Over the past few years, History has made a concerted attempt to package its subject matter — history — in ways that might appeal to a new audience. As in Young People with their Digital Addictions and Limited Attention Spans.
Some of these efforts involved violent gritty realism combined with great storytelling ("Hatfields & McCoys," "Vikings") while others relied on fancy computer graphics, salacious tidbits (cannibalism at
"The World Wars," which fittingly premieres on
It's a compelling idea, and there is much to like and learn from the miniseries. Alas, executive producer Stephen David and his creative team seem intent on getting in their own way, cluttering up the inevitably fascinating narrative (offered here by
For reasons both logistical and narrative, the
It is undeniably interesting and illuminating to compare the experiences of the men who would soon engage in such a deadly relationship, but far too much time is devoted to scenes of young Churchill swilling Scotch after the disastrous Battle of Gallipoli or young Hitler staring penetratingly at the camera in a way meant to imply nascent madness. Indeed, far more time is spent discussing the end of the war, i.e. the Treaty of Versailles, than its causes.
By the second episode "The World Wars" is on more solid footing, increasingly dotted with actual footage and knit together with observations from historians and world leaders. These include Colin Powell, Leon Panetta and former British Prime Minister John Major, and it is fine Memorial Day viewing. It's a reminder that history can turn on small moments as well as large.
Many other documentarians, including
But the story of these wars and these men, however imperfectly told, remains compelling, disturbing and important. Enough so that it bears repeating in a variety of forms. Including this one.
'The World Wars'
When: 9 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday