Grant surrenders to PBS scrutiny

May 05, 2002|By DAVID ZURAWIK

TelevisionThe celebrated PBS series American Experience is near the top of its game tonight and next Sunday with Ulysses S. Grant, four hours about the Civil War general and later president that surprisingly presents not one fact too many or one battle too few.

Using photographs, newspapers, political cartoons, posters and earnest academicians, the profile gives Grant a hearty historical going-over. What makes the film visually interesting and emotionally engaging is its skillful use of what were once called re-creations. Snippets of color photography showing horses running at dawn, the air in their nostrils rising in great white plumes, remind us of Grant's love of horses. Close-ups of cigars being lit again and again give sensory texture to the notion of 19th-century masculinity that he so embodied. A White House formal dinner shown in all its grandeur measures the incredible journey that Grant and his wife made up from poverty.

Ulysses S. Grant airs at 9 tonight and May 12 on MPT (Channels 22 and 67) and WETA (Channel 22).

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