A fabulous 2-minute history of modern England

Long before Alien (and longer still before his still-famous “Big Brother” Apple ad), Ridley Scott made a rather modest television commercial for Britain’s Hovis bread. Filmed in 1973, the spot — which shows a Hovis delivery boy wheeling down a quaintly cobblestoned street in Dorset — may just be England’s favorite advertisement, ever. So this year, when Hovis decided to celebrate its 122nd anniversary in style, the company found itself in the difficult position of having to trump its own, legendary campaign. We say they’ve succeeded — and then some.

Fittingly, the 2008 advertisement features a new delivery boy and route — one that winds through time as well as space. Directed by a rising star named Ringan Ledwidge, the commercial kicks off in 1886, and takes 122 seconds (an eternity in advertising terms) to move through every ensuing decade. We see women’s-rights prostesters, world wars, and a coronation, as well as striking miners, mods and rockers, and the millennial celebration. Filmed in Liverpool over the course of six days, with a cast of 762 extras, the ad packs more of a punch than most two-hour movies can muster.

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