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In England, we know him from his long-running (about fifty years) radio programme, Letters from America, a little fifteen minute gem, once a week on BBC radio. In that programme he spoke about various matters in America, all in an off-the-cuff technique; it was like a 'fireside chat'. He had a unique, lovely voice, ideally suited for radio; his appearance on television is just as benign.
Here, it has been transferred to television, with a series of one hour programmes covering the main features of American history. You'll learn about the Pilgrim Fathers, independence and the Philadelphia Convention, the Civil War, various other wars, the political system and so forth. It is a fascinating, relaxing programme, all accompanied by some fine background music.
However, this series was made in 1972 and the DVD transfer seems to have had no re-mastering at all. It is scratchy and faded - dated.
Alistair Cooke does preface this series with the line 'A Personal History' and in many ways it is so - he often brings in little anecdotes along the way, describing the places he's seen and the people he's met.
It's all very interesting but, in my view, it has a long way to go to reach the heights of a Ken Burns masterpiece, such as his The West or The Civil War. Ken Burns' epic documentaries are on a different level altogether; they combine greater research and documentary pictures and interviews, with better, more haunting music. I would recommend The West.
Of course, Alistair Cooke made his series twenty years before Ken Burns, and was a pioneer in his own way; perhaps he inspired Burns.