TV Review: America -- The Story of Us
The British were appalled that the American soldiers would kill officers.
The first commercial caught me completely unawares, so smooth was the segue from the story of our first settlers in the New World to one of the first banks in America. The announcer told how that same bank evolved into one of the sponsors for tonight's broadcast: Bank of America. The computer generated visuals were as visually stunning and meshed with the live action as was the first episode itself, "The Rebels".
It has been rare in my experience to hear of Puritans and Jamestown settlers referred to as such. Narrator Liv Schreiber tells us that these rebels were “business men and true believers”. Although I am not a fan of computer generated images in the movies, I am a loyal fan of The History Channel and have never had a problem with their use of CGI. In this series, it looks to be a mainstay of the production along with live re-enactments of historical events. The technology is so impressive, it’s often difficult to distinguish CGI from live action.
In “The Rebels” we meet one of the colonies' first entrepreneurs, John Rolfe, a shrewd farmer who defied Spain’s grip on tobacco seeds and changed Jamestown from a ghost town into a boom town. For the next century and a half, tobacco was our largest single export. Donald Trump interrupts the re-enactments and CGI with a brief statement about success and luck with a brief tribute to the hard working colonists. Throughout the series noteworthy Americans offer comments and opinions about our country and what it means to be an American. Perhaps it is a good time for us all to stop and ask ourselves what it means to us, to be Americans.
The second commercial presented a pleasant and unexpected surprise. Ed Whitacre, Chairman and CEO of General Motors, announced that his company has repaid their government bail-out five years ahead of schedule. It wasn't entirely institutional advertising as he went on to talk about GM's innovative life-saving products like OnStar.
In one of many activities to support the premiere, HISTORYTM commissioned an online survey by the Harris Interactive company to "gauge Americans' feeling and attitudes about the figures, events, ideas and innovations that have shaped American history." A significant part of the poll asked for opinions or votes on events, documents, innovations and people that have left lasting impressions or helped invent our country. The electric light, the internet, the Hoover Dam, Lewis & Clark, and the first amendment to the Constitution all got the most votes in their categories. To no surprise, George Washington was recognized as our greatest founding father garnering twice the votes of second place Thomas Jefferson. Bernie Madoff edged out Timothy McVeigh by one per centage point as our "biggest villain" and the American flag doubled the votes for first place over the Statue of Liberty as our "most iconic symbol".
Seven generations after the colony at Jamestown, one-third of England’s ships were made in the American Colonies, forty per cent of British exports came to the colonies, and American timber fueled the global economy. After an incident involving wine shipments on one of John Hancock’s ships, the British occupied Boston with one solder for every four colonists. Thanks to Ben Franklin, the colonies had a communications network that was the best in the world. These events provided a foundation for the birth of a nation. The second episode is "Revolution" and begins in New York City, 1776, with a population of about twenty thousand. The British unleashed the largest armada of ships they would ever assemble until D-Day and launched the biggest attack on New York until 9-11-2001.
When I reviewed the survey results, I was surprised to discover what we as a country DON'T know. [2,450 American adults aged 18 or older surveyed online]Fifty-one per cent of us do not know in which decade slavery was abolished ( 1860's).Forty-eight per cent of us do not know in which decade women were given the right to vote(1920's) and sixty per cent could not name the conflict/war that resulted in the greatest number of American casualties (the Civil War).
The Beatles sang, "You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world."
George Washington and his "rag tag" army along with their supporters certainly wanted to change the world and "Revolution" shows us how they did it. Washington brought in talented men to help him re-invent his army, devise new strategies for war and defeat seasoned soldiers from the world's undefeated superpower. Saratoga was the turning point but it took six years of perseverance to get to Yorktown.
The twelve-hour series premiered Sunday, April 25, 9PM ET/PT, and continues with new episodes airing on Sundays through Memorial Day.
What would you say has been America's greatest achievement?
The top vote getter in this poll was: "A constitution stating that all men are created equal."
THE DAY AFTER
From The History Channel's press release today:
"New York, April 26, 2010 – The first night of AMERICA THE STORY OF US has become the highest rated, most watched special in network history, it was announced today by Nancy Dubuc, President and General Manager, HISTORY™. The first night was watched by 5.7 million total viewers and drew a 4.0 household rating. Last night 8-11pm will go down as HISTORY's best night ever across the board (based on Fast Cable ratings)."