With the promise of lockdown lifting thanks to the covid-19 vaccination programme, new four-part documentary series Extra Life looks at the global pandemics of the past three centuries – including smallpox, cholera and the Spanish Flu – and reveals how the treatments devised to combat these diseases launched a public health revolution, ensuring that we enjoy a longer average lifespan than our ancestors today.
Who presents Extra Life?
Extra Life is co-presented by historian David Olusoga, best known for the TV documentaries Black and British: A Forgotten History and A House Through Time, and popular science writer Steven Johnson, author of the accompanying book Extra Life.
When is Extra Life on TV?
The first episode of Extra Life will be broadcast on BBC Four at 10.05pm on Tuesday 18 May, with new episodes showing every Tuesday.
What is Extra Life about?
The first episode of Extra Life tells the story of vaccines, including practices used in Africa and brought to the USA via the slave trade, and 19th-century anti-vaxxers. The second programme goes on to consider how a better understanding of data has improved public health. It was in the 1840s, for example, that cholera mortality reports first revealed the ‘curve’ of an epidemic as it spread through a country’s population.
Rosemary Collins is the staff writer of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine