American Experience: 1964 is quite the interesting look at what was one of the most important years in America’s modern history. The approximately two-hour program takes viewers through the events of the year, showing the good, the bad, and the ugly. That fully unbiased presentation is central to the success of this edition of American Experience. Along the way, various figures are interviewed to help illustrate the importance of the events that made 1964 an important year. From historians to activists and more, each figure makes the year’s different subjects much clearer and more interesting than they would have otherwise been. That is another key factor to the overall success of this presentation. The subjects examined throughout the two-hour run time of American Experience: 1964 and those that helped to illustrate each subject work together to make this a presentation that any history buff will appreciate. There is one more factor to take into account in examining the program that makes it work as well as it does. That final factor is the program’s pace. A lot of ground is covered over the course of 1964’s two-hour run time. Even with as much as is covered over that time, those behind the program keep the pace at just enough of a pace to not lose viewers along the way. This final factor brings everything full circle in this episode of American Experience, making the program complete and even more well worth the watch whether it be in the classroom or the living room.
The first and most important factor that makes American Experience: 1964 is the completely unbiased presentation. Presented within the course of the program’s near two-hour run time is all of the good, the bad, and the ugly. It presents the violence that arose from the civil rights movement. It presents Lyndon Johnson’s attempts to fill the shoes of John F. Kennedy after his assassination. It even shows the cultural impact of the arrival of The Beatles in America and of the now influential book The Feminine Mystique on women across the country among much more. Through it all, the events of the year are presented chronologically from New Year’s Eve 1963 to the year’s end. It is all wrapped up nicely with the use of singer Sam Cooke’s hit song ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ as the discussion point for the events that would come as a result of everything that happened in 1964. The tone taken in those final moments is one of optimism. It drives home the argument that for all of the unsettlement experienced in 1964, it would lead to much positive change in the years to come.
The unbiased presentation of the events of 1964 and their chronological together form a solid starting point for the success of American Experience: 1964. The presentation is made even richer through interviews with various scholars, activists, and others. The interviews in question are used to help illustrate precisely why each of the year’s events were so pivotal. Some of the most powerful of the program’s interview segments are with civil rights activist Dave Dennis. At one point late in the program, he recalls the mistreatment of a young African-American male by police in riots that rose from other events. His reaction at recalling a conversation with one of three civil rights activists that had come down to help was just as powerful. There are other equally enlightening interviews from various scholars, journalists and more that illustrate the events that made 1964 such a pivotal year in America’s history.
The events discussed in American Experience: 1964 and the accompanying interviews go a long way toward making the program especially useful whether it be used in the classroom or the living room. The last piece of the presentation that will impress viewers is its pacing. At no point through the course of the program’s two-hour run time does its pacing ever go too fast or too slow. And keeping in mind the number of topics covered over the course of the program’s total run time, the pacing becomes even more of a positive. Viewers aren’t left feeling like they were just rushed through a freshman level college history course by the program’s end. And it’s that, along with the program’s interviews and topics, that together make American Experience: 1964 a must see whether one is a history buff or just wants to learn a little bit of America’s history.
American Experience: 1964 is available now on DVD. It can be ordered directly from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=29630386&cp=&sr=1&kw=1964&origkw=1964&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online at http://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperience and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.