PBS’ New Burns Presentation Is Network’s Most Unique Doc So Far This Year

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

Ken Burns is a national treasure.  That is because of the stories that he has told through the many documentaries he has created throughout his career.  From the story of baseball’s history, to that of jazz and country music, to the impact of the Civil War and dust bowl and more, his documentaries have told in such rich fashion, the story of America.  After spending so many years being behind the lens, telling America’s story, the camera was turned to him for the first time last year in the new profile, Ken Burns: Here & There.  The hour-long feature was released on DVD last month.  It is an intriguing presentation that is worth watching at least once, as is proven by its main feature.  That aspect will be discussed shortly.  The program’s editing adds its own touch to the presentation’s success.  It will be discussed a little later.  The DVD’s average price point and related separate listings prove to be important in the program’s home release.  They will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the presentation in its home release.  All things considered, Ken Burns: Here & There is a presentation that the most devoted Ken Burns fans will appreciate.

PBS Distribution’s recently released DVD presentation of Ken Burns: Here & There is an intriguing work that will appeal primarily to Burns’ most devoted fans.  That is due in large part to the program’s main feature.  The feature in question is essentially Burns looking back on his life and career while ruminating on the importance of community and unity, regardless of our personal biases.  That is pretty much the basis for this hour-long program.  He waxes philosophical throughout the presentation, about the importance of understanding and appreciating where we are physically and in general, and the path that we took to get where we are today.     Along the way, there is also an argument in support of small town America added to the mix.  Whether manifest or latent, it is there and is welcome.   As the program progresses, he and many of his friends recollect his humble beginnings and how the documentaries that they have created have played into the person that he has become.  Those ruminations serve as the catalyst for Burns’ talks on understanding and appreciating America’s history, and in relation, one another because we are all part of that history.  So while the program is thankfully not just some self-serving bio that praises Burns and puts him on a pedestal, it is more or less a presentation that uses Burns and his works for what is essentially a commentary about the need for the nation to unite.  It just uses Burns’ career as its basis.  That is not to say that Americans do not need reminding about the importance of unity.  As a matter of fact, it is a message that is always welcome.  At the same time though, there is just something in the way it was all handled that makes the whole feel like the doc’s creative heads had trouble deciding where they wanted the focus to be in the program.  That partial seeming lack of direction does not doom the documentary, but will leave viewers with the slightest sense of discomfort and confusion.  Making up for that sense of confusion and discomfort is the program’s editing.

The editing that went into Ken Burns: Here and There will leave listeners with a better feeling than the story itself.  A key example is Burns’ recollection of an experience from his younger days when he happened along the grave of two men killed by Native Americans in 1775.  As Burns recounts the experience, his narration (of sorts) is paired with the visual of that very grave by itself in a slightly forested setting.  Leading up to that visual is the presentation of a rain-soaked road, covered in fallen leaves.  There is something about the combination of those visuals and Burns’ subtle delivery that makes this moment so powerful and memorable.  It is just one of the memorable moments that makes the program’s editing so noteworthy.  The discussions by Burns’ friends about his loyalty to his home town as viewers get aerial views of the small Rhode Island town have their own impact.  That is especially the case as they make note of how his devotion to the town led other film makers to call the town their home.  It is a validation of small town America that thankfully avoids letting itself get too schmaltzy.  As if all of this is not, the editing that ties vintage footage of Burns filming his documentaries, coupled again with his narration, shows a certain humility from Burns.  That humility will help keep viewers engaged in its own right.  It’s just one more example of the importance of the program’s editing.  When it is considered along with the rest of the program’s editing, the whole pairs with the story to make for at least some more reason to watch.  Taking into account the editing and the general content, the DVD’s pricing proves to be its own positive.

The average price point of Ken Burns: Here & There is $18.99.  That price is obtained by averaging prices listed through Amazon, Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and PBS.  The DVD was not listed through Books-A-Million and Best Buy.  PBS’ lists the DVD at $24.99 while all of the other noted retailers list the DVD at $17.49, below that average price point.  Being that the average and separate listings are primarily below $20, audiences will not break their budgets in buying the documentary, even if only for one watch.  For those more devout fans of Burns, the noted prices are even more appealing.  When the appeal brought on by this element is joined with that generated through the editing and the general story, the whole makes the program a piece that will find at least some appeal, especially among Burns’ most devoted audiences.  

PBS and PBS Distribution’s home presentation of Ken Burns: Here & There is an interesting presentation that deserves at least some attention.  That is proven in part through the program’s main feature.  The main feature is essentially Burns talking about the importance of self-identity, community, and unity, and tying those discussions into his body of work.  The editing that went into the main feature adds its own touch to the whole.  That is because of its ability to further pull listeners into the presentation.  The average and separate pricing for this DVD make for their own appeal.  They show that the DVD is relatively affordable.  That means whether one is a casual Burns fan or more devoted, the money spent is not over the top.  Keeping that in mind along with everything else examined here, the whole makes the DVD a presentation that is worth watching at least once.  It is available now.

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