Written by: Stacia Hentz
Date: April 7, 2017
On April 6, 1917 America entered the first World War. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of this event American Experience will present the three-part, six-hour documentary The Great War beginning at 9pm Monday, April 10 on WOSU TV.
As a TV Program Director I can tell you there are, what seems like, hundreds of programs focused on World War II. However without World War I the circumstances and events that eventually lead to a second world war may not have happened.
As Ken Burns has said, “Each generation has to rediscover and reexamine that part of the past which gives its present new meaning through the exploration of the past.” Perhaps the reason there hasn’t been much done on the first world war is because America’s involvement was short lived and the reason’s for the war seemed muddy and unconnected to everyday American life.
Taking on topics that shaped the past leading to the present American experience is what this signature PBS series is all about. So who better to delve into this complicated and transformative period in our country’s history.
“World War I was the soil from which so many things today really grew, starting with America’s place in the world,” says American Experience Executive Producer Mark Samels. “Before the war, America was isolated and uninvolved in world affairs. After the war, America stepped onto the world stage, and that continues today with our troops becoming involved in conflicts around the world. The current debate on the balance between national security and civil liberties also began with World War I. The debate over immigration reached its apex during World War I. The film is not only about what happened 100 years ago, but how what happened then transformed our nation and the world in ways still being felt today.”
The documentary uses unpublished diaries, memoirs and letters to help tell the story through the voices of the people who lived it. The series also explores the internal struggle of President Woodrow Wilson, who fought to be neutral in the conflict but in the end had to dive in, forever changing the country. And how citizens in their quest to support the war effort perpetuated oppressive crackdowns on civil liberties at home.
The Great War on American Experience airs Monday through Wednesday, beginning at 9pm on WOSU TV. An encore of the series airs Tuesday through Thursday nights beginning at 9pm on WOSUplus (34.3). If you’re unable to tune-in, remember to set your DVR so you don’t miss any on this wonderful documentary.