PBS continues to mine the archives of commercial TV to create new documentaries about its competitor. In 2002 they created a program titled "Pioneers of Television". This was followed on 2008 by a four part series "Pioneers of Prime Time". This new four-part, four-hour, series focuses on new shows, while briefly remembering the past. Depending on your age, you probably are familiar with either the shows of the 1950s and early 60s ("Father Knows Best", "Leave it To Beaver", "The Rifleman" and "Dragnet"). Or the newer series - mostly on cable ("The Sopranos", "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "24", "House" and "Weeds"). Not having cable TV, many of the newer shows were unfamiliar to me, but may not be for you. Still I'm willing to bet that, after watching this series., there will be shows you've only heard of that you'll look for either on TV, hulu or on DVD sets.
The series is divided into chapter on the "man of the house" (from "Father Kows Best" to "All in the Family" to Tony on "The Sopranos"), "The Independent Woman" (from Lucy and Mary Tyler Moore to Roseanne and on to "The Good Wife", "Desperate Housewives" and "Weeds"0, "The Misfits ("Taxi", "The Office", "30 Rock" and "Glee") and "The Crusader" (from Joe Friday on "Dragnet" to "Homicide: Life on The Street", "NYPD Blue" and on to "Dexter" - with sops at "MASH" and "Superman").
There are many interviews with actors, directors and writers (and Rob Reiner fills all three shoes) as well as short clips. The story is interesting and will certainly appeal to pop culture folks (of which I count myself among them.)
There are few weakness which resulted in my four star rating. For one, the font used to identify those being interviewed (important in cases of writers or directors who are not easily identified by their face) is way too small, too fancy, and in yellow, making them hard to read. And they go by fast! The other issue is the music. Possibly because of "rights" issues, there is virtually no original music from the shows to accompany the clips. There is a completely new score. Imagine seeing the title scene from "The Rifleman" or "NYPD blue" without the iconic theme, I think I heard ONE original TV theme in the four hours. These TV themes are part of the DNA of classic TV shows.
The bonus feature - there is just one - consists of interview outtakes with 20 of those interviewed in the series. These total 35 minutes so they are aren't - individually - very long but still fun to watch.
If you missed the series when it aired on PBS, you'll enjoy watching it on DVD. And you will probably find yourself making a list of series you want to buy on DVD sets.
I hope you found this review both helpful and entertaining.