4 responses

  1. timbabwe
    July 5, 2011

    Most OTR “history” shows were more civic mythology and
    propaganda for the Chamber of Commerce than actual history.

    A few shows transcended the genre.
    Horizons West, a detailed re-enactment of
    the journeys of Lewis and Clark;

    “Democracy in America,”
    where de Tocqueville’s impressions,
    first of the prison systems, then of
    Americans in general are recounted
    in “theek franche accsahnts”.

    Both series are written by historians
    and educators and draw from the primary
    source material. They last a full season of
    a dozen episodes and can take time to develop
    their subject.

    “White Coolies” is an Australian tale of nurses in POW camps,
    taken from the diaries of Bettie Jeffries.
    Gripping, horrific, yet deeply affecting. You get to know all these
    characters over the course of 52 episodes, share their joy discovering
    a bar of soap, grieve when one dies, their isolation and
    slow re-entry into society. The actual physical diaries become a
    character themselves, with great effort
    keeping them hidden from captors,
    dry during monsoon rains and safe in shipwreck.

    Oh yeah. Slip archive.org
    a couple of e-bucks
    for making all this available for free.

    The Firesign Theater deftly parodied
    the whole Cavalcade genre in
    “I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus”,
    during the Wall of Science section,
    recounting the invention of the Pushover.

  2. Yours Truly Johnny Blogger
    July 5, 2011

    Well, I appreciate the shows you mentioned, thanks.

    I do think you’re being somewhat unkind to Cavalcade in particular. They used historians to make sure their stories were accurately told.

    As for these “parodies,” I don’t care much for them. Because they seem the work of small men determined to tear down and belittle the works of great ones.

  3. timbabwe
    July 5, 2011

    Oh, I love cavalcade. I got the cd set and worked my way through every episode one summer. DuPont did their homework. Some of the other series were not as objective. I vaguely remember a portrait of Jay Gould that ignored any controversial elements and had to reach to find enough nice things to say
    about this charter member of the “Villians, Thieves and Scoundrels Union, Local 12″.

    Firesign did not so much parody calvalcade as deconstruct it, long before professors were teaching deconstruction in universities. They employed the structure, the pacing, the voicings to build something much, much greater than their source. In Bozos, a former programmer at a Disneyland-style “Future Fair” hacks the presidential robotronic exhibit. Their previous album employed the structure of Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape”, transposing the setting to an old actor dozing in front of the TV, watching his life unfold in his Hollywood movies.

  4. Adam Graham
    July 5, 2011

    Well, I would agree that there were some shows that did a poor job of educating or being accurate, but I haven’t run into them too much yet. I think the one you’re referring to is Captains of Industry.

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