Shroud without a shred of silver lining
Leonardo: The Man Behind the Shroud 10pm, ABC
WAS Jesus Christ interred in the Turin shroud or is it a clever con created by Leonardo da Vinci? If you don’t care, give this faux documentary a miss.
But even if you are obsessed with the subject there are many things you could more usefully be doing than spending 50 minutes watching this program. Because calling this show a waste of time is an insult to the intellectually more demanding task of staring into space.
Certainly it includes evidence of sorts, with experts exercising their hobbyhorses. Some suggest the shroud is exactly what it is said to be and that no scientific explanation explains how an outline of a man’s face came to be on the cloth. Some seem sensible, although the American medico whose hobby is studying crucifixions appears a little obsessed.
But others argue the shroud is a fake, rigged in the Renaissance to improve the position of the papacy and the House of Savoy, which presumably thought the plebs would be more inclined to do as they were told if they believed their masters had Christ’s burial cloth in a cupboard.
So, the show suggests, one or both could have secretly commissioned Leonardo to run up the mysterious cloth. As the narrator puts it: ‘‘ Leonardo was uniquely talented; if any one had the skills to create the shroud, he had.’’
For cynics who want to know what was in it for him, the show has a solution. Perhaps as a non- believer Leonardo might have made the shroud as a joke. The evidence for this is the way the image on it looks just like him!
And for anybody who is not already overwhelmed by this inane argument, consider the conclusion; ‘‘ Leonardo was a lover of riddles. The shroud is the ultimate riddle.’’
So there you go; surmise piled on supposition with a superstructure of unsupported suggestion.
‘‘ Is it possible,’’ the narrator asks, ‘‘ that the face in the shroud is an even greater da Vinci enigma than the famous Mona Lisa smile?’’
But perhaps this remark reveals the real riddle. A documentary team desperate to justify a pointless program clambers clumsily on board the da Vinci code bandwagon with conspiracy theory of their own.
Fans of the History Channel know how much time is easily occupied with archival footage, ponderous talking heads and a script that speculates and generalises when there is not enough evidence to fill up 50 minutes of TV. And this program meets industry standards for content- light speculation. It is amazing that the producers could not work in any secret codes or sinister monks, but perhaps there is another program in the pipeline about the hidden practices of documentary makers.
Da Vinci conspiracy: Did Leonardo fabricate the Turin shroud?