Monday, February 9, 2009

TV that's good for you

There are a few TV shows that are a part of our lives, and for me, one of them is Dr. Eugen Weber's THE WESTERN TRADITION. It was a series of 52 shows that completely summarized the history of the West, a "lecture" show acccompanied by slides from the Modern Museum of Art.

I have never in my life been a couch potato: I got a grand total of 1 hour of TV every other day when I was a kid, most of that "unsolved mystery" shows (or Star Trek), usually IN SEARCH OF... though I would take whatever I got and frequently settled with Nimoy's lousy imitators.

THE WESTERN TRADITION was a show that came on immediately after I came home from school, and my Grandfather watched it. My Grandfather was an immigrant and spoke English as a second language, so he was always conscious of how people spoke in a way native speakers don't. I guess that's why he loved Dr. Weber: he spoke beautiful English, and Gramps listened to Dr. Weber speak for the same reason most of us put on Coltrane records.

THE WESTERN TRADITION was basically a series of lectures accompanied by a slideshow, which must sound very boring to people that haven't seen it. Eugen Weber was one of the few truly smart people on TV (and perhaps the only one), erudite, funny, truly and effortlessly sophisticated.

Because the show came on when I got home, I heard it in the background all the time. Because the show had 52 episodes, and it came on Monday thru Thursday on our PBS affiliate, it often covered old ground - so the end result is that I saw lots of episodes several times. Most of them I know by memory!

Grandpa, Mom and I ordered a free program from the Annenberg/CPB project containing an episode guide.

So in other words, the show was great and a big part of my life. I even read all of Eugen Weber's books, particularly MY FRANCE.

So imagine my great joy to discover that the Annenberg/CPB project just made the entire series available online for free, for educational purposes.

Visit the Website here.

Every one of the 52 episodes are available on demand, and in pretty good quality. I guess Hanukkah came early this year!

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