Ric Burns (brother of the famed documentarian Ken Burns) presents an exhaustive history of New York City from the settling of the area by the Dutch to the attack by terrorists nearly 400 ... See full summary »
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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Series cast summary:
...
 Narrator (8 episodes, 1999-2003)
John Steele Gordon ...
 Himself - Commentator (7 episodes, 1999-2001)
Kenneth Jackson ...
 Himself - Commentator (7 episodes, 1999-2001)
Robert A.M. Stern ...
 Himself - Commentator (7 episodes, 1999-2001)
...
 Himself - Commentator (7 episodes, 1999-2001)
(6 episodes, 1999-2001)
Brendan Gill ...
 Himself - Commentator (6 episodes, 1999-2001)
Calvin O. Butts III ...
 Himself - Commentator (5 episodes, 1999-2001)
Robert A. Caro ...
 Himself - Commentator (5 episodes, 1999-2001)
Peter Hamill ...
 Himself - Commentator (5 episodes, 1999-2001)
Alfred Kazin ...
 Himself - Commentator (5 episodes, 1999-2001)
David McCullough ...
 Himself - Commentator (5 episodes, 1999-2001)
(5 episodes, 1999-2001)
Luc Sante ...
 Himself - Commentator (5 episodes, 1999-2001)
(5 episodes, 1999-2001)
Craig Steven Wilder ...
 Himself - Commentator (5 episodes, 1999-2001)
(4 episodes, 1999-2001)
(4 episodes, 1999-2001)
...
 Himself - Commentator (4 episodes, 1999-2001)
...
 Himself - Commentator / ... (4 episodes, 1999-2001)
(4 episodes, 1999-2001)
Daniel Czitrom ...
 Himself - Commentator (4 episodes, 1999)
(4 episodes, 1999)
Peter Quinn ...
 Himself - Commentator (4 episodes, 1999)
Marshall Berman ...
 Herself - Commentator (3 episodes, 1999-2001)
...
 Himself - Commentator (3 episodes, 1999-2001)
...
 Himself - Comentator (3 episodes, 1999-2001)
Josh Hamilton
(3 episodes, 1999-2001)
David Levering Lewis ...
 Himself - Commentator (3 episodes, 1999-2001)
...
 Himself - Commentator (3 episodes, 1999-2001)
Carol Willis ...
 Herself - Commentator (3 episodes, 1999-2001)
Caleb Carr ...
 Himself - Commentator (3 episodes, 1999)
James Hazeldine
(3 episodes, 1999)
Phillip Lopate ...
 Himself - Commentator (3 episodes, 1999)
...
 Himself - Commentator (3 episodes, 1999)
(3 episodes, 1999)
John Kuo Wei Tchen ...
 Himself - Commentator (3 episodes, 1999)
Joshua Freeman ...
 Himself - Commentator (2 episodes, 1999-2001)
Ruth J. Abram ...
 Herself - Commentator (2 episodes, 1999)
Thomas Bender ...
 Himself - Commentator (2 episodes, 1999)
Carol Berkin ...
 Herself - Commentator (2 episodes, 1999)
(2 episodes, 1999)
Margo Jefferson ...
 Herself - Commentator (2 episodes, 1999)
Frederic Kimball
(2 episodes, 1999)
David Margulies
(2 episodes, 1999)
Gretchen Sullivan Sorin ...
 Herself - Commentator / ... (2 episodes, 1999)
(2 episodes, 1999)
Bella Abzug ...
 Herself - Commentator (2 episodes, 2001)
Frances Golden ...
 Herself - Commentator (2 episodes, 2001)
Cheryl Greenberg ...
 Herself - Commentator (2 episodes, 2001)
Ada Louise Huxtable ...
 Herself - Commentator (2 episodes, 2001)
...
 Himself - Commentator (2 episodes, 2001)
...
 Herself - Commentator (2 episodes, 2001)
(2 episodes, 2001)
Ray Suarez ...
 Himself - Commentator (2 episodes, 2001)
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Storyline

Ric Burns (brother of the famed documentarian Ken Burns) presents an exhaustive history of New York City from the settling of the area by the Dutch to the attack by terrorists nearly 400 years later. Told in a sentimental tone, Burns weaves a lyrical tale of the great metropolis that encompasses not only the city's streets, but also that of the history of America. Though around fourteen hours in length, this epic documentary presents a thoughtful, entertaining look at our relatively young country. Written by Chris Bogner

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Release Date:

September 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

American Experience: New York - A Documentary Film  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Filming took nearly four years and over 170 days including interviews, shooting archival footage, and New York landscapes. See more »

Quotes

voice: From the ruins, lonely and inexplicable as the sphinx, rose the Empire State Building and, just as it had been a tradition of mine to climb to the Plaza Roof to take leave of the beautiful city, extending as far as eyes could reach, so now I went to the roof of the last and most magnificent of towers. Then I understood - - everything was explained: I had discovered the crowning error of the city, its Pandora's box. Full of vaunting pride the New Yorker had climbed here and seen with dismay what...
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Connections

Features In the Street (1948) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A powerful, fascinating, and tremendously educational series
26 September 2014 | by (US) – See all my reviews

An extraordinary 8 part, almost 18 hour history of New York City; it's politics, economics, architecture, and above all humanity, from the first arrival of white settlers. (I would have been curious to know more about the Native Americans who had been living there, but the focus is on New York as a city, which arguably started with the arrival of the Dutch).

I was born and lived the first half of my life in the city, was always passionate about it, and yet the program had so much fascinating information I didn't know – not only about the distant past, but the complex back-room city politics (some disastrously wrong headed, even aggressively racist) that were going on in my early years.

It's always lively, often touching and asks important questions about what makes a city and why they're so important -- as well as "how can a city keep 'modernizing', but not lose it's soul?" It also forced me to abandon some supposed "facts" I'd been brought up with as a New Yorker, like the idea that names of immigrants were commonly changed at Ellis Island.

The last episode, made after the rest of the documentary, is devoted entirely to the Word Trade Center; it's inception, it's building (and the complex, sometimes dark politics behind it), it's successes and failures as architecture and urban planning, and of course it's horrifying demise. While it's the most emotional of the episodes, it does feel a bit apart from the others, spending it's entire length on one very focused subject. Not a problem, other than a bit of change in style.

If one had to nit-pick it would probably be the use of hyperbole in some of the narration. I lost count of how many crises were 'the worst the city ever faced'. But that is a tiny fly in a ton of ointment.

The images, still and moving, are beautifully chosen (great seeing moving images from the turn of the century New York), the various expert talking heads are passionate and articulate, and I learned so much more than I expected.

It's interesting that film-maker Ric Burns' brother Ken has received so much more attention. I find Ric's many documentaries often the equal of Ken Burns' work, and indeed sometimes find them more emotional.


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