Can you tell America's story in 12 hours minus commercials? History (formerly the History Channel) thinks so.
Using live-action re-creations, narration by Liev Schreiber and observations from well-known public figures such as Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani and Sheryl Crow, America: The Story of Us will attempt to take us from Jamestown to date in six nights between now and the end of May.
A news release from History tells us that "live action re-creations of historical events were shot on three different continents with 1,641 actors, extras and stuntmen and over 250 production crew members creating scenes of war, the westward expansion, the slave trade, and some of the largest engineering and construction projects ever undertaken by humans."
Bigger than the actual projects they're re-creating? Really?
The series started Sunday with the first two segments, "Rebels" and "Revolution" (which will be repeated from 8-10 p.m. Wednesday), and while they certainly hit the high points, they also felt rushed and, sometimes, obvious.
In the first hour, the talking heads tell us that America was founded on the idea of distrusting government, as a melting pot fueled by immigrants strength and ingenuity, as a place that doesn't turn the other cheek when someone smacks us. Well, duh. If you've grown up in America, you've heard that your whole life. Tell us something we don't know.
You also have to wonder why the creators of this series thought celebrities should be sharing their observations. Who cares what they think? It would have been smarter – and much more illuminating – to have history teachers from around the country offering their thoughts.
History only made the first hour available to critics, so I haven't seen the rest of America. But I think it ultimately will succeed and be worth watching because most of us need a reminder of history we were never taught – like about the 19 black workers who were among the settlers at Jamestown – or have forgotten, like Crispus Attucks being killed at the Boston Massacre.
And because even when told quickly, America's history is a great story.