Monday, September 28, 2009

Ken Burns' latest

Did you happen to catch the first episode of Ken Burns' latest documentary epic, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," last night? If so, did you feel vaguely disappointed?

Maybe it's because Burns' series on the Civil War and baseball were so very good, but this new one just didn't thrill and move me the way those did. In fact, from time to time I began to nod off.

Seems to me there were just too many sentimental references to the spirituality of nature accompanied by wide-angle shots of the same lordly peaks and majestic waterfalls. Even watching the opener on a hi-definition widescreen TV didn't make up for the feeling of constant repetition. How many times do we need to see a bubbling fumarole in Yellowstone to get the point?

This being a Ken Burns production, however, there also was a lot of good stuff, especially the passages about that endearing nutball John Muir on Yosemite and the pointed evidence about the dangers of uncontrolled private enterprise on public lands. There was enough of that to keep me eager to see the second episode next Sunday. [Whoops. I mean tonight.]

I just hope it doesn't again feel like a 60-minute show stretched into two hours.


  1. The only thing that disappointed me was realizing that it's being shown on consecutive days rather than 5 Sundays in a row - many people don't have the luxury to watch it on consecutive nights! Am pleased to see its coming out on DVD in early October, however, so we'll catch the remaining episodes then.

    I wasn't disappointed - I like sentimental references to nature spirituality, however :) My favorite Ken Burns documentary is the one he did on Thomas Jefferson.

  2. I think the National Forests and all of Nature should be preserved, especially in areas where the building has gone out of control. We need some trees and "green" stuff around...or we will go totally mad.