Niall Ferguson's "Civilization" series gets a 'C' from the A.V. Club

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Civilization: The West And The Rest With Niall Ferguson debuts tonight on PBS. It will air at 8 p.m. Eastern in most markets, but you should check local listings.

Niall Ferguson is public television’s idea of a party reptile: a good-looking bloke with a full head of dark hair and an air of solemn glibness. Ferguson entertains interviewers by talking about how he chose his political leanings on the basis of what side he thought would be more fun to piss off, and how he likes working in the United States because that’s where the money and star power are. If he thought he could swing it, he’d probably have his agent insert a clause into his contract with Harvard stipulating that roadies have to remove all the brown M&Ms from the candy dish in his office, so that he can trash the faculty lounge in the event they ever forget. His new two-part, four-hour PBS series allows him to take 500 years of history and wedge as much of it as he can into a mold designed to flatter his neo-imperialist worldview. It’s a public service: The show is airing at a time when, with the 2011-2012 TV season coming to a wrap, some people may be tempted to find out what public broadcasting looks like on days when Downton Abbey’s not on. Five minutes of Ferguson should send them scurrying away in search of something more intellectually and spiritually rewarding, such as a Mixed Martial Arts tournament....

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