55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2010
Having spent a memorable holiday in New England last June I realised that my knowledge of the Founding of America and it's fight for independence was limited to the Boston Tea party!
This excellent 6 DVD set combines two programmes made for America TV. What you do detect is that there were more commercial breaks, now of course taken out, but there is a lot of recapping. Indeed the last two sections are a complete rehash of the previous 11.
That said, this is still a most informative and entertaining set of DVDs and at a superb price.
73 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2010
This is a truly amazing series of documentaries about the founding of America. The historians who advised, and who also speak to camera in the films, are highly regarded in their field (Gordon S Wood on the Revolution, for example - how much more authoritative do you want?) and engaging in their presentations. I could have handled quite a lot more of that.
There is a great deal of time given over to the nuts and bolts of the military side of things, however. I imagine this is great for those who are interested in military history, but actually the emphasis on how each battle was fought and who the generals were and what everyone said in their correspondence didn't really amount to an analysis of the military campaigns, and sometimes looked more like a list of Stuff We've Got On This Battle.
Even so, I found the series compelling and I shall certainly watch it several times over, perhaps fast-forwarding through some of the middle episodes. I'd really love to see a more detailed historical/ideological series on this subject, in which some of those historians we see in this series are given a free rein.
Finally, thanks for giving Paine his due!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2012
I'd owned this series for a few months before watching it, and I was very sorry after I saw it, that it had taken me so long! I found it a very interesting and well put together series, which I enjoyed watching immensely.
As others have commented, there were a few "flaws" with the production. There were certainly a few scenes depicted that were used more than once throughout the series (same soldier being shot, same slaves escaping etc) but this is such a minor quibble it would be a shame to be put off for this reason when the history was so well explained and made accessible to all.
The narrator did a fine job and the actors who were portraying George Washington, Benjamin Franklin etc were great at conveying the mood of the moment without saying a word. I found it also very easy to distinguish all the different soldiers without needing to be told who was who, and that was helpful as some documentaries leave you trying to remember who everyone is when they all look alike.
I came away understanding more about the founding of America and I believe that anyone who wants to genuinely learn more about this fascinating period (and is not in posession of the belief that they know everyting) will take a lot of knowledge away with them. Very good value for money.
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2010
Every history of the American revolution seems to miss out something and those on TV/film are usually the worst offenders, but I give this one high marks for including events that are avoided in most others, such as Washington's punishment by bare-back lashing of misbehaving soldiers and the executions of discontented troops who on different occasions either faced a firing squad or hanging when they objected too strongly about having to go without food for weeks and pay for months. These episodes from the History Channel also make it clearer than most that it was not the efforts of Washington's army that 'won' the war but a virtual invasion of America by France, with a massive force that Washington and the smaller American army hurriedly marched to join, and after which MPs in London simply voted to end hostilities against Americans and return British ships and troops home where there were also fears of an invasion by France across the Channel. The intervention of Spain in America, however, as with most other histories, is not mentioned, although it was Spanish troops, not Americans, who were opposing the British to the south, 'marching through Georgia' and occupying Florida at the time.
41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2010
For the money you get quite a bit. Unfortunately you get too many recaps and ropey reconstructions.
The battle scenes are recreated with such a small budget that you get a completely misleading impression of the numbers and hence the scale. Recreations of the actions of the major personalities are crude mimes; get bad news: sweep the documents of your table.
The TV origins mean constant recapping of what happened before someone tried to sell you Coco Pops. Without the actual adverts this is otiose and annoying.
I'd say it's aimed at the level of a 12 year old. No offence to 12 twelve year olds.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2011
I read the reviews on here and despite some of them being negative i purchased this box set and boy am i glad i did. It made fantastic viewing, great detail, great video footage recreating those moments in history, with superb input and commentary for historians, authors etc.
Have to say i found it highly informative and thoroughly captivating. I'd absolutely recommend it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2013
This is a bundle of two sets of DVDs - a series of four on the American Revolution / War of Independence and a pair, "Founding Brothers", on the formative decades of the new motion after independence was secured. I approached them with fairly low expectations and found tem surprisingly good.
The American Revolution set, while telling the story from the rebels' viewpoint (naturally enough, they were the winners) is informative and balanced. It doesn't give a stereotyped "tyrannical Brits, mad king, heroic Americans" version and is fair to all sides and to key figures. The frequent comments by historians are illuminating. It's not perfect - cheesy opening, low cost production values (major clashes represented by a dozen men in red coats shooting at a dozen men in blue), over-frequent repetition of establishing shots, and enough recaps to make sure the most memory-challenged viewer knows what's going on. This seems to be the approach of all too many TV popular history programmes, but at least it's saved by the quality of the narrative and by the "talking heads" contributions.
The "Founding Brothers" episodes have less of these annoyances, perhaps because the setting is a more intimate one of personal and political interactions, rather than battles and military campaigns. It tells of the framing of the US Constitution and why this was deemed necessary if the new nation was to survive, of the years following its implementation, and of the differing visions that led to political struggles (sometimes of extreme, even terminal, viciousness) between men who had hitherto been friends and collaborators. Men who accomplished much but have often been overshadowed by the towering figures of Washington and Jefferson, men such as John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, are given due attention and appreciation. The immensely important but complex and contradictory Thomas Jefferson is examined and not uncritically, and issues such as slavery are not glossed over. This is a lesser-known period of history for many, and it is well dealt with here.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2013
This 6 DVD box set covers the period and topic in usual History Channel style. When viewed in this format (ie without the constraints of televisual scheduling for adverts and episode length) the serial repetitions and summaries become tiresome. Removing duplicated content would reduce the time told to tell the story by approximately 10%.
The sole benefit of the style, is reinforcing key points; but the penalty in terms of continuity is too high a price to pay for enforced rote learning!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 15 October 2011
This is a shockingly bad documentary.
What this consists of is narration over filmed re-enactments. There is no sense of place or context in the re-enactments and a lot of the same footage is used over again to re-enact different points in history. In fact I saw the same scene of runaway slaves shown 3 times to supposedly re-create 3 different historical periods(this was in the 1st DVD only).
If you wish to watch 20 members of a re-enactment society re-create the battles of Lexington & Concord and out of work actors portray historical figures and scenes then this is for you.
If you wish to learn about this interesting and important period of history I would strongly recommend you use the 12 hours that this DVD lasts in reading some good books on the subject, as you would learn a lot more an be much more entertained.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 3 June 2012
When my son and I began to watch this we both concluded after very few minutes that it was really poor. We persevered but it got no better. Frankly if you want superficial ,subjective second-rate US academia commentary then this is for you. Don't bother, instead buy the John Adams HBO series which is better produced reflects the real angst of a colonial population finding its way to revolution with all the differences and difficulties well displayed.