15 October 2016

The American Experience

PBS was an essential part of my childhood.  The influence played on my intellectual development, interests, and personality by the programming made available on Chicago's WTTW is difficult to overstate.  There are so many things that I know and was made aware of, curiosities inspired, landscapes opened up, because of the different children's and documentary series shown there.

In the past eight years, PBS has morphed into something different.  There is still good programming, but it tends much more often to follow some political or ideological trend line.  WTTW has split into four separate sub-channels, one of which is frequently devoted to mutliculturalist programming with heavy social justice themes.  I do not know why the change has happened.  I don't know why, when Jim Lehrer was still running The News Hour, it was a beacon of impartiality and intelligent commentary (the last light in the TV news establishment), but now that he has left, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff have more or less destroyed it.  I don't know why Nova spun off "Nova ScienceNow" with the awful Neil DeGrasse Tyson, or why Bill Moyers was given so many different weekly talk shows for a Sunday platform, or why Chicago Tonight manages (despite its long broadcast window) to be the worst local news program in Chicago.

What can I say?  We live in a decadent age.  Even PBS can't stay good.

Of course, there is still a lot of good programming.  Some of the cooking shows are still quite good, (although Barbecue University was never among them), there are still some great travel programs (Globe Trekker!), and above all the core news magazine and documentary series (American Experience and Frontline) remain excellent.  They may have killed Arthur by extending the series ten years too long, transforming the characters into degenerate millennials, and cycling out the old voice actors with shrill replacements, but at least they're still making excellent 5+ hour documentaries about the lives of Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan.

Which brings me to the very modest point that motivated this post.  I can't help but feel very intense nostalgia when I watch the old opening sequence from American Experience.  It manages, in the space of a minute, to make me feel a kind of piety for this country, and a love for its history.  It is beautifully done.