I am currently watching the mini-series finale of the History Channel show "America: A History of Us" (and jumping back to the Stanley Cup Finals during commercials).
I have seen most of the series, only missing out on portions of it, and for the most part it has been pretty well done. However, as par for the course on everything the History Channel does these days, there are a few things that could have been changed to make this a lot better series.
Example one was just flashed on the screen as I type this: people like Michael Douglas giving interviews about the historical importance of given events. Why do I care what Michael Douglas has to say? A few minutes ago the comedian Margaret Cho was giving her accounting of how important the '60s were. What possible reason would I have for listening to her words? Based on most commentary I have heard from her over the years, she could very well be legally retarded.
Other notables include former NFL star Michael Strahan, the intellectually stimulating Al Sharpton, Meryl Streep, and one of the stars of the reality show "Pawn Stars." These voices are heard ad nauseum for commentary on everything from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam and the moon landing.
There have been a few exceptions; I have seen General David Patraeus interviewed, as well. Guess how many times? Twice, as far as I've seen. Yet when the topic of the show is the Vietnam war, apparently news anchor Brian Williams is considered more of an expert than a man who many consider to be one of the greatest military minds in the world.
This is the point we have come to in America; the "story of us" is that we care more about what a Hollywood celebrity has to say than a subject matter expert -- not just on normal television, but on a channel claiming to be devoted to historical knowledge, as well.
Though I think I understand why History Channel would choose to go this route (ratings, anyone?), there should be a point where producers make a decision regarding the direction of their network. And I am pretty sure that point came several years before shows like "Ice Road Truckers" were given the green light on a network that used to run documentaries on, get this, historical topics. A crazy idea, to be sure.
We are at the point in the show now where they are talking about the explosion of technology surrounding personal computers, which gives an opportunity to show some wicked-cool 80's hair styles. This transitions into footage from 9/11 and the reflection of thoughts regarding that event and its effects on the country.
Overall, like I said, the show has been pretty good. One of the reasons I have enjoyed it is brought to mind now watching the 9/11 footage -- they have completely ignored ridiculous conspiracy theories. This is reassuring and gives hope that the History Chanel has not completely jumped the shark in whoring itself for ratings. Granted, they are now giving air time to designer Vera Wang for thoughts on post-9/11 New York, but hey, we can't win 'em all.
The major theme of the show, America's character, is readdressed with the closing segment. I second the notion that it is the character of this country that makes us great, but would finish by positing a question that I briefly touched on earlier: if there is a significant portion of this country that gives more credit to celebrity than it does to accomplishment, then how is our character defined now? Something to consider, especially given the current political climate.
Regardless of your answer, it is clear that a significant portion of the population differs greatly from however you feel. Which is great, considering debate is how the country started. Just beware of those who say we need to "put differences behind us" and that the "time for debate is over." Usually the only time everyone agrees, it's called a mob.