The First Ladies Shows The Power Of A Woman In The Presidency

Courtesy: PBS

There’s an old adage that states something to the effect of behind every great man is a great woman.  That couldn’t be more wrong.  Women don’t stand behind any man.  The proper adage should state that NEXT TO every great man is an equally great woman.  PBS’ special, The First Ladies is proof of that.  This two-disc, seven hour special from the network’s “American Experience” program presents five of the first ladies who have stood by their husbands and showed that they were just as great as their husbands at the same time.

Among the most influential of the five First Ladies profiled in this double disc set is the one and only Eleanor Roosevelt.  Mrs. Roosevelt had quite the life.  The profile on Mrs. Roosevelt takes up a large portion of the set’s seven hours, clocking in at just under two and a half hours.  It takes viewers on a journey from her birth to her death.  That’s right.  Her story doesn’t end when her husband died.  Throughout her life, Eleanor Roosevelt showed that she took some advice from her uncle (by marriage) Teddy very seriously.  Teddy told her when she was young, that she should never show fear.  She obviously took that to heart, as she became a fearless advocate for civil rights and women’s rights.  She became so active that she was under constant surveillance by the F.B.I.  Even after discovering that her husband, FDR, had had an affair with another woman, she showed no fear.  She stood up to him, and essentially forced him to give up his affair.  One can’t help but admit that probably if not for Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR might not have held office for three terms.  As The First Ladies shows, hers was a very powerful influence on public opinion of her husband.  She definitely didn’t stand behind FDR.  She stood beside him in every sense of the word. 

Just as Eleanor Roosevelt stood by and worked right by her husband, so did Nancy Reagan.  Nancy developed a reputation outside the White House as being little more than another version of a certain other former first lady.  But behind the scenes, she was quite the hard working and serious individuals.  And according to Mrs. Reagan herself, she was right there at the late President’s side because she was interested in the people that surrounded him.  She played a direct role in the people in her husband’s cabinet, as well as other factors.  As one person interviewed for this segment noted, she was almost sort of a Mary Todd Lincoln figure in that she seemed to want to make the White House itself a reflection of the power of the position of President.  Just one example of that was how Mrs. Reagan raised private funding to purchase new china for hosting state dinners, and for re-decorating certain rooms of the White House.  As much as she worked behind the scenes, The First Ladies is much like The Presidents in that it shows no bias.  It shows everything that made her an influential First Lady.  In the same breath, it also shows the view that the public had of her because of her personality in front of the cameras.  That reputation was not exactly a good one.  She and her husband developed the reputation as socializing only with the super rich, which was contradictory to the job of the President.  The job of the President and First Lady is to work for Americans.  So spending so much time with the people who helped to get him elected made both Mr. and Mrs. Reagan look very bad.  But again, this feature pulls no punches.  It even shows Nancy’s reaction to those views.  It offers archived footage showing her poking fun at herself as a result of those personal media opinions.  That archived footage helps to paint a much broader picture of Nancy Reagan as First Lady.

The archived footage and interviews culled for each segment in The First Ladies go a long way toward making all seven hours of this special all the more informative and interesting.  The First Ladies may only be comprised of two discs.  But being that it has seven hours worth of material, and focuses on five of the most influential First Ladies in our nation’s history, there is enough material here for an entire semester’s worth of classes both in public schools and college level courses.  It’s an interesting piece of American history both inside and outside the classroom.  And it can be ordered online now via PBS’ online store, http://www.shoppbs.org.

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The Presidents Re-Issue Adds Even More For Audiences

Courtesy: PBS

Binders, Bigbird, and great balls of fire.  Both our current President and his opponent are all over the television and radio this year.  And it’s not entirely for good reasons, either.  How many people out there remember the debates between other presidential candidates?  For that matter, how many people out there can name even half of the men who have led this great nation?  Thanks to PBS, both general viewers and students alike will be reminded of nearly a dozen of those men.  From Roosevelt to Truman to Reagan all the way up to Bill Clinton, this seventeen disc set is an excellent watch for anyone who has any interest in politics and political science both inside and outside the classroom.

There are those who have made certain allegations about PBS.  But in watching this series, perhaps those same people will change their tune in seeing how wrong they are.  It is a fully unbiased look at the lives of some of our nation’s most well known and respected leaders.  It pulls no punches, showing each President in his high times and low.  For instance, the program focusing on Clinton leaves nothing out, including the scandal centered on former intern Monica Lewinsky.  Perhaps one of the most interesting facts from the newly added piece on Clinton was that he apparently originally did not want to get involved in the Serbian conflict in the late 1990s.  From what the feature notes, he originally wanted to leave that conflict to NATO forces.  But amid growing pressure from the national and international community, he finally gave in and took the lead in the air war that ended things there.   His ongoing conflict with then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was just as interesting.  Any movie buff will see some similarities to the Frank Capra helmed 1939 movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in the pair’s ongoing conflict.

Another of the more interesting segments included in this updated re-issue focused on President Harry Truman.  Anyone who has any interest or knowledge of Presidential history will find his history to be unlike any of the other Presidents featured in the set.  Truman, as documented in the set, came from the most humble of roots.  He grew up in a less than well-to-do family in Missouri.  He was unlike nearly every President before and since.  He ended up marrying his wife Bessie after having first met her when he was only five years old.  Through all the years that he could have strayed, his heart never did.  Even when he spent part of his young adult life in Kansas City, he never strayed a single bit.  At that time, as the feature notes, Kansas City was a rather seedy area.  So seeing that he didn’t break from his upbringing even then is incredible.  Even more interesting is that even after having married Bessie, he moved into her mother’s home with her and dealt with her mother for many years without even the slightest problem from him.  There is so much more that audiences will learn about Truman here as he gets two of the discs in the total seventeen discs included in the set, as does Clinton.

The features on Clinton and Truman are just a couple examples of what viewers can expect in this newly re-issued set.  Also included are:  Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, LBJ, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter.  The material on these presidents is more than enough to last an entire semester for a college level political science class and an entire academic year in a public high school.

The Presidents is available now.  It can be ordered online at PBS’ online store, http://www.shoppbs.org

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Shout! Factory, Nickelodeon “scare” up more fun with Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Season 2

Nickelodeon was one of the best networks on television during the 1990′s.  The very mention of the network’s name instantly led to discussions of its famed “Nicktoons” programming.  And if ever there was a leading company among the 90′s Nicktoons, it was Klasky Csupo.  The team of Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo were responsible for what was arguably the most legendary of the Nicktoons in Rugrats.  That beloved cartoon ran from 1991 – 2004.  But it was just one of many shows created by the pair.  they were also responsible for fellow Nicktoons, The Wild Thornberrys, Rocket Power, As Told By Ginger, and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.

While Rocket Power, As Told By Ginger, and The Wild Thornberrys were relatively well received, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters received mixed reviews.  Chances are that’s because it wasn’t the happy, bright colored style cartoon that Klasky Csupo was known for in its other shows.  It could be argued that it appealed mainly to younger audiences in their goth phases.  But even this cartoon had its positives.  And its second season continued to prove that.  In Season Two, Krumm, Ickis, and Oblina learn about the dangers of spreading rumors and telling the truth.  There’s also a wonderful episode that argues how important monsters have been throughout human history.  Add in the classic animation style for which Klasky Csupo became known with its cartoons, and audiences get a great piece of nostalgia in Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Season 2.

Season Two opens with the episode, “Spontaneously Combustible.”  Young Ickis is having some stomach troubles.  He keeps breathing fire, and he doesn’t know why.  He goes to see the monster academy’s doctor to find out what’s wrong.  It turns out that other monsters have had the same problem, and that he simply has to give it about a week to let it pass.  Unbeknownst to him, Zimbo, the Gromble’s assistant (voiced by Tim Curry) is snooping around and hears the doctor tell Ickis about his problem.  Zimbo flies off and tells someone else, leading to rumors throughout the monster academy.  The Gromble catches wind of the rumors being spread around about Ickis.  So he uses class to reassure everyone that the rumors about Ickis are not true.  He tells the class that there have been some very important monsters who had Ickis’ problem.  After Ickis leaves, everybody feels bad and goes to look for him.  They do finally find him, and apologize for all the rumors, and ask him to forgive them.  He does, and all end up happy.  This one episode continues the tradition of Klasky Csupo’s Nicktoons having heart.  Sure, the show’s about monsters.  But it teaches young audiences about the dangers of spreading rumors, and the impact that spreading them can have.  It’s a wonderful way to kick off this two-disc set.

“Spontaneously Combustible” is a great way to start off Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Season Two.  It’s just one of a handful of enjoyable episodes in this season.  Another of that handful of enjoyable episodes is in “Rosh ‘O Monster.”  Krumm, Oblina, and Ickis learn the importance of not telling tall tales in this episode.  The P.O.V. storyline is nothing new to television.  But there’s something about this style of episode that regardless of which show, always makes for great television.  And this episode is no exception to that rule.  When the trio scare an entire opera house of humans, they all want to tell the story.  They all try at the same time, leading the viewfinder to break.  So each one tells the story of what happened from their own vantage point, making themselves out to be the leader.  However, when the viewfinder is fixed, the reality of their scare is much different from what any of the trio has told.  The reality is that the scare was completely by accident.  While they had set out to scare the humans, the original plan was obviously quite different than how everything turned out.  As a result of this relevation, the Gromble punishes all three for their dishonesty.  It’s a lesson that viewers both young and old should take to heart.

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters shows that it has heart in Season Two.  And it teaches life lessons.  But that isn’t all it shows.  It shows that it can also entertain while it teaches.  One of the episodes that best epitomizes that ability to entertain and teach is “History of The Monster World.”  Adults and kids alike will love this episode.  Much like Rosh O’ Monster, this episode isn’t the first of its kind.  But it’s always so funny to see history from a totally random and silly vantage point.  In this episode, the Gromble decides to teach his students a lesson on the history of the monster world.  The students all grumble at this.  It’s the same kind of reaction that human students get when they’re told they have to learn history.  And the Gromble’s reaction is similar to that of human teachers.  That’s only part of the joy of this episode.  The real meat and potatoes comes as the Gromble teaches the young monsters about the many contributions of monsters to the human world.  According to monster history, if not for monsters scaring early neanderthal man, the wheel would have never been invented.  Monsters, according to the lesson, were also responsible for the very first message ever transmitted by phone.  And allegedly, if not for monsters, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would never have developed one of the most famed quotes of all time.  The quote in question was, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  Who would have thought that a monster would really be to credit for the famed line?  It’s a great joke.  The entire episode offers such outlandish history that it’s one of the season’s best episodes.

The second season of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters boasts so much enjoyment from each episode.  But the episodes aren’t all that make the show such a joy.  The show’s animation is similar to other Klasky Csupo Nicktoons.  But it still stood on its own two feet stylistically speaking.  The animation style is closer to earlier Rugrats episodes than any other KC cartoon.  But it still manages to somehow establish its own identity, even with the similarity in style.  In an era when the majority of “cartoons” are cartoons in name only, seeing this classic hand drawn animation adds a whole extra level of enjoyment to what is already a classic cartoon in itself.  That enjoyment mixed with the enjoyment of the stories makes Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Season Two one more wonderful piece of television nostalgia for fans of Nickelodeon’s classic 90′s Nicktoons.

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