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Tuesday, Apr 23, 2002

news reels

"But it's the History Channel that must really bother PBS, and not just because the upstart flaunts its illiberal jingoism and paranoia. As its obsession with shocking secrets suggests, the History Channel has much in common with the New York Post—and Oliver Stone. PBS treats making TV shows as if it were noble but tedious missionary work; the History Channel manages to create some comical, intriguing visual rants about "history"—and at the same time attract viewers. If the channel broadcasts downright bunk from time to time, it also curates vast quantities of old—and fascinating—newsreel footage. Sometimes all it takes to make an evocative show is jumpy period film of Antarctic explorers or the angelic-looking Alexei Romanov. With this material available, broadcasting vastly overhyped School of Burns documentaries—wide-angle beauty shots and buttery close-ups of Ivy League professors—begins to seem like a sucker's game."