This fall, television viewers in both America and Britain were presented with a nine-part series entitled The Story of English, co-produced by MacNeil-Lehrer Productions and the BBC. Though the series was purportedly a joint American-British endeavor, was hosted by the anchorman of an American news program, Robert MacNeil, and was funded principally by an American corporation (General Foods) and an American foundation (the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), The Story of English had a decidedly British flavor. This should not be surprising, for it was conceived and co-written by an Englishman, Robert McCrum, the editorial director of Faber and Faber and a graduate of Cambridge University (the series’ other writer of record was MacNeil, who is Canadian by birth), and was produced and directed by William Cran, an Oxford-educated journalist who has created documentaries for...


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