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.