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a great disappointment
I was looking forward greatly to seeing this series, since Cook -- and even more so Banks -- have been central figures in my own research into the scientific discourse of the eighteenth century. Unfortunately, I gave up halfway through the first episode, due to the distasteful -- almost embarrassing -- style of the presenter, Vanessa Collingridge. She seems to be unable to make up her mind whether she's running a game show, presenting a soap-powder commercial, or trying to get a date with the cameraman (or the audience). Her high-pitched, breathless, girlish delivery, her perpetual flirtatious smile, her naively over-dramatic style, made at least this viewer very uncomfortable. They also deprive her of any authority -- which is a pity, since she probably knows quite a lot about her subject. All in all, a great disappointment.
How the West Was Won (1962)
A White Protestant Anglo-Scots version of American history
From the perspective of 2008, this is a "startling" movie, to say the least. I'm writing this a few days after the 2008 Presidential elections, which were preceded by an ugly and venomous campaign. It was all the more amazing to see a version of history in which the country was settled by White Protestants and no-one else. Others on this website have pointed out the purely negative light in which the Native population is portrayed; I'll therefore restrict myself to noting the seeming total absence of any ethnic groups other than white people, evidently of Anglo-Scots descent (Prescott, Stuart, Rawlings). Actually, the pioneers (homesteaders) to a great extent represented groups from northern and central Europe; the railroads were built in large part by Chinese laborers. In addition, the role of African Americans in settling the West is totally ignored in the movie. Amazingly, even the episodes concerning the Civil War involve none but White Protestants! There seems to me to be a link between the "America" portrayed in this movie and the rhetoric of "real Americans" wielded by the Republicans in the elections, particularly by Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Evidently the right wing of the Republican party is still living in 1962, the year this movie was made. Fortunately the elections proved them wrong.