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Case Number 24048: Small Claims Court

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James May's 20th Century

Acorn Media // 2007 // 174 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 27th, 2012

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson's 20th century experience involved lots of NBA Jam.

The Charge

Captain Slow explores the innovations that made the modern era.

The Case

James May of Top Gear fame lands some lucrative part-time work for the BBC, offering his impressive presenter skills in the service of heaping praise on some of mankind's most impressive technological achievements in the 1900s.

James May's 20th Century consists of six 30-minute episodes on two discs:

• "Honey, I Shrunk the World"
What were the century's biggest innovations in transportation and communications that brought humans closer than they've ever been?

• "Blast Off!"
A look at mankind's adventures in space. Straight up engineering porn.

• "Body Fantastic"
Synthetic hearts, prosthetic devices, and all manner of swappable body parts!

• "Take Cover!"
James May disputes the saying "Necessity is the mother of invention." Nope, according to him, war breeds innovation and he goes about proving it, examining a litany of badass weaponry designed in the name of lethality.

• "Inventing the Teenager"
Take a gander at the technology that has sprung up to enable youth of every era to rebel; e.g. vinyl records, transistor radios, and the miniskirt.

• "Big City, Bright Lights"
What sort of intense engineering and ingenuity goes into piecing together a glittering metropolis? Awesome intense engineering and ingenuity is the correct answer.

Episodes receive decent standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers, joined by a Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix. The third disc features three bonus episodes of James May's Big Ideas, another fun documentary series very similar to this one.

James May's 20th Century is a nice little show, anchored by the supremely watchable James May. There's lots of "edutainment" to be had here and May exhibits a tangible earnestness and excitement about the content. It's quirky, yet substantial in its transmission of trivia; my favorite episode, "Blast Off," is filthy rich with awesome info and watching May traipse around NASA is a gas.

The Verdict

Not Guilty, Captain!

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Acorn Media
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 174 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Foreign
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Bonus Episodes
• Biography


• IMDb

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