So for awhile, I have said that I don't have much time for tv, so I don't blog often about it. I usually feel like I am a bit out of touch. But it isn't like I don't watch tv at all. Anyway, these are odds and ends, but things I thought worthwhile.Ernie Ball: The Pursuit of Tone -
(Audience Channel)- This is ostensibly a series of musician interviews on one of those more obscure (but often worthwhile) satellite channels. Episode one was Mike Ness of Social Distortion. I do not know who else will be interviewed, and the Ernie Ball website only mentions Ness. It is clearly not a weekly series, but my understanding is that it will be a series. Ernie Ball, of course, being the well-known maker of guitar strings.
It was good to see Ness given the legend treatment. I feel like he is an underrated modern musician. He chronicled his life from childhood up to what may be his next album, with plenty of appropriate video footage and songs insomuch it feels like a totally authorized documentary.
Ness talked about his influences- Sex Pistols, T Rex, Stones, CCR, Lucinda Williams all get mentions, while he says he currently digs the Rhianna (!) record "Anti" and the Rick Rubin produced Tom Petty album "Wildflowers".
I often think Ness doesn't get the credit he deserves because he's not particularly prolific, and it is apparent from the interview, he is careful to protect the Social Distortion brand. Even releasing the solo albums was a clear distinction in that it wasn't SD music. He seems very particular to what is recorded and released, and I think that is apparent. He also doesn't want to try and ape being a 20-year old forever.
It was very professionally done in comparison to similar shows. I thought it was interesting for Ness fans and well worth it for them. I suspect it is on demand and possibly on social media video share sites, as well as being re-ran. (I have since seen where they have done one on Buddy Guy, and Billy Duffy of the Cult will be next.Jackie Robinson
(PBS)- I probably don't need to recommend a Ken Burns film, but it is four hours, so figure I would give you a nudge. I knew I would probably like it, and I did. What I liked most about it was that it really develops the Robinson story.
Jackie had a Hollywood biopic and everyone generally knows the story (which is fascinating), but I think most people get to "Jackie made it to the Dodgers. There was some bigotry and racism, but they got over it, because he was such a good player and made the team."
It wasn't so easy. There were all the problems we have heard about, but they continued. People might tolerate one black ballplayer, but what happens when a team has more blacks than whites. What happens when there are no black coaches and some teams don't have any African American players, and Jackie is vocal about it?
Jackie becomes an activist, but he is always pushing for more, less willing to keep his mouth shut than say the loved Roy Campanella. Jackie supports Nixon in 1960 as he feels JFK will only keep the party line in the South. Jackie has his heart broken when Nixon refuses to do anything about the arrested Martin Luther King. In '64, he again supports the Republicans- this time Nelson Rockefeller, and again is heartbroken when the GOP nominates Barry Goldwater, someone he cannot support.
There are a lot of uneasy questions. The Pee Wee Reece moment comes up. Burns says it probably never happened. Slate says it probably did
. In any case, white America makes Pee Wee as big of a hero as Jackie. Burns also suggests that Branch Rickey didn't sign Jackie for altruism so much as Fiorello LaGuardia was pressuring the owners.
It is, as you can guess, well done, and a fascinating fuller picture than what we usually get. Well worth the time, and currently available on the PBS website, and surely to be shown in perpetuityRace for the White House
(CNN) Clearly this is a ratings grab- it's an election year, and so we have President Frank Underwood narrating (from the popular House of Cards). In any case, as a political junkie, I am in.
Kevin Spacey narrates and helped co-produce. It is a six part series which picks six elections from the past and highlights. There's some obvious Truman-Dewey, JFK-Nixon, Lincoln-Douglas, the contentious Andrew Jackson- JQ Adams (II) and the modern- Bush-Dukakis and Bush-Clinton.
Each episode is an hour, which for me wasn't enough. In the hour, they cover the cycle from primary to general election, and with such a small amount of time (minus commercials) only really have time to focus on 2 or 3 main points. I get more than an hour may be tedious for others, but that's me.
It is fascinating, and I felt I learned from each episode, despite knowing the subjects very well. Because, it's CNN- the people they got to appear and give insight are the biggest political movers and shakers of our day- Begala, Carville, Matalin, Sununu, Buchanan, Gingrich, Estrich, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark and David Plouffe.
I also thought the re-enactments were well done. Some times on the History Channel or other similar stations, I feel like wrong casting or lack of budget take away from the show. Here, everything was top notch.
Bush-Dukakis seems an odd choice (Bush-Clinton at least has Perot), but I think it was selected (and works well) because it is modern but enough time has also passed to talk about it. Dukakis himself contributes. Dukakis might have been better served by a little bit of Attwater-style attack ads, and his son says he knew the "tank" was a bad idea.
These will likely be re-run and seem to be available. I would certainly recommend for political junkies.
(Note: While my intention here was to focus on recent documentaries I watched, I did catch a BBC film Nazi Titanic
which was something I did not know about. It is about the 1943 German film Titanic, which in typical Nazi propaganda style, wanted to challenge Hollywood's dominance by telling the story of how a ship is sunk because of short-sighted British and Jewish bankers, while a heroic German (!) captain warns of an impending iceberg. It amuses to a great degree that during World War 2, the Germans wanted to win the propaganda war that they went so far as to send entire naval divisions to the filming, instead of you know, the Front, which is where they were likely better served. The Germans spent ridiculous amounts of money on the film, and that is literally only the start of what a disaster it was. Even more ironic is after such an over the top backstory, the film eventually gets banned by Goebells as he thinks it will hurt morale instead of improving it. You can read more here
and I suspect this film is online if you search, or certainly will be shown again on the History Channel)