Flashback Friday-The Miniseries- The 60’s (1999), The 70’s (2000) & Into The West (2005)

Once upon a time, television was ruled by miniseries.

Over the past fifteen years, some very interesting miniseries have aired.

The first miniseries I’m going to talk about is The 60’s (1999). The focus of the miniseries is two different families who are equally affected by the events of the decade.  The Herlihys are the average middle class Caucasian family from Chicago.  Their children go on to live wildly different lives. Michael (Josh Hamilton), the oldest, joins the civil war movement. Brian (Jerry O’Connell), the younger son, enlists in the Marines and fights in Vietnam. Katie (Julia Stiles) discovers she is pregnant after a one night stand and joins a hippie commune after her parents throw her out of the house. The Taylors are an African-American family from the South. Willie Taylor (Charles S. Dutton) is a respected reverend. After he is killed, his son Emmet (Leonard Roberts) joins the Black Panthers.

The 1960’s was a time of great change in America. The pseudo-Victorian mirage that was the 1950’s and early 1960’s was going to be ripped away to reveal the dark and angry underbelly of American culture. What this miniseries does well is that it focuses not just on the young generation, but on the older generation who are struggling with the changes that have turned their world upside down.

A year later, The 70’s (2000) aired.

Four young people are about to graduate college. Their world is their oyster. But the world, as they know it, will change by the end of the decade. Brother and sister duo Byron and Christie Shales (Brad Rowe and Amy Smart) have been friends with Eileen Wells (Vinessa Shaw) and Dexter Johnson (Guy Torry) for years. But their relationships will be tested and their lives are about to become rocky.

(I usually insert a trailer or a clip here, but there is none to be found).

If the 60’s was the decade that broke America’s conformity, the 70’s obliterated what was left of that conformity. The decade of Polyester suits, Disco, Nixon’s resignation, etc forever changed America and the world.

The final miniseries is Into The West (2005).

Set from the point of view of two families, one white and one Native American, the miniseries is the story of how America’s western front was shaped by both groups. Unfortunately, violence, mistrust and prejudice remain as the generations pass, even as the two families are united in marriage.

What I like about this program is that instead of telling a one sided story of this era (i.e. Caucasian good, Native American bad), the stories are well rounded. Both sides have the ability to tell their story. What I also like is the diversity of the cast and the the story that is watchable, but also sadly historically accurate.

I recommend all three.




Flashback Friday- King Kong Triple Feature- 1933 & 1976 & 2005

There are only a hand full of movies that are so iconic, that it only takes one reference or one image for the audience to know the film.

One of the films is King Kong.

The original King Kong premiered in 1933.

Ambitious director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) needs to finish his next film. But to finish the film, he needs to find the film’s leading lady. The lucky (or should I say unlucky) actress is Ann Darrow (Fay Wray). What Carl, Ann and the rest of the film crew do not know is that the island’s most infamous resident is a giant gorilla who takes a liking to Ann.

I personally have mixed feelings about this film. On one hand, considering the era that the film was made, the special effects are amazing. But on the other hand, the film could be construed as racist and Ann’s capture by King Kong can easily be seen as the typical damsel in distress captured by the beast.

In 1976, the film had it’s first remake. Jessica Lange is the woman captured by the beast.

While sticking closely to the plot of the original film, this adaptation takes the plot in a new direction. Instead of being part of a film crew, the members of the expedition are looking for the gorilla. Upon capture, the gorilla is to be part of an exhibit. The film casts a spotlight on environmental issues, especially the abuse of animals who have been captured to be used in zoo like exhibits.

In 2005, Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson directed the most recent version of King Kong. Returning to the traditional telling of King Kong, Jack Black plays Carl Denham and Naomi Watts plays Ann Darrow.

While special effects have caught up with the story, Ann is still the damsel in distress. as much as I enjoyed the movie, I wish Peter Jackson and the screenwriters could have written Ann as a stronger character instead of just blindly retelling the story.

Do I recommend them? For the 1933 film, because it is a revered classic, yes. But the female lead in this film, no matter what incarnation is still the typical damsel in distress and for that reason, I have trouble watching them.

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