US history given some dramatic re-creation on "History"Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits
This is American history served up docudrama style, with narrative velocity and visual pizzazz. What’s gained by this approach is a certain storytelling oomph. What’s lost is a certain gravitas. I suspect it’s a tradeoff that History, eager to shake off the fusty reputation it had when it was known as the History Channel, is willing to make.
The subtitle of the series, “The Story of Us,’’ sends a salutary message at a time when political polarization has raised the question of whether there is an “us’’ anymore. History will air two episodes each Sunday night starting at 9, beginning this weekend (the final two episodes will air on Monday, May 31)....
...[P]roblematic are the talking heads who periodically favor us with their wisdom in the first episode. They primarily consist not of the usual tweedy historians but rather an eclectic — and sometimes dubious — array of celebrities.
At one point, the film shifts from a scene of early Jamestown settler (and husband of Pocahontas) John Rolfe bending over his tobacco crop to that renowned scholar Donald Trump bloviating about what it takes to be successful. I’m not kidding. I wish I were....
To be fair, the commentators who deserve to be here — Colin Powell, Tom Brokaw, Henry Louis Gates Jr. — do offer useful perspective. Powell, for instance, notes the centrality of military service to the African-American experience, observing: “African-Americans fought for the country even before it was a country.’’ The series offers a grim reminder, though, that between 1700 and 1800, roughly 250,000 Africans were seized from their homeland and transported to the colonies as slaves....
Overall, this series shapes up as a worthy undertaking. I’m looking forward to seeing future episodes, and if snazzy production values help galvanize the interest of young viewers in 400 years of US history, that’s all to the good. But I’m also hoping that along the way there will be room in “America’’ for a few more tweedy historians with something to say.
comments powered by Disqus
- Did Salmonella Kill Off the Aztecs?
- Jewish history is under siege in the middle east and these volunteers are risking their lives to protect it
- 'Amazon should stop selling Holocaust denial books'
- National Museum of African American History and Culture Reaches Milestone of 1 Million Visitors
- What Makes a President Great? Clipping? Sipping? Slashing?
- McMaster knows how national security policy can go wrong. Will that help him?
- Historian and Antiwar Activist Marilyn Young Dies at 79
- Trump Chooses Historian H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser
- Holocaust Historian Deborah Lipstadt Explains Why People Believe Trump's Lies
- Princeton’s Harold James warns World War Three is now a "serious threat”