After having recently finished a quest of sorts to read a biography of each President in United States history, I decided to watch this documentary as a sort of "review" after all I had learned the past few years from the literature. I was pleasantly surprised, as this is a very well-made, engaging little series that would be good for amateur scholars like myself, or for the generalist who knows next to nothing about Presidential history.
Because this series isn't incredibly long (8 one-hour episodes), it moves right along in describing each Presidency. One could say this is more of an American history lesson seen through the eyes of the Chief Executive than it is a bio on any of the subjects. Yet, at the same time, the content never seemed shallow or rush (until the final three Presidents...but more on that in a moment). Otherwise, I thought that the pacing was good and the history/stories were accurate and engaging.
Another thing that really stood out about "The Ultimate Guide To The Presidents" was the graphical presentation. I've never seen a doc so adept at using graphics, text, and visual cues in such a unique way. There is nothing stodgy about the visuals, that is for sure. They pull you in right away and make the history interesting; as such I could see this being utilized in a classroom setting as well.
About the only disappointment I had in the viewing experience is that the final three Presidents (Clinton, GW Bush, & Obama) are only given short shrift and kind of lumped in with each other. I'm not sure why this happened, perhaps for time constraints, but considering that the general public is probably more interested in these men than some of the earlier Presidents, it was a puzzling choice.
Overall, though, I was very impressed by "The Ultimate Guide To The Presidents" and watched all the episode within a matter of days. I would highly recommend it to both scholars of the field and those who may just have a passing interest in the subject. It contains enough interesting and entertaining materials to entertain both crowds.
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