You can get a better tour of Florence in 90 minutes on PBS tonight than most visitors do in a couple of days spent trudging around the Italian city.
You are brought there by an intelligent, inquisitive tourist who happens to have access to the best tour guides Florence can provide -- Bill Moyers. Last night, he spent 90 minutes on the Iran-Contra scandal. Tonight, it's 90 minutes in Florence. And you wonder why he left CBS for PBS.
"The Power of the Past: Florence," which will be on Maryland Public Television, channels 22 and 67, at 9 o'clock, is not just a quick and easy tour of art history's greatest hits.
As Moyers examines the artistic legacy of this city that nurtured the Renaissance, he looks for the philosophical keys that will help us unlock the mysteries of our own time.
Indeed, he does not even focus on the biggest names in Florentine history, such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. He instead looks to people such as Donatello and Masaccio as he searches for the seeds of the Florentine flower, those first steps of individual assertion represented in the move from the anonymity of the Gothic artisan to the celebrity status of the Renaissance artist.
Eventually, he does come to Michelangelo, but what he finds there in the fully opened blossom of Renaissance achievement is another seed, that of modern despair.
"The Power of the Past: Florence" is television that answers one of the medium's highest callings, to take you places you might otherwise never go, to give you a perspective you might otherwise never see.