‘The War’ versus our war

[17 July 2007]

By Aaron Barnhart

McClatchy Newspapers

LOS ANGELES—As the author of “The Greatest Generation,” former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw is perhaps the only person who has talked with more World War II veterans in the last 10 years than Ken Burns. So when Burns found himself under attack from Latino groups who felt slighted by his upcoming PBS documentary “The War,” he called Brokaw, who lent a friendly but not entirely sympathetic ear.

“Ken set out to make a documentary that was not representative of every population group,” said Brokaw, who was in town this weekend to promote his upcoming History Channel special on the year 1968. “When I wrote my book I wrote about World War II, I did try to go find Hispanics.”

As the number of Latino groups incensed at their omission from Burns’ film grew, Brokaw agreed to speak to them, “more or less on his behalf,” he said. “They did make a big contribution to the war ... but when Ken and his crew were in Sacramento and asked for people to come forward, no one (of Hispanic origin) did. So it was a little unfair to him.”

But even if “The War,” which Brokaw has seen, is in his words “a great series,” he recognized better than Burns did that it is not arriving in a vacuum. If anything, he said, the awareness among Hispanics to their sacrifice back then has been “heightened by the contributions they’re making now. One of the first people killed in Iraq was not yet a citizen who was a Latino from Los Angeles.”

Then Brokaw turned the tables and interviewed me: What did I think of “The War “? I said that given the present conflict, people would be moved by how World War II, for all its horrors, offered clearly defined enemies and logical outcomes, in contrast to Iraq and Afghanistan, which offer neither.

“It’s not just that,” Brokaw replied. “In that war, everybody had a role. In this war, you’re not asked to do anything. If you don’t have somebody in your family who’s volunteering, there’s no sacrifice.”

Burns’ “The War,” with 28 minutes of film added to feature Hispanic veterans, airs over two weeks beginning Sept. 23 on PBS. Brokaw’s History Channel special will air this fall, timed to the release of his book “Boom! Personal Reflections on the Sixties.”

Other news from this weekend’s activities at summer press tour:

David Duchovny casually let drop a piece of head-snapping news at the end of his press conference to promote his new comedy on Showtime: Another “X-Files” movie is in the works.

“I’m expecting to see a script next week,” he said Saturday. “Chris (Carter) has written it with Frank Spotnitz, and Chris will direct it. Gillian (Anderson)‘s on board, and I’m on board. And that’s all I can tell you.”

A hot cable trend this fall will apparently be shows about people who drive into, not out of, tornadoes. The women-oriented WE channel is rolling out “Twister Sisters,” a six-part series beginning in December that revolves around two severe weather experts who spend storm season out chasing funnel clouds.

And Discovery will air “Storm Chasers” Oct. 16, in which the tornado buffs pursue their quarry in an 8-ton tank. “Storm Chasers” includes extensive footage of Greensburg, Kan., which was devastated by an F-5 earlier this year.

You won’t recognize Star Jones when she returns next month to TV. The former “View” co-host will host a weekday talk show on Court TV—which is changing its name to TruTV—beginning Aug. 20. Jones has shed a lot of weight since we last saw her. One of my female colleagues estimated she was a size 6, while another said she was so skinny she resembled a Tootsie Pop. She wouldn’t share any of her weight-loss story with the press, saying that she had promised Glamour magazine the exclusive on that, and the PR train pretty much went off the tracks after that statement.

The new season of PBS’ “Independent Lens” will kick off Oct. 16 with “Wordplay,” the documentary about crossword tournaments featuring Will Shortz, puzzle editor of the New York Times. Among the nearly three dozen films to air in the series will be profiles of Ralph Nader and the female president of Liberia, examinations of the stem-cell debate and schoolgirl democracy in China, and historical pieces on race riots and the “cool school” of art in postwar Los Angeles.

And in her first major TV role without her sister at her side, Mary-Kate Olsen will join the cast of “Weeds” on Showtime when it returns Aug. 13. Olsen said her role was to play “a good Christian girl with a twist.” The show’s creator, Jenji Kohan, supplied the twist—the character will be a pot-smoking good Christian girl.

“I don’t think Christianity and pot smoking are necessary mutually exclusive,” Kohan said.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/the-war-versus-our-war/