TV documentary: Vietnam in HD. This seven-episode History Channel look at the Vietnam War is particularly illuminating and effective even after all the focus on that great military mistake during its time and in its wake.
The reason why is its use of actual footage and accounts by soldiers and journalists on the ground as its primary material. Even as someone who lived through it becoming a war, the way this series is structured and paced reminds of how easily and quickly our nation was pulled into the disastrous conflict with seemingly good intentions. It graphically demonstrates how what seemed like an effective military strategy was totally wrong and eventually undone by a largely guerilla war.
Plus by using actual battle footage, some of it shot by soldiers themselves, the horror of war becomes hopefully tangible enough to serve as a cautionary regarding war in general and wars in which the indigenous population resists imperialist maneuverings (read: Iraq and Afghanistan.)
Quick-paced and compelling, the only slightly jarring aspect of this show is its narration by Michael C. Hall, who also narrates the fictional Showtime series Dexter that he stars in, making for an unintentionally eerie vibe.
TV series: All-American Muslim. I was hipped to this new show on TLC by a PR writing client who happens to be the great niece of the late deposed Shah of Iran. A former reality TV star herself, Ann Claire, whose show Love is in the Heir aired on E! in 2006, is set to release a quite impressive commercial country album, Honkytonk Princess, early this year. I keep marveling at how Claire, who was born in Iran and raised in part between the US and UK, is as American as I am. It was a good tip as this new show offers an empathetic and smart examination of being Muslim for residents of the city of Dearborn, Mich., which has the highest number of Muslim residents in the nation.
Yes, there are differences in being Muslim and from a nation such as Jordan, which it seems most of the families this series focuses on hail from.
But even just from watching the first episode, it's obvious how American the folks on the show are. Much like the Muslims who work at and run my corner convenience store that I have become friends with. Hopefully the series will have some ameliorative effect on the anti-Muslim sentiment that has arisen in the wake of 9/11.
Its also an enjoyable and sometimes quite affecting TV viewing experience, if not as wacko as most reality shows. Which is likely why its initial high ratings have dropped while Islamophobes have targeted its advertisers, claiming the show is part of the plot to institute Sharia law in America.
Such stupid rhetoric creates all that much more reason to watch the show.
Rob Patterson is an entertainment and political writer in Austin, Texas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2012
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