searching we breathed another sigh of relief.

And did the bread van make it around China? It's not the car of the people for nothing! Small, idiosyncratic and slightly tin-pot, our loaf-shaped van quietly got the job done.

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Justin gets stuck in a traffic jam, China style

Across China we'd met people from all walks of life wanting big gas-guzzlers - flashy and foreign if possible - despite all this entails for China's already congested and polluted cities.

Of course we in the West aren't immune to the allure of showy cars - so it was a surprise then, and a salutary one, that Justin's bread van became the star of the show.

Jane McMullen is the assistant producer on China On Four Wheels.

China On Four Wheels is on Sunday, 9 September at 8pm on BBC Two and BBC HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Treasures Of Ancient Rome: Surprising and exquisite

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Alastair Sooke Alastair Sooke | 16:00 UK time, Monday, 3 September 2012

Ever since studying it almost a decade ago I have noticed that people can be sniffy about Roman art.

It's been like that for centuries. Some scholars have even questioned whether or not it existed at all.

Most art historians don't go that far, but traditionally Roman art has presented them with a problem: how much of it is original?

Everybody knows that the Romans were splendid soldiers and engineers, but when it came to art didn't they simply plunder and imitate?

Roman artists were copycats in debt to the Etruscans, the Egyptians, and - most of all - the ancient Greeks. Right?

Well, that's how the story of art in the ancient world is often told. But I believe that this hoary old idea is a myth - and debunking this myth was the starting point for Treasures of Ancient Rome, my new three-part series on BBC Four.

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To fathom the nature of ancient Rome we must understand Roman art history

I can understand why some people are lukewarm about the art of ancient Rome. It probably has something to do with the fact that pinning down what 'Roman art' means proves surprisingly tricky.

We all agree that aqueducts and amphitheatres look Roman - but the art of Rome changed dramatically over time.

Art during the Republic was hard-bitten, wrinkled, business-like and tough - think of all the busts that have survived of gnarled and weather-beaten Roman patricians.

After Augustus, in the early Empire, art became much more elegant and classical emphasising the divinity of the emperor and harking back to the triumphantly naturalistic forms of ancient Greece.

And in the late Empire as the classical Greek tradition was challenged and far-flung provinces offered new sources of inspiration, Roman art changed again.

It became gradually more abstract favouring symbolism, geometric shapes and pattern over the illusionistic representation of reality - sowing the seeds for the early medieval and Byzantine styles that would follow.

The art of Rome became the art of the Roman world - and that world was enormous: a vast multicultural super-state stretching all the way from Spain to the Euphrates.

I hope we reflect this in the series by travelling to museums and sites beyond Rome: as well as Pompeii, Naples, Ravenna, Venice, Paris and St Petersburg, we visited Libya where we spent several thrilling days examining extraordinary antiquities many of which were neglected under Gaddafi.

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Alastair explores neglected Roman mosaics in Libya

So 'Roman art' is a catchall term to describe artefacts produced across the Mediterranean world over many centuries.

By its very nature therefore Roman art is eclectic, cosmopolitan and diverse - even more so given Rome's policy of assimilating rather than subjugating the cities and people that she conquered.

As a result Roman art is much more surprising and influential than you might think.

Yes Roman artists designed big, bombastic monuments decorated with historical reliefs - but they were also capable of exquisite delicacy.

What we consider minor decorative arts, the Romans thought of as major artistic achievements.

Some of my favourite treasures in the series aren't sculptures at all but beautiful glassware and breathtaking cameo gems.

Roman artists also excelled in silverware, wall paintings, mosaics, carved sarcophagi, and luxury ivory goods.

Anyone who believes that Roman art is the stuff of boring marble busts should think again.

Okay the Romans may not have invented the classical tradition. But - just as they defeated the skilful seafaring Carthaginians by copying and then bettering the design of their ships - so the Romans marshalled the various battalions of art history that they had inherited from the Greeks, before training them up, making them more efficient and marching them out onto the battlefields of culture.

And we can still see the triumphant impact made by ancient Roman artists today.

Alastair Sooke is the presenter of Treasures Of Ancient Rome.

Treasures Of Ancient Rome is on Monday, 3 September at 9pm on BBC Four. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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