Judge Victor Valdivia hated the 20th century and isn't crazy about the 21st. He's looking forward to the 22nd, though.
Crisis and armed conflict from Korea to the Persian Gulf.
As < one of the first shows to air on the fledgling history channel back in the mid-'90s, 20th Century paved the way for the channel to become what it was (and now only occasionally is): a showcase for historical documentaries. It was certainly important in its time, and the presence of host Mike Wallace (60 Minutes) does lend some credibility to the series. However, 20th Century With Mike Wallace: America at War has aged poorly and doesn't even come close to some of the better shows History has done since then.
Here are the ten episodes compiled on three discs:
• "Vietnam: A Soldier's Diary"
• "Vietnam Dilemma: Tet and the Anti-War Movement"
• "Portraits of Courage: Air War in Vietnam and the Prisoner
• "America's Elite Forces: A Checkered History"
• "Military Debacles"
• "A Few Good Women"
• "The Changing Face of Warfare"
20th Century isn't a terrible show. If anything, it at least has actual historical content, unlike much of what passes for programming at History these days. It's just rather dull and superficial. There's not much in the way of new context or conclusions, rehashing the same stories and arguments you've already heard a million times if you're even only vaguely familiar with the stories seen here. The file footage, much of which is taken from CBS News' archives, is not illuminating. The information is often too badly out-of-date to be valuable, and the footage is usually the same footage seen elsewhere. The episodes on women in the military and military technology are especially dated, with information and statistics way too old to be of any use.
The one truly redeeming feature of the series are the interviews with veterans discussing their experiences in various wars. These are always worth hearing and the men and women tell their stories honestly and emotionally. There are times when the stories are too horrific to hear, but even then they're necessary, if only to reemphasize just how brutal war at its worst can be. The episodes on soldiers and pilots in Vietnam have the most stories and are therefore probably the best in the series. Nonetheless, even with those moments, they're not enough to make this set worth buying.
Ultimately, this is hardly the most informative or entertaining of History Channel's many war-themed shows. History has done some more comprehensive and enjoyable shows on the Korean War, the Gulf War, and military technology. For that matter, the section on Vietnam isn't even close to the best Vietnam shows that have aired on PBS and other places. You'd do better to track down those series than spend money on this one, unless you're a war documentary completist.
The full-screen transfer and stereo mix are both satisfactory, though the image does look soft and hazy at times. The only extras are text biographies of such military leaders as Norman Schwarzkopf, William Westmoreland, and Douglas MacArthur. The set also comes with a twelve-page booklet with additional facts and statistics.
Guilty of being superficial and out-of-date.
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