Thursday, September 18, 2014

Larger Than Life

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.


Karen McFarland said...

You know Pat, hubby and I have been hit and missing this. I hope they'll rerun it because it is really interesting. Thanks for the review.

As you may have noticed, I am lending Murphy out to you for that blogpost. Snag his picture if you wish. Knowing you, this could be fun!

And...I re-subscribed to your blog with another email address I have and it says I'm accepted. Stay tuned on that front. lol. :)

Liz Flaherty said...

I'm watching it, too. I've always been an Eleanor admirer, and this isn't lessening that at all. I do see that maybe she had failings like the rest of us (which is hard for me to admit), but I still see her as heroic in her humanity.

Like you, I keep saying, "I didn't now that", but I'm truly fascinated. I still so much admire their accomplishments but I'm shocked by some of their failings. My husband says sometimes both ends of that spectrum are so extreme it's just a wash.

Jennette Marie Powell said...

This sounds really good! I don't watch much TV but this might be worth making an exception for.

Coleen Patrick said...

Thanks for putting this on my TV radar, Pat. Will have to check it out. :)

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Karen,
I'm glad you're following the blog. Oh unkind of it to have stopped sending you updates.

Fair warning: If I borrow Murphy, I may not give him back.

There's nothing black and white about the Roosevelts except some of the early photos Burns collected.

Meanwhile, I'll get hopping on the workspace/inspiration post, Karen. Thanks for tagging me.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Liz,
You know, all three Roosevelts come across as heroic in their humanity. Oh, but their failings! At one point, I looked at the screen and said, "Wait, what happened to checks and balances?"

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Jennette,

There's something for everyone in the series, and it's packed with food for thought.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Coleen,

We'll never get to all the books, movies, and TV shows on our radar, but I like to collect recommendations because they show me something about the person doing the recommending.