The Drug Years actually suffers from one of those aspects to mini-series or other kinds of TV documentaries run over and over again for a couple of weeks on TV. It's actually not long enough, in a way. All of the major bases in the decades are covered, and they're all interesting to note as views into post-modern history and from different sides. But it almost doesn't cover enough, or at least what is covered at times is given a once over when it could deserve more time. For example, the information and detail in part three about the whole process and business unto itself of shipping mass amounts of drugs (partly the marijuana, later cocaine) is really well presented, but there are more details that are kept at behest of how much time there is to cover.
Overall though the documentary does shed enough light on how drugs, pop-culture, government intervention, the upper classes and lower classes and into suburbia, all felt the wave of various drugs over the years, and the interplay between all was very evident. Nobody in the film- except for the possibility of small hints with the pot)- goes to endorse drugs outright, but what is shown are those in archival clips about the honesty of what is at times fun, and then tragic, about taking certain drugs. The appearances of various staunch, ridiculously anti-drug officials does hammer some points down hard- with even in such an overview of the drug cultures and America's connection as a whole- as there is really only one major point that is made a couple of times by one of the interviewees. The only way to really approach the issue of drugs is not 'just say no', because as the war on drugs has shown it is not as effective as thought. It is really just to come clean on all sides about all the drugs and the people who may be hypocritical about them (as, for example, oxycontin continues on in the marketplace).
Is it with the great interest and depth of a Ken Burns documentary? No, but for some summertime TV viewing for the young (i.e. my age) who will view a lot of this as almost ancient history despite most of it being no more than a generation ago, as well as for the 'old' who can reflect some decades later about the great peaks, careless times, and then the disillusionment prodded more by the same media that years earlier propagated and advertised it. There are those who might find the documentary to be particularly biased, which is not totally untrue, but it does attempt to get enough different takes on the social, political, and entertainment conditions of drugs interweaving (for better or obvious worse) for enough of a fascinating view.
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