Do you like television dramas about noble but flawed characters? What if those characters are cursed with overlarge egos and the kinds of physical or psychological scars that would banish lesser mortals from the big stage? What if they betray those closest to them but show empathy for the average Joe? Can a character be both charismatic and a windbag?
This post isn’t about Game of Thrones or House of Cards. I’m eight hours into Ken Burns’ latest documentary, The Roosevelts: An IntimateBiography, and I’m hooked. Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt had a striking effect on their families, country, and the world.
This series relies on Burns’ familiar documentary format, making use of still shots, newsreels, video, journal entries, and snippets from correspondence with voice-overs by actors and commentary from historians. (Historian George Will can’t hide his distaste for Teddy’s and FDR’s executive-power grabs. Historian Geoffrey C. Ward describes Franklin’s battle with polio with such feeling, I Googled Ward and learned he’d contracted polio in India as ten-year-old.)
This seven-part, fourteen-hour series started Sunday and finishes up Saturday. (Saturday the 20th is a marathon showing in some markets. Start your recorders.) It follows the Roosevelts from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. That means, of course, it covers more than a century of U.S. and world events.
I must have muttered, “I didn’t know that,” to my husband a dozen times as we watched the first four episodes. You won’t forget Teddy’s betrayal of William Howard Taft nor the death of his son Quentin in World War I. FDR’s maneuvering behind the scenes as Assistant Secretary of the Navy show his ambition, and the scenes of his convalescence from polio show his humanity.
Must end this post now to watch the next episode of The Roosevelts!
Watch it along with me. You won’t be disappointed.