Earlier this year, PBS and CNN teamed up to release CNN’s 2014 documentary The Sixties on DVD. This latest trip back in time is not the first time that PBS has taken viewers back to America’s most tumultuous and transformative era. It is however the most in-depth look at the era that PBS’ viewers have gotten to date. That depth lies at the center of the series’ success and its overall enjoyment. The depth in question is provided by the interviews and general material covered within each segment. Making this presentation just as enjoyable is that segmentation. Rather than just trying to jam everything into one continuous stream of consciousness sort of presentation as many other outlets do, CNN has shortened the whole of the program, thus shortening it into ten roughly forty-five to fifty minute segments. This better ensures audiences’ engagement from beginning to end. That coupled with each segment’s pacing ensures even more that audiences will remain engaged from one segment to the next and might even lead viewers to want to remain engaged. Whether for the material covered, for the segmentation of the series in whole or for the pacing of each segment, the whole of these elements together shows The Sixties to be one more of this year’s best new documentaries.
The Sixties is one of this year’s best new documentaries hands down. It is not the first time that PBS has delved into what was one of America’s most tumultuous and transformative eras. But it is the most in-depth look at that era that the network’s viewers have gotten yet, even with the documentary being originally aired on CNN last year. It is that depth that lies at the center of the series’ success. The depth in question is provided by a variety of interviews and vintage footage that was originally recorded during the course of the presented events. Even more specifically, the interviewees featured within each segment are not just random celebrities and academics. They were people who were directly linked to the events in question. For instance, the series’ final segment “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘N’ Roll” features commentary from Jefferson Airplane member Grace Slick, Graham Nash of CSN, and famed music critic David Wild among others to discuss the cultural changes of the 60s and how they were being reflected within the music industry and back out amongst those subcultures that were linked to the changes (I.E. hippies, etc). There is also vintage footage of folk legend Joan Baez discussing politics and Jerry Garcia discussing the role of the Grateful Dead (in his younger days) in the world in comparison to the other bands and artists at the time. In “The Space Race,” audiences hear from Glynn Lunney, who was at the time head of the Gemini and Apollo missions, NASA administrator Charles Bolden, and NASA astronaut Mike Massimino among others. Their knowledge and experience within the U.S.’ space program throughout its history makes this segment all the richer and engrossing. They talk about the role that American pride played in the space race, President Johnson’s role in the space race and much more with the end result being yet another example of the series’ content playing an integral role in its success and enjoyment. Audiences even hear in the series’ opening segment “Television Comes of Age” from famed television personality Dick Cavett, Everybody Loves Raymond executive producer Phil Rosenthal, and veteran actress Sally Field among many other notable figures on the role of television in the 1960s from the good to the bad and the downright ugly. It’s interesting to really discover the tight connection that television had on America at the time and vice versa. This is especially the case when examining the role of television in America today. The material presented here is just as in-depth as the series’ other segments and shows just as much why once again the presented material is so important to the overall success and enjoyment of The Sixties. Whether for these segments, the segment centered on The Vietnam War, which reveals that the impact of the war weighed heavily on Johnson during his one term in office, or for the series’ other segments, the material presented throughout each segment via interviews and vintage footage presents The Sixties as one of the most in-depth and insightful pieces ever composed about America’s most influential eras.
The material that is presented through each of The Sixties’ segments proves it to be in the long run one of the most in-depth and insightful pieces crafted yet on what is one of the most important eras in America’s history. That is thanks to interviews with those directly linked to each segment and vintage footage that ties everything together. Of course as important as that element is to the whole of the presentation, it is only one part of what makes The Sixties worth the watch. The fact that it has been separated out into ten standalone segments adds to its success and enjoyment. This seems elementary. But the reality of the matter is that there are some specials and documentaries out there that try to cram everything into one long stream of consciousness sort of presentation, expecting to keep viewers’ attention along the way. CNN didn’t do that here. Each of the series’ ten segments clocks in at roughly fifty-one minutes each. That is about the same length of time as most episodes of PBS’ hit series. What’s more each segment even includes the bumps used to go to and come back from commercial breaks. This helps keep viewers engaged as it breaks up each segment within themselves, thus allowing viewers to take a quick mental break rather than feeling like they have to constantly keep up with everything being discussed. Having those quick breaks and relatively standard run times within each segment, audiences will be more inclined to remain engaged from one segment to the next. Being more inclined to remain engaged, audiences will in turn find themselves taking in the breadth of material presented within each segment and in turn experience for themselves the importance of said material in the whole of The Sixties as well as the segmentation of each segment.
The amount of information provided across the ten episodes that make up The Sixties and the separation of the episodes together makes this documentary a presentation that any and every history buff will appreciate. By themselves, both elements easily make the argument for this documentary series’ place on any critic’s list of the year’s best new documentaries. While both elements play their own important role in the success and enjoyment of The Sixties, the pacing of each segment should also be noted. Given that each segment runs roughly fifty-one minutes in length that offers plenty of room for lots of information. It also makes for plenty of room to add too much information. Luckily for audiences, those behind this series didn’t go that route. Each segment is expertly timed out, spending just enough time on each subject that makes up each segment. Viewers won’t be left feeling like they have to go back and watch one segment or another over again. The end result here is a greater understanding and in turn appreciation for the material presented throughout the course of the series. That understanding and appreciation will lead viewers to agree that The Sixties is well-deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new documentaries.
The Sixties is one of this year’s best new documentaries. Audiences that purchase this three-disc box set will agree with that sentiment. They will agree as they will see for themselves the depth of the information provided with in each of the series’ segments. They will agree just as much in noting the clearly defined separation of each segment from the others and each segment’s run time. Last but not least of all, audiences will agree in noting the pacing taken within each of the series’ segments. All things considered, The Sixties is one of the most in-depth documentaries to be released yet on the history of what is one of America’s most pivotal eras. It is available now and can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=54994166&cp=&sr=1&kw=the+sixties&origkw=The+Sixties&parentPage=search. More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:
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