Burns never loses his way on trail of Lewis and Clark

Today's TV

November 04, 1997|By Chris Kaltenbach

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark may have gone where none of their brethren had gone before, but Ken Burns is in totally familiar territory tonight on PBS.

"Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery" (8 p.m.-10 p.m., MPT, Channels 22 and 67) details the incredible journey of Lewis and Clark, who set out in 1804 to explore land where no white man had traveled. Setting out from St. Louis, they were charged by President Thomas Jefferson with exploring the West, mapping it as much as possible, and attempting to discover the fabled Northwest Passage -- an all-water route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific. They didn't find the passage, but that was about their only failure.

Burns utilizes his usual bag of tricks: period-sounding music, experts as talking heads, title cards that break the four-hour film (part two airs tomorrow) into bite-size chunks.

It's a winning combination, as always, and Burns remains a master at his game. Perhaps his neatest trick here is photographing the land in such a way that it still looks remarkably pristine, much as the Corps of Discovery must have first seen it.

"Lewis & Clark" is nothing new for Burns, and I wonder how much longer he can keep using the same filmmaking techniques over and over.

Perhaps the answer is: as long as he has stories as wondrous in the telling as this one.

Pub Date: 11/04/97

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