I'm sure that you yourself are enough of an expert to be able to dismiss the series as being 'crap'! Personally I think there are some good things in it, particularly with rgeard to the art of the priod, otherwise I wouldn't called anyone's attention to it.
I remember little of it but to me it was another of those arts programs with a pretentious presenter making overblown, very questionable, assertions. At one point he said (don't recall the exact wording) "To the Romans, the word "barbarian" simply meant anyone who was not Roman". Not true, they would have regarded the Greeks as civilised (because they had cities) and not barbarians.
I would be glad if you could point to instances of good things in it, relevant to the question about the dark ages.
I don't know whether there is anything in it relevant to the question, all that I remember about it was that it showed some very pleasing works of art, not all of them very familiar. Art is actually his main area of interest (and presumably of expertise); I don't find him pretentious, indeed his series on the baroque and rococo, and the one entitled 'the Renaissance Unchained', show some originality of mind and I have learned unexpected things from them.
At one point he said (don't recall the exact wording) "To the Romans, the word "barbarian" simply meant anyone who was not Roman". Not true, they would have regarded the Greeks as civilised (because they had cities) and not barbarians.
But 'barbarian' in it's meaning at that time hadn't anything to do with what it means today. It did indeed mean 'those who aren't from here' and this naturally evolved into today's meaning as somebody somewhere sometime decided they were all brutal and 'barbarian' uncivilised savages. Hispania, and I'm not sure about Greece but presumably also , were actually 'Roman'.
Yes, one has to be cautious in this matter, both in Greek and Latin barbarian was a descriptive term for foreigners and outsiders first of all, and could be applied to people who were actually by no means uncivilized (the Greeks called the Persians barbaroi). I could be wrong, but I don't think that the Romans referred to the Greeks as 'barbari' but used this as a term for people, especially outside the Empire, who did not follow Greco-Roman traditions and belong to that culture.
Wiki says "The Romans used the term barbarus for uncivilised people, opposite to Greek or Roman, and in fact, it became a common term to refer to all foreigners among Romans after Augustus age (as, among the Greeks, after the Persian wars, the Persians), including the Germanic peoples, Persians, Gauls, Phoenicians and Carthaginians. "
In one of his letters, the younger Pliny advises Valerius Maximus, who was being sent to Greece to "set in order the consititutions of the free cities", that it is "Greece, where civilisation and literature, and agriculture too, are believed to have originated". "To rob them of the name and shadow of freedom, which is all that now remains to them, would be an act of cruelty, ignorance and barbarism". "This is the land which provided us with justice and gave us our laws".
If 'barbarus' was used as a term for all foreigners who didn't belong within the Greco-Roman cultural orbit, it is hard to know how much the notion of them being positively uncivilized was to the fore on any particular occasion, for they presumably regarded many such people as being less civilized than themselves without necessarily being 'barbarous' in our modern sense. In writings one can normally tell the implied sense from the context.
What do you mean by "positively uncivilised"? To the Greeks, the word "barbarian" was an antonym of "citizen". A citizen was a member of a city. Barbarians didn't have cities. "Civilisation" means "living in cities" and "barbarianism" means "not living in cities". Cassiodorus in the 6th century offers a folk etymology writing that the word barbarus was "made up of barba (beard) and rus (flat land); for barbarians did not live in cities, making their abodes in the fields like wild animals". Clearly, the Greco-Romans regarded their way of life as superior (though they expressed some admiration of the barbarians for their loyalty, strength etc).
I maintain that the Romans didn't regard the Greeks as barbarians.
I'm not sure that 'barbaros' primarily meant being uncivilized in the sense of not living in cities, it came into vogue after the Perian Wars to refer primarily to Persians and other eastern peoples, who could be stereotyped as not having the virtues that the Greek liked to ascribed to themselves; in modern parlance one could describe this as a form of Greek orientalism, in which the other was defined and stereotyped by contrast. And thence of course to other foreigners and outsiders, some whom we and they might regard as being barbarous in the modern sense and others not. Altogether a complex field of use, carrying different implications in different contexts. Xenos was more the antonym of citizen.