American Experience: Season 1, Episode 1

The Great San Francisco Earthquake (4 Oct. 1988)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary, History
8.0
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 31 users  
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An account of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the subsequent effort to rebuild.

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Title: The Great San Francisco Earthquake (04 Oct 1988)

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An account of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the subsequent effort to rebuild.

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4 October 1988 (USA)  »

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Strangely quite and lacking in energy.
21 April 2012 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

This show is about one of the biggest disasters in recent world history--the enormous earthquake that destroyed San Francisco in 1906. It consists of narration, lots of photos, a few pieces of film and interviews with folks who lived through it that were still alive back in 1988 when it debuted. In addition to discussing the quake, the history of the city in subsequent years are shown--including some really cool footage of the 1915 world's fair held in the newly rebuilt city.

"The Great San Francisco Earthquake" is an episode of "The American Experience" that is at a HUGE disadvantage. Because it was the very first episode, it was a groundbreaker--and many of the later developments in the shows are lacking. As a result, it's not one of the better shows but it's really hard to blame the folks who made this show. That's because a lot of the later polish is missing--with very little music which created a creepy and rather quiet show. Also, while F. Murray Abraham is a fine actor, his delivery lacks some of the energy of later narrators such as David McCullough and David Ogden Stiers. Again, since he was first, he was embarking in new territory and it's not right to blame him. And, overall, despite the show being about a HUGE disaster, it's a bit low in energy and flat compared to the latter shows. Still, it's well made and interesting--and worth your time. Just remember to cut it a bit of slack.


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