Thursday, September 27, 2007

The War Bogs Down

My comments here are going to seem too strident mostly because of Let Down Syndrome. For months, I have been eagerly anticipating Ken Burns' new doc on WWII, The War. I was thrilling that the experience of watching the piece would bring me back to the really perspective changing wonder that I experienced in Burns' classic The Civil War.

The first two episodes of The War had a huge audience of other people like me who were hoping and longing for something great again from Burns.

But what a disappointment.

In The War, Burns has made the mystifying mistake of trying to make the problems of four little people (in this case, four little American towns) matter more than a hill of beans in the face of the century-defining struggle unfolding in Europe and in the Pacific. The cool thing about The Civil War was how wonderfully educational it was about the War. (The "smart" factor as Jan "The Maven" would say.) The series was made charming by the personalities of the historians, and the characters they were channeling in their anecdotes. In this new piece, The War I'm not learning anything historical. Burns missed the lesson of the first season of The West Wing which was that the audience only gives a hoot about the offices in the West Wing because of their proximity to the Oval Office. Somebody over at Liberty Film Festival agrees with me, so I must be right!

We’re 21 months into the war and I don’t think General Omar Bradley’s been mentioned even once. What made Burns’ Civil War doc so compelling were the personalities of the players: Sherman, Grant, Lincoln, Lee, and McClellean. Normal people are just that: Normal. Normal isn’t interesting. Where are the historians? Where’s The War’s Shelby Foote?

All the drama and personality of WWII is being ignored for the dit-dit of those who stayed home, dealt with rationing, went to the movies, and got jobs as welders? It’s like watching Burns doc on Baseball but it’s all about the people in the bleachers. I may not make the whole 15 hours.

I don't think I will either. Rats. And the new Bionic Woman is lame too. So I guess I'll have more time to read this Fall.

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