‘SOTD: Nero’s Sunken City’ Is A Splash Hit

Courtesy: Public Media Distribution/PBS

Early last month, Public Media Distribution released a new episode of its hit history-based series Secrets of the Dead that examines what is one of the world’s great lost cities in Secrets of the Dead: Nero’s Sunken City.  Now, it isn’t Atlantis.  This city is one that actually did exist.  It is the lost city of Baiae, a city that has been considered by many to be the Las Vegas of the ancient world. What happened in Baiae stayed in Baiae, as is noted in the program.  This nearly hour-long is a program that will appeal to students and lovers of archaeology and anthropology.  That is due in no small part to the story at the program’s heart.  The re-enactments used to help tell the story are just as important to note as the story itself in examining this program’s overall presentation.  The program’s pacing round out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the program’s presentation, as will be pointed out.  All things considered, they make Secrets of the Dead: Nero’s Sunken City a program that history buffs in general will appreciate just as much as those who have an interest in archaeology and anthropology.

Secrets of the Dead: Nero’s Sunken City is a program that will appeal to history buffs in general as well as students and lovers of archaeology and anthropology.  That is due in part to the story at the program’s heart.  The story follows researchers as they examine the infamous city’s history and how roughly half of the city ended up beneath the waves. The city’s history includes the story of one of the world’s most nefarious rulers, Nero.  As the story reveals, it was at Baiae that Nero allegedly killed not only his aunt but his own mother, too just so that he could take their villas, which were located in Baiae.  It was also in Baiae that other Roman politicians came to take part in rather decadent and sometimes taboo activities.  Many of the political schemes that rocked Rome were also planned at Baiae.  The story of those activities, plans and of Nero’s own heinous actions is collectively eye-opening to say the very least.  The story of how the city nearly vanished thanks to volcanic activity (and how that same activity is in fact slowly bringing the city closer to the water’s surface) is in itself interesting.  As if all of that is not enough, viewers also learn of the seafood dishes that were once created at Baiae through the story.  Those same dishes are still made by residents of the region today. Keeping all of this in mind, it becomes clear why the story at the center of SOTD: Nero’s Sunken City is so pivotal to the program’s overall presentation.  When people think of sunken cities, minds automatically go to Atlantis, not Baiae.  That being the case, this story takes viewers to a real sunken city; one whose story is just as interesting as that of the fabled Atlantis if not more so.  The story at the center of this episode of SOTD is only one of the elements that makes the program stand out.  The re-enactments that are used to help tell the story are important in their own, collective, way to the program’s presentation.

The story at the center of SOTD: Nero’s Sunken City is in itself plenty of reason for audiences to watch this program.  The story will appeal not only to history buffs in general but to students and lovers of archaeology, anthropology and even geology.  It is the story of a sunken city that is nowhere near as talked about as that of the fabled city of Atlantis, which may or may not even exist.  Baiae does exist.  That makes this story even more interesting.  The story here is only one part of what makes this program so interesting.  The re-enactments that are used to help tell Baiae’s story are collectively just as important to discuss as the program’s central story.  The re-enactments are so important to note because of their minimal usage.  Audiences do get to see a man portraying Nero as the discussions turn to him.  But the extent of what audiences get is basically that of the actor walking around.  Even as the story turns to the discussions of Nero’s heinous alleged acts of murder, audiences will be glad to know that there is no unnecessary gory re-enactment.  Those behind the program’s production are to be commended for the common sense of not going there.  Other networks clearly would have no problem going that route.  So it is good to see that those behind this engaging PBS program opted to take the high road.  Between that and the balance of the re-enactments to the live action footage, audiences get in the program’s visual experience an element that sits atop the foundation formed by the program’s story, strengthening it even more.  While the re-enactments (or the general lack thereof) serve to enhance the program’s presentation even more, they are not the last of its most important elements.  The program’s pacing rounds out its most important elements.

The story at the center of SOTD: Nero’s Sunken City and the minimally used re-enactments used to help tell that story are both key to the program’s overall presentation.  While each element is important in its own right to the program’ presentation–as has been pointed out–the two are not the program’s only key elements.  The program’s pacing rounds out its most important elements.  From start to finish, the program’s pacing never moves too fast or slow.  Each segment gets its own share of time, and the information shared in each segment never gets so in-depth that everyday audiences will feel lost.  That being the case, audiences will find themselves feeling like the program progresses with ease, not even being moved to check their watches (or cell phones) for the time.  That is a testament to the manner in which the program was assembled.  It makes the program’s pacing feel wholly natural, in turn ensuring even more audiences’ maintained engagement.  When this is taken into consideration with the program’s story and the re-enactments used to tell the story (alongside the live action footage), the whole of these three elements makes SOTD: Nero’s Sunken City another enjoyable edition of Secrets of the Dead.

Secrets of the Dead: Nero’s Sunken City is yet another example of what makes Secrets of the Dead one of the best history-based series on television today.  It also is more proof of the importance of public broadcasting to the world.  It offers an original story that will educate and surprise audiences at the same time. The balance of the program’s re-enactments and live action material adds even more interest to the program.  The program’s pacing puts the final touch to the program.  Each element is important in its own right to the program’s whole.  All things considered, they make this episode of Secrets of the Dead more proof of why it is not *ahem* secret why Secrets of the Dead is one of the best history-based programs on television today.  It is available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other episodes of Secrets of the Dead is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SecretsofTheDead

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SecretsPBS

 

 

 

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