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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Definitely the most frustrating of all the House series, 16 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If only I could give this show a split rating! The voting doesn't give that option, so I'll do it here.

I'd give a score of ten for:

-The clothing. I am a clothing researcher and I loved, absolutely loved the array of cotton print dresses, the accurate housedress (that's the dress with the purple paisley stripe print, it should have been worn with the waist tie tied in front to gather the flat front and wrap the full back skirt around), and the cowboys' dirty, dirty clothing.

-The scenery. Gorgeous, majestic, beautiful.

-The Comanche chief. What an awesome guy! The Comanches' behavior was historically inaccurate, but honestly, they simply couldn't have been accurate without "killing" at least a few of the ranch hands.

-The ranch hands. They worked their butts off, were likable and funny, and . . . I really liked them. One of the best things on these shows is seeing the people who "become" their personas- the grandmother on 1940s House, the "sexy milkmaid" from Colonial House. Like them, the cowboys become dedicated to their work, and also to each other. They learned to work as a team, and even Shaun, the youngest, buckled down and took on a job he didn't really want and should no longer have been doing by the time of the cattle drive.

And a score of zero for: -Maura, the maid of all work. She struck a chord with me because I spent six years in academia- learned tons and has already helped me in my career, and I also ran into several examples of people so interested in proving something that they couldn't have cared less about honest scholarship.

In addition, I love learning about women's work. I cook, sew (by hand and machine), and spin and weave- all women's work that gave them economic power, sometimes enough to support an entire family. Because they fed, clothed, and cared for their households, the ranch house could not have existed without women.

A smart woman could turn this into a position of power. Women tended the garden and preserved food- this meant that they controlled the food and could make money by selling surplus. Women sewed- this meant that anyone who needed clothing repaired came to them, and they could make money by sewing for others. Women cared for the sick and injured- this meant that anyone who was nursed back to health owed his nurse a debt of gratitude.

What this very long lecture comes down to is that Maura's actions seemed like an insult to almost every woman in the Old West. She had the chance to BE one of those women and to understand reality of gender and power in that situation, and instead she decided to do her own thing rather than learn from her role as maid. I couldn't help thinking that she's going to do great in academia. Unfortunately I didn't mean it as a compliment.

-Talking about women brings us to . . . Mrs. Cooke! She spent her time sewing quilts and making corncob dolls as flies overran her kitchen and the produce went bad in the garden. Unfortunately, fine sewing and patchwork and painting were what women did to relax after their massive amount of chores were done. Holding a big party the night before the ranch hands had to get up early for the cattle drive, putting out the good china for *Comanches* . . .

If she were only clueless, Mrs. Cooke would be amusing and maybe even likable. Unfortunately, she's evil. Numerous times we see her putting down the ranch hands. She clearly looked down on them as lesser forms of life rather than understanding that they were a vital part of the ranch. She said multiple times that she was afraid that they would attack her daughters- in the twenty-first century with a camera crew around every corner! That was both manipulative and incredibly insulting. Any time she talked about feminism was ridiculous. Being a strong woman does not mean hiding behind your husband while you manipulate him into doing your dirty work and then convince him that the bad results are because the other person doesn't "respect" him. Ugh! I'll stop there to spare my blood pressure. When I read the discussion of this show on the Television Without Pity forums, it came out that apparently there was worse footage of Mrs. Cooke left on the cutting room floor. I can't imagine how! -Finally, Mr. Cooke. He also makes me livid because he is every incompetent administrator who has ever made your life miserable. His chocolate coating of meaningless manager-speak hides a creamy nougat filling of total incompetence. The man is completely under his wife's control to the point that, if their sexes were reversed, I might use the word "abusive." His continual flip-flopping and lack of respect for the ranch hands was pathetic to watch. And his treatment of Jared at the end of the series was downright criminal (literally). The only thing he accomplished was to confirm my theory that anyone who uses the phrase "a sense of urgency" should be set on fire.

I'd like to hope that PBS will use better casting in any more shows of this kind that they do. But "Texas Ranch House" provoked a ton of comments, most of them critical, and that probably just shows the network executives that people are watching. (I hope they remember that angry viewers don't donate.) Until the shows become unbearable, I'll be a sucker for them. And I'm very glad I watched this series, simply because of the ranch hands. They were the ones who made me understand and love a part of history that I'd never been interested in before. Well done, gentlemen- and if you're ever in the Hudson Valley, get in touch and I'll make you a good, historically-accurate dinner (with no beans, I promise).

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Good idea, poor execution, 12 October 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An eight-episode reality show about a group of people trying to reproduce the experience of early New England settlers in 1628? I hoped it would be as promising as it sounds- I'm fascinated by the Hudson Valley Dutch settlers of the same time period. Unfortunately it's more Seventeenth Century Survivor than Plymouth Plantation. The focus is on the squabbles of the twenty-odd volunteers rather than the problems of settlers facing a new and often hostile land.

To begin, the more successful "House" shows were well-cast. The producers found people who were willing to live by the rules and learn from their experiences. Colonial House appears to have been cast mainly with people who either had no idea what they were getting into or who weren't willing to live by the social rules of the period. Those who are, and who do well in the show, get little attention.

The first three families get most of the screen time. The Wyers are likable and Jeff Wyer appears to be a thoughtful leader, but I think they should not have been allowed back on the show after leaving, although they didn't plan to leave. The Heinzes start off nice and eventually become maddening. John Voorhees is sympathetic, but Michelle Rossi-Voorhees seems to have had little interest in historical accuracy. The fourth family, who arrived later with their servant, have no introduction whatsoever and got little screen time, which I thought was unfortunate.

Single people seem more interesting. I'm sorry we didn't get to see the "sexy milkmaid" go from tears of frustration to patiently teaching others to milk. In general the servants seemed more willing to work and less likely to cause drama and following them would have given more of the historical content I would have liked. Jack Lecza was both effective and delightfully stern, but he virtually disappeared after about half an episode.

By the last episode I was disappointed. The producers were clearly more interested in drama than in showing how people really lived. If the evaluation was to recommend that the colony be continued, it should have been a good deal harsher- I wasn't convinced that the colony could survive the winter, let alone turn a profit (maybe if Jack Lecza stayed around . . .). Even the follow-ups were disappointing; they left so many people out. Did Danny Tisdale come to any resolution of his troubles with the project? How did people's lives change after coming back from the seventeenth century? I don't regret watching the show. I did manage to pick up a lot about the time period. I loved the period clothing and other details. And I did like many of the people who appeared. But the end result was awfully disappointing.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Delightful Show, 8 October 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The novelty of throwing a 21st-century family into a previous era would make good television just because of the humor of seeing modern people struggling with wood stoves and funny clothes. But this show goes far beyond that by concentrating on realistic situations that people faced during World War II Britain. This household is put through six years of war in a matter of a few months.

The Hymer family is very likable and everyone is willing to work and live by the time period's rules- a refreshing change from later "House" shows! I really enjoyed Ben as the monitor of the household's fuel usage. They argue, worry, complain, and survive and even triumph by learning to get along within the strict limitations of the period. They live with rationing. The women of the house learn to "make do and mend" their clothing. The whole family has to take refuge several times in the bomb shelter they've built in their backyard.

By the end of the show the whole family has been affected by the experience. The ways in which Lynn had changed her life six months later were especially inspiring.

It's an unromantic and fascinating look at 1940s England. I think it must be more meaningful for people in Ireland and the United Kingdom whose parents and grandparents lived through similar circumstances. I'm American and even I was quite moved by some parts of the show.

Although it's four hours long, the show would be a great resource for the classroom. I love history-based programs, and this is one of the best shows I've ever seen.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Very interesting, 24 March 2007

I honestly thought at first that the documentary must have exaggerated the role that cult practices played in the Third Reich- it starts off by claiming that the Nazis believed they were the descendants of Atlantis, which left me smirking. But the film does a very good job of tying the "Nazi religion" into the Nazi death camps, eugenics programs, and propaganda. It does flag a bit when dealing with astrology near the end, and I would have liked to have learned more about the psychological effect of the realization that the "Master Race" had been defeated. But much of the film is fascinating. It also includes clips from films of Nazi rituals and events that are just jaw-dropping. They make the Nazi party look like the biggest cult of the twentieth century- which, according to the film, it pretty much was.

One point that I would have liked the film to have clarified is that Otto Rahn's death is believed to have been a suicide. Rahn had been assigned to a year of guard duty at Dachau and afterward seems to have been disturbed at the realization of what his nation had become.

Other than that, this is an excellent film- disturbing without being exploitative, and full of details but rarely boring.