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Ken Burns has come up with another winner!

  • Sep 28, 2009
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Rating:
+5

I have just finished sampling the first two hours of filmmaker Ken Burns latest PBS offering "The National Parks:  America's Best Idea".  Once again, Ken Burns has outdone himself with a film that at least up to this point has met or exceeded my expectations.  The National Parks are unique and beloved places near and dear to the hearts of tens of millions of Americans.  Burns handles his subject with a great reverence and tangible awe.  To my way of thinking "The National Parks:  America's Best Idea" is television at its absolute best.  I cannot wait to see the remaining 10 hours of this epic documentary.

The first two hour installment of "The National Parks:  America's Best Idea" focuses on how the very idea of a National Park was first conceived by a California Senator in the 1860's.  Concerned by the effects of commercial interests in the Yosemite Valley Senator John Conness advocated for protection of that vast area.  The bill he introduced passed both houses of Congress and with very little fanfare President Abraham Lincoln signed the Bill creating the Yosemite Grant on June 30, 1864.  No one involved in this legislative maneuver could have possibly known that what they were doing was laying the foundation for the National Park System of today.  In fact,  this act would ultimately set a precedent for the 1872 creation of Yellowstone as the America's first national park.  I was also quite surprised to learn that Yellowstone was really the first national park established anywhere in the world.

During this first episode Ken Burns also devotes a significant amount of time introducing us to the man who would one day be known as the Father of American National Parks John Muir.  Muir had a great love of wild places and spent several years studying and exploring in the Yosemite Valley.  He wrote extensively about the geological and natural history of the region.  Muir became convinced that unless pristine wilderness areas were protected by the government they would be expolited and ultimately destroyed by all manner of promotors.  One need only look at how Niagara Falls had been shamelessly exploited to understand precisely what John Muir and his colleagues were talking about.  Muir is generally regarded as the person most responsible for convincing Congress and the American peple to create both Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park in 1890.
 
As you might expect,  in putting together "The National Parks:  America's Best Idea" Ken Burns employs the tried and true formula that makes his films so very special and unique.  Burns utilizes spectacular new footage of the parks embedded with his signature "pan and scan" of vintage photographs, paintingssketches and cartoons.  He goes on to couple his "eye candy"  with illustrative commentary by an impressive stable of experts.  Thus, the viewer receives an astonishing amount of information and a fundamental understanding of why Ken Burns and so many other Americans believe so strongly that the National Park System really is "America's Best Idea". 

As a result of viewing the first installment of "The National Parks" my wife and I pulled out old photographs of our visits to some of America's National Parks.  I suspect this is a scene that will be played out in tens of thousands of homes across America in the coming weeks.  If the first night is any indication the rest of this series promises to be a real treat.  It is always best to view Ken Burns documentaries during the initial showing as it is devoid of any interruptions or fundraising activity.
Next to "The Civil War" "The National Parks:  America's Best Idea" just might turn out to be the best thing Ken Burns has ever produced.  I look forward to the remainder of the series with great anticipation.   Very highly recommended!  
 

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September 28, 2009
Should be required viewing for everyone. Another excellent documentary. Great review. Thanks!
 
September 28, 2009
when i sent out the tweet last night Paul, wondering who was going to write the first Ken Burns National Parks review... my money was on you!! Great work!! I can't wait to watch more tonight!!
 
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Quick Tip by . October 02, 2009
A great series about the National Parks. I highly recommend tivo'ing this. Find it on PBS
Quick Tip by . September 28, 2009
The foresight of some of the people critical to the success of our National Parks is amazing. Another home run by Ken Burns.
Quick Tip by . September 28, 2009
what struck me the most from episode 1, was how little our gov understood the positive magnitude of their decisions to create Nat Parks
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Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Los Angeles, California - 07/14/2008 - PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) announced today that it will air the new Ken Burns documentary series, THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA'S BEST IDEA, in fall 2009. The 12-hour, six-part documentary series, directed by Burns and co-produced with his longtime colleague, Dayton Duncan, who also wrote the script, is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone. As such, it follows in the tradition of Burns's exploration of other American inventions, such as baseball and jazz.

Filmed over the course of more than six years in some of nature's most spectacular locales -- from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska -- the documentary is nonetheless a story of people from every conceivable background -- rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy. It is a story of struggle and conflict, high ideals and crass opportunism, stirring adventure and enduring inspiration -- set against breathtaking backdrops.

"Just as many of the lands that make up today's ...
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