How To Watch The Sublime War And Peace Show From The BBC


How To Watch The Sublime War And Peace Show From The BBC

war-and-peace-2With only one episode out so far in England, I can already declare that the BBC’s new six episode show, War & Peace really is amazing. From the opening credits (how did they do that opening shot I wonder?!?) to the very last scene of the first episode it was one amazing shot after another.

I’ve talked about bucket lists out here before. I do enjoy a quality bucket list I must say. Travel. Achievements. Experiences. You name it, I love a great bucket list challenge. And War & Peace was my proverbial monkey on my back since I don’t know when. I think the first time I tried to read it was back in high school. No. Not even close. College. At least twice. Later on, I’d try, over and over again. I mean, I’ve read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest like five times. And this is a book that daunts people perpetually… but I had no issue. Adore it and read it perpetually, now and forevermore. But War & Peace? No. Non-starter.

And then I realized a couple things about the book. The first was, the names. The names are outrageously difficult in War & Peace. There are formal names. And there are pet names. There are nick names. And there are standard issue names. Never mind that there are literally, 140 different characters in the book. One Hundred Forty. You know how I know? Because as I read… I counted them they, (and their name variations) annoyed me so much. For example, Princess Katerina Mamontova, went by the Princess, Princess Mamontova, or Katerina of course. But even better? Most likely, she went by “Katishe” to those that were close to her. (Which was half the book, let me be clear.) Katishe? Oh, better yet? During the beginning of the book, it was in vogue to speak in French, and so much of the conversation was Frenchified (frenchfried?) which added yet another layer of complexity to the names.

And let me remind you – or inform you for the first time, if you don’t know me well, at all – that I suck at names. Even people I would consider “friends” are persona non grata suddenly all because I’ve forgotten their name. And in my life, I have a MILLION compensating methods for handling this. “CHIEF”, “BOSS”, “El JEFFÉ”, “BUDDY”, “HOSS”… the list goes on. But I’m so friendly with everyone (some would argue this point I reckon, but I digress) that generally speaking, this works. I do have one guy in my life that REGULARLY calls me out…

“‘Chief’? You don’t remember my name, do you?”

“That is RIDICULOUS. Of course I do. I only call people chief if you have earned my valuable trust and have gained access to the inner most circle in my life.”


“Ok, no, you got me. Remind me again…”

I believe I’ve regressed on my digression somewhere along my rabbit trail. Where was I? Oh yes, War & Peace kicked my butt for so many years just because I couldn’t keep the characters straight. Was she the one that needed to get married to save their family titles and fortune? Or was she the one in love with the young soldier on the front line of the Russian army? But I eventually found a really amazing free audio recording of the book that standardized the names, and that got me a third of the way through (yeah, the person recording them hadn’t finished yet. And probably was never going to. Yeah, would have been helpful information to know in advance.) Regardless, I found a publication of the book that probably slaughtered the translation, but standardized the names… and AHHHH. It was made a huge difference. And voila… just like that, I was able to finish off the book from where the audio dropped off. Bucket list item complete!

war-and-peace-7Regardless, wasn’t this post supposed to be about the new BBC War & Peace 6 episode show that started the other day? Yeah, I think it was. Anyway, I was talking a little bit about the brilliance of the cinematography, no? And it really is breathtaking. The battle scenes look amazing. The villas, and the salons… all amazing. It’s almost as if someone took Downton and amped up by a factorial on steroids. Really good. As for the story, I’m hearing that the writing was selective in which threads it would follow… which, is understandable. It would take hundreds of hours to adequately portray the entirety of the book. So I don’t have any issues there personally. But I’m certain some of you are purists might. So there is your fair warning. If you still need convincing, here is the trailer… some people.

But it’s only premiered in the UK!?!? And the BBC won’t take our Yanks’ money… this is because of the Revolution, ISN’T IT!!?? Calm down. Calm down. We American’s are so use to our country creating all the content that is worth watching, that when it isn’t the case we positively melt down. But there are a couple of different ways to watch the BBC’s War & Peace experience. Some easier, others harder.

Just Wait (legal) – the first way makes me giggle a little… but there always is the option that you can just wait. It premiers in America on January 18th on Lifetime. So, unlike Downton (which always has like a six month lag between the British and the U.S. premiere dates) you only have a couple weeks to wait if you even know what the word ‘wait’ even means. Personally? I’m unfamiliar. I looked up the word in the Dictionary and I’m still a bit unclear on the concept. But yeah, waiting is the most legal option on this list.

BBC iPlayer (legal) – Don’t know if you know this or not, but the Beeb (no, not the Beeb of the Justin variety, the Beeb is how the Brits affectionately refer to their television service provider, the BBC… BBC1, BBC2, BBC3… etc) has an internet player that is available… sort of… to everyone. Their iPlayer does check your IP to validate that your IP is coming from the UK. The amazing thing about technology is… that IP location stuff… it’s pretty easily changed. Basically you just need a DNS proxy service (YADDA YADDA TECHNO BABBLE) to let you change it. The good DNS Proxy services cost a little bit. Something like $4 or $5 a month – but they also let you flip your location at will. So one minute you are in England watching Downton and War & Peace, the next you are in Germany watching a local soccer match. If you watch a lot of international content, this is your best (and most up and up) option.

You can also utilize something called a VPN – which basically tunnels you directly there – and encrypts all your traffic in the meanwhile. Solutions like CactusVPN, Ironsocket, and Overplay can do this for you. The downside? Your ISP could just assume you are stealing tons of content and that you are basically a terrorist (I’m absolutely not kidding, the NSA watches people on VPNs way more closely than your average bear.) So, unless you have something of a clue, I’d probably steer clear of this option, even though this is a definitely legal move, it could make you look highly guilty if you head too far down this rabbit hole.

Torrenting, Popcorntime, Rainierland etc. (illegal) – I’m not even going to link you out to any of the following options these methods are so illegal. Some are more dangerous than others. But I’ll quickly cover a few different options if you are really highly motivated.

bit-torrent-works-2BitTorrenting is an amazing technology. Literally it is a barrage, a torrent, of bits that you snag out of the air. Some from the beginning of the show, some from the end. And magically, you begin to retrieve the whole of the show as if out of nothing. BitTorrenting works by you downloading an app to your computer, which you then enter the tracker for the item you want to download. The tracker then tells you the other individuals that have the show… and then from those 120 other seeders, you begin downloading in a tsunami of data – and your file forms right before you eye. I’ve included a photo visualizing what it looks like, to the right, of different people grabbing and seeding a single file.

Problem is, studies show, if you utilize torrenting technology (even for legit, non-illegal activities – which is rare… fare enough) you are being watched, and probably within about 3 hours of starting. I kid you not. Read the paper. It’s really fascinating.

There are other websites and services that take that risk for you (well, some of it anyway.) By doing the torrent download for you… and for hosting the file… and then streaming it to you… you will not be watched like you would be if you torrented directly. But you could still be tracked. I have heard many stories about people getting cease and desist letters from their internet provider even for doing things like PopcornTime, and watching from sites like Rainierland. But it is definitely more rare than cease and desist letters coming to torrenters. So caveat emptor.

War & Peace Overview 

Bottom line – War & Peace is worth the hassle. Even if you just wait for it. It’s worth it. I can’t wait for episode 2 this Sunday. Would love to hear your thoughts about the show as it progresses. Should be a good ride. Definitely the most ambitious show the Beeb has ever done. Massive scale and beautiful photographed.