The World Wars Is One Of 2014′s Top New Documentaries

Courtesy:  A&E Home Video/History Channel

Courtesy: A&E Home Video/History Channel

History Channel’s new powerhouse documentary The World Wars is easily one of this year’s best new documentaries hands down.  It is the proverbial icing on the cake that the network started baking earlier this year with the release of 100 Years of WWI and continued working this summer with 75 Years of World War II.  And along with the PBS documentary Day of Days: June 6th, 1945, it makes complete the collection of any history and military history buff this year. The first and most important aspect of this double-disc set that audiences will appreciate is its depth of information.  100 Years of WWI and 75 Years of WWII were specifically directed at the technology and battles of WWI and WWII.  This presentation is far broader in its content.  It focuses on the history of both wars and more specifically how the events of WWI would lead four specific figures to be the most important individuals of World War II.  The combination of re-enactors and footage of the wars together heightens the content provided across the presentation.  That is the second factor that audiences will appreciate in this documentary.  And last but not least worth noting is the breadth of bonus material included in the program.  The bonus material included in the Blu-ray and DVD presentation of The World Wars gives even more depth to not just the history of the wars but to those most important figures of the wars—Patton, Stalin, Hitler, and Churchill.  Each figure receives special attention in its own bonus special feature.  These bonuses are just some of the many bonuses added to the DVD and Blu-ray to enhance the overall viewing experience.  And they do just that.  The bonus material together with the rich content and the focus on the wars’ primary figures make this program an absolute must have for any lover of history whether it be military or history in general.  It is just as invaluable a tool in the classroom or in the living room.  It proves that much more just why this presentation is one of the year’s best new documentaries.

History Channel’s new military history documentary The World Wars is one of this year’s best new documentaries.  The central reasoning for this argument is the documentary’s sheer breadth of information.  The network already released earlier this year a pair of documentaries centered on the World Wars in the form of 100 Years of WWI and 75 Years of WWII.  Those documentaries presented more directed content than this presentation.  Where 100 Years of WWI and 75 Years of WWII focused on more directed content—they focused primarily on the technology that was developed as a result of the wars and a couple of the wars’ more important battles—The World Wars offers audiences a far more broad picture.  It leaves absolutely no stone unturned in its telling of how both wars started.  From the political and economic causes of the wars to their political and economic ramifications and much more, audiences might find themselves shocked at some of the material included in this four-and-a-half hour presentation.  Among the most interesting facts to learn in watching the program is that then President Woodrow Wilson actually tried to prevent the League of Nations from forcing economic penalties on Germany as he and others knew the potential problems with doing so.  Audiences will be just as surprised to learn that Hitler actually escaped death three separate times throughout his time in the German army in WWI.  One of the academics tapped to help add to the story explains that the very first of those times was a showdown between himself and a fully armed British soldier.  He asks hypothetically can audiences imagine how much the world’s history would have changed had that first encounter led to Hitler’s death.  It’s definitely a mind twist when one really sits down and thinks about it.  There is even mention of how the Japanese, despite having contributed troops to the Allied efforts in WWI were shut out at the conference that led to the crafting of the Treaty of Versailles.  It goes without saying that the representatives at the conference were probably a bit upset over this, potentially leading to part of the motivation behind Japan’s negative feelings toward the U.S. before its attack on Pearl Harbor.  These are just some of the examples of how much content is shared throughout The World Wars’ near five-hour run time.  There is far more material and information proving how much depth this program possesses and why that depth is key to the program’s success.

The amount of information shared throughout The World Wars’ four-and-a-half-hour run time is key to the presentation’s overall success.  The amount of information included throughout this program could rival any college level history course.  The additional combination of actual footage from both wars alongside re-enactors goes a long way towards helping viewers grasp the material being discussed in each segment of the program.  The actors make it clear through their portrayals that they understood the importance of what they were doing, too. They did so by not overacting. It showed that they understood they weren’t in a “based on actual events” major Hollywood blockbuster, but a still professionally produced piece nonetheless. It just so happened that the piece in question is a straight forward historical documentary.

The in-depth content provided throughout The World Wars by itself makes this historical documentary well worth the watch by itself. That content would have been nothing without the addition of the program’s actual wartime footage and re-enactments. The World Wars would have been a success if it had only been highlighted by these factors. Of course, those behind the semi-mini-series didn’t rest on those laurels. They also included a bevy of bonus material that puts the presentation over the top. Included as bonus material is a collection of profiles on the most important figures of World War I and World War II, and a pair of short features on both the technology developed in the wars and life in the trenches. There is also an in-depth piece that adds even more background on the wars in which one of the most important statements is made. One of the historians interviewed for the program notes here that the Treaty of Versailles was essentially the catalyst for the start of WWII because of its language. She goes on to note that WWI and WWII were in reality not two wars, but two parts of one global conflict. It’s just that the world rested for two decades before the second part of that conflict re-ignited. It’s really an interesting concept to consider. And in hindsight, watching The World Wars in whole, her statement makes quite a bit of sense. It becomes perhaps one of the most important statements of the entire presentation. There are plenty of other important notes and facts shared throughout the bonus features included in The World Wars. Whether it be those notes and facts, the profiles or the other bonus material included in the package, the bonus features are collectively a final fitting touch to a documentary that is one of the year’s best new documentaries if not the best of the year.

The bonus material included in The World Wars by themselves are impressive in their own right. They offer their own depth and enjoyment for any military history buff or history buff in general. Along with the content of the primary presentation, and the footage and re-enactments, the bonus material included in the package makes the entire presentation that is The World Wars complete. Collectively, everything noted here proves that its various reality TV series aside, History Channel does in fact still offer quality content worthy of being called one of the year’s best new documentaries if not the year’s best new documentary. The World Wars is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from History Channel’s online store at http://shop.history.com/the-world-wars-blu-ray/detail.php?p=567846&v=history_show_world-wars. More information on this and other History Channel programs is available online at http://www.facebook.com/History. 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.

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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