Return of the 'Civil War'


September 08, 1997|By Chris Kaltenbach

Best bet There's no contest for what you should be watching tonight, as MPT begins re-running a nine-part series that constituted some of TV's finest hours.

"The Civil War" (9 p.m.-11 p.m., Channels 22 and 67) manages to be great history, great storytelling and great TV -- a feat rarely matched. The series that put director Ken Burns on the map, "The Civil War" is about as close to perfection as documentaries have ever gotten. They way Burns uses still pictures to tell a story, the way personal stories are threaded throughout the narrative, the way historians and other experts offer their insight (especially author Shelby Foote, who deserved an Emmy for his performance), the way the music sets the mood, the way letters from soldiers at the front relate events far more effectively than any textbook could ever hope there's nary a discordant note struck in this 11-hour chronicle of one of the most fascinating -- and devastating -- events in American history.

Tonight, "The Cause -- 1861" traces events leading up to the Confederate shelling of Fort Sumter and looks at the first year of the war. The longest of the nine chapters, it also may be the slowest-moving and hardest to embrace. But that's like saying it's the least spectacular diamond it's still a gem.

Pub Date: 9/08/97

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