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 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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