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'Roosevelts' on PBS: Reviews of Ken Burns Special

By    |   Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 01:31 PM

Ken Burns’ documentary about the Roosevelts on PBS outlines the influence of three members of one in the most influential American families: Theodore, Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt. Its wildly successful PBS debut garnered a large audience and mostly favorable reviews from columnists across the country.

In a review of the show, New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger commented on the political undertones of the series, which includes commentary from historians, a common device for a Burns documentary.

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“If the talking heads include a lot of old hands — David McCullough, George Will, Doris Kearns Goodwin — reading their not-too-veiled political leanings makes for an amusing parlor game,” he said. “Some are great admirers of their subjects; others seem to wish that the name Roosevelt had never appeared on a ballot.”

He noted that while the format is familiar, with lots of photographs, letters and commentary from historians, the subject spans a transitional time in US history that includes the evolution from still photographs to film, which gives the piece a fresh feel compared to Burns’ other documentaries.

The Los Angeles Times’ Robert Lloyd seemed to agree, but Lloyd pointed out that the documentary is so comprehensive that a viewer interested in the Roosevelts will be satisfied. He wrote that the way the story is told is timeless.

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“Primarily, it is a story of personalities, and the way that psychology animates policy,” Lloyd said. “At the same time, it's a slow ride through a century of American progress, in telling images, lovingly scanned, and many so clear and vivid as to feel almost contemporary.” 

Variety’s Brian Lowry credited Geoffrey Ward, one of the documentary’s screenwriters, for providing a fresh feel to stories that many Americans already know. Lowry noted there are recognizable parallels that can be drawn between the Roosevelts and other American political dynasties.

“The Roosevelts is a welcome representation, in media terms, of another kind of very, very successful marriage,” Lowry wrote.

USA Today’s Robert Bianco called the Roosevelts on PBS ”completely absorbing” and “splendid.” Bianco wrote that the portrait Burns paints of the three is “complex” and “larger than life.”

The 14-hour PBS series covers the time from Teddy’s birth before the Civil War to Eleanor’s death in the middle of the civil rights movement, a time period of tremendous change in America.

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Ken Burns' documentary about the Roosevelts on PBS outlines the influence of three members of one in the most influential American families. Its wildly successful PBS debut garnered a large audience and mostly favorable reviews from columnists across the country.
roosevelts, on, pbs, reviews, ken burns
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2014-31-21
Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 01:31 PM
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