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Peter Coyote

Television review: 'Prohibition'

Television review: 'Prohibition'

It's fall on PBS, when the big documentary blockbusters heave into view; and nobody builds them bigger than Ken Burns, whose name always seems to be part of the title, even when it isn't: "Ken Burns' Baseball," "Ken Burns' Jazz," "Ken Burns' Civil War." Burns likes to swallow huge subjects whole — American subjects — and this year he brings us "Prohibition," the story of the 14-year misrule of the 18th Amendment and of the decades-long temperance movement that preceded it.

It's a great subject with many present-day echoes, as the war on drugs ever more loudly raises questions of legislated morality, missed tax revenues and business...