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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Roosevelts Rule PBS

Written by Jon Williams

The latest film series from acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History takes an intimate, in-depth look at one of the most prominent political families in American history. It entwines the tale of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, with his cousin Franklin, 32nd President of the United States, and Franklin’s First Lady, Eleanor. Airing over seven nights in September, it proved to be one of PBS’s most popular series, and is already available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Filmmaker Ken Burns has become known over the years for this sort of penetrating looks at various aspects of Americana. His first such film was 1981’s Brooklyn Bridge, an adaptation of David McCullough’s book The Great Bridge. That film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary, a feat Burns would repeat in 1985 with another film about a New York City landmark, Statue of Liberty. While neither film won the Oscar, Burns has won a number of Emmy Awards for his work over the years, with the first coming for The Civil War, one of his best-known and best-loved documentary works. He has also tackled such subjects as Baseball, Jazz, and The National Parks, among many others.

Of course, even aside from the documentaries produced by Burns, PBS is known for its quality programming. NOVA, for instance, is a science-focused show that has been in production for 40 years, with close to 800 episodes to its credit. The current season tackles such newsworthy issues as vaccines and computer/device hacking. Frontline is another long-running PBS show (31 years) taking on any number of current events and public interest topics, while Nature (32 years) is known, of course, for its documentaries on various aspects of nature. While shows like these give PBS an analytical, non-fictional bent, the channel is also well-known for its classic Masterpiece dramas and its educational children’s programming, such as Sesame Street. And this is just a small sampling of everything PBS has to offer.

With The Roosevelts airing so recently and garnering so much attention, it’s likely to spurn even further interest in these towering historical figures. Fortunately, there is no shortage of resources you can offer your patrons, particularly on audiobook. Wilderness Warrior by Douglas Brinkley examines at Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation efforts as president, while Lion in the White House looks at his life overall. Young Mr. Roosevelt takes on FDR’s early influences, while No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin portrays his relationship with Eleanor. And the First Lady’s story, fascinating in its own right, is told in her own words in The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt.

For more, visit our website and search using terms such as ‘Roosevelt’ and ‘FDR.’ You’ll find plenty of materials, both audio and video, to satisfy the interests of history buffs young and old. And remind your patrons that, beyond your shelves, a great deal of PBS and Ken Burns programming can be found on hoopla.

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