Courtesy: Public Media Distribution
Nikola Tesla is one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. It was thanks to his genius that the world enjoys the benefits of alternating current every single day. That was his greatest accomplishment and certainly not his only accomplishment. He was a brilliant person. There is no doubt about that. But for all of his brilliance, he was also a troubled man, as is revealed in a recently released episode of PBS’ hit biography-based program American Experience. PBS Distribution released American Experience: Tesla on DVD late last month. The program follows the rise and eventual fall of one of the modern world’s greatest minds. That story is the most important of the program’s elements. It will be discussed shortly. The information presented throughout the program is just as important to note as the program itself. The interviews used alongside the story’s information round out the most important of the program’s elements. That is because they further illustrate Tesla’s story even more richly. Each element is important in its own way to the program’s overall presentation. All things considered, American Experience: Tesla proves to be one more of this year’s top new documentaries.
American Experience: Tesla is one more of this year’s top new documentaries. That should come as no surprise being that it is a product of PBS. Quality programming is exactly what PBS is known for producing, and this program is no exception to that rule. That is proven in part through its story. The story takes audiences deeper into Tesla’s life and career than most have likely ever been. It presents Tesla as the great mind that everyone has come to know him as being through their history classes at every level. It also presents another side of Tesla that likely few have ever known or been taught about. That side of Tesla is a man who was extremely naïve. If he hadn’t torn up his royalty contract with George Westinghouse, he might have been remembered in a much different light today than he is remembered. At the same time, though that might not be the case. That is because, as is revealed in this new biography, he apparently suffered from at least one major mental disability—obsessive compulsive disorder—if not others that went undiagnosed. It’s anyone’s guess if his many obsessive tendencies ultimately played into his downfall. But considering how many tendencies he had, one can’t help but wonder if there might have been a connection between those tendencies and his ultimate failure. Those tendencies will be discussed later in the discussion on the program’s information. Connection or not, the story presented in this episode of AE is one that likely few have ever learned about one of America’s (and the world’s) most important figures.
The story that is presented at the center of American Experience: Tesla is a fully engaging presentation for audiences of all types. It will interest anyone studying the history of electricity and electrical appliances. It will also interest students and teachers from middle school on through college level classes as well as history buffs in general. That is because it shows a side of Tesla that is rarely taught at any level. While the story itself is so important to the overall presentation of this episode of AE, it is not the program’s only important element. The information that is presented throughout the hour-long program is just as important to note as the story itself. That’s because the information presented in the story is what keeps the story interesting. One of the most interesting pieces of information presented in this story is the revelation of how Tesla first became interested in electricity. The program reveals that Tesla first became interested in electricity as a child one day as he was petting his cat. That story in itself is certain to surprise audiences. Just as surprising is the revelation of Tesla’s naivety. Viewers will learn here that Tesla died penniless of his own doing. This is despite his genius. Tesla allegedly, in his short sight, tore up a contract for royalties for his AC patent that could have made him rich beyond belief. But because of that immaturity and naivety, he would eventually enter a downward spiral from which he would never escape. Also of interest is the revelation that Tesla suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder. He didn’t suffer from just one obsessive tendency, either. Those tendencies included things like staying only in rooms divisible by three when he stayed at hotels (no, that’s not a joke), avoiding human touch and having issues with germs among other issues. There is no way to definitively connect that issue to his eventual downfall. Though, making claims late in his life that he had received communication from Mars likely didn’t help any. It also might have pointed to other potential mental issues along with things like sending packages to Mark Twain after Twain’s death and something having to do with feeding pigeons (yes, feeding pigeons). Taking all of this into consideration, one still might not be able to definitively connect his obvious mental issues with his downfall. But it definitely gives ground to a theory that there could have been a connection between his mental issues and his downfall. One has to wonder at the same time, if OCD had been officially diagnosed during Tesla’s life, and that aside, what could have potentially led to those problems. Those are definitely matters for another episode of AE that could focus on Tesla. Hopefully the people at PBS will take that less than subtle hint and look into doing just that. That aside, it should be clear by now just how important the information presented in American Experience: Tesla is to its story. It paints a picture in this story, of a man that few people know about or about which few have ever known. Even with that in mind, it should be clear why this program’s story and its information are both so important to its presentation. They are just two of its key elements to note, too. The interviews included in the story add even more insight to the program, and in turn depth and enjoyment.
The story at the center of American Experience: Tesla and the information presented therein are both important in their own right to the program’s overall presentation. That is because both by themselves and collectively, they present a picture of Tesla that is and has been rarely presented at any level. They combine to present Tesla both as a brilliant figure, but also as a man with a troubled mind. It is very possible that troubled mind could have played a part in Tesla’s downfall. While it can’t be definitely proven, the number of tendencies that he presented in his adult life form a solid base for a theoretical connection between those tendencies and his downfall. Keeping all of this in mind, the story presented in American Experience: Tesla and its information are both clearly important to its presentation. However, they are not its only important elements. The interviews included in the program are just as important as the program’s story and its information. That is due to the extra depth that they add to the story. Viewers get to hear from academics and scientists who have deep knowledge of Tesla and his life throughout the program. Their personal insight into Tesla and his legacy is so important because they explain much of what is in the program in layman’s terms. This makes the noted information more accessible, and in turn enjoyable, to everyday audiences. That accessibility is the finishing touch to a program that is already interesting just because it presents one of the world’s greatest minds in a rarely presented portrait. When this added, easily accessible insight is joined alongside the program’s story and its information, the end result is a program that for many will prove both engaging and shocking (bad pun fully intended). They also collectively support the statement that this episode of AE is one of this year’s top new documentaries.
American Experience: Tesla is one of 2016’s top new documentaries. It is also more proof of why PBS remains the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming on television. That is evidenced primarily through the program’s story. It is not the standard Tesla story with which most audiences might be familiar. It presents Tesla both as a man with a brilliant mind and a troubled mind. Considering all of the information about that troubled mind—which is another one of the program’s key elements—it can at least be theorized that his troubled mind could have played a part in his downfall. While the story presented in this episode of AE and its information are both key to the program’s presentation, they are not its only important elements. The interviews included in the program are just as important to note. That is because they make the program more accessible for everyday audiences through their layman’s explanations of the story’s information. Each element is clearly important in its own right to the program’s presentation. All things considered, American Experience: Tesla proves to be one of 2016’s top new documentaries and a truly “shocking” presentation. It is available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store. More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online now at:
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