If you remember the sixties, you weren’t there. But this is no longer a problem thanks to the 10-part documentary series, The Sixties. The program is an informative and in-depth account of a formative and tumultuous decade, especially for America (and it is from this slant and perspective that this TV series is told).

The series is from Emmy Award-winning producers, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Mark Herzog. It draws together vintage newsreels, sound bites and clips along with recent interviews with historians, journalists, celebrities and other key players who experienced the events first-hand. The Sixties can be quite nostalgic and in the case of the Television Comes of Age episode – which features Hanks, Sally Field, Petula Clark, Carol Burnett and Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) – the participants often overstate the event (because it’s arguable that the medium had actually come of age in the previous decade).

The episodes are all 45 minutes in length with the exception of The Assassination of President Kennedy and A Long March to Freedom instalments. The former is a bit too long as it describes the murder of John F. Kennedy in depth and attributes it all to Lee Harvey Oswald, which may cause controversy with some viewers. The latter episode, however, is engrossing viewing about the civil rights movement. It details the work of Dr. Martin Luther King and other activists from the sit-ins to the freedom rides and marches and also includes interviews with important figures like John Lewis and Diane Nash.

Two episodes focus heavily on the music from the period. There’s The British Invasion which discusses The Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan and this is put into context by American artists like Micky Dolenz, Michelle Phillips and Smokey Robinson. Three musicians from some bands that followed in The Fab Four’s footsteps also feature, including: Eric Burdon, Graham Nash and Dave Clarke. The other episode, Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll starts with the beat generation and goes on to describe the free-love, hippies and love-ins in Haight-Ashbury through to the Monterey and Woodstock festivals.

The other episodes of The Sixties feature academic examination of the war in Vietnam, the protests of the period (including the anti-war sentiment), the assassinations of 1968, man landing on the moon and the threat of nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviets. The Sixties is ultimately an interesting and insightful documentary that is ambitious in its approach, as it covers many different facets from this influential period from the polarising presidents to riots, war, assassinations, free love, the space race and new developments in music and culture.

This series jumps around a bit through space of time and its view of the decade may be at times verging on mythologising or an overly rosy view. But it is still an engaging and informative story that is worthy of being told and viewed. And if nothing else, this production paves the way for the filmmakers to set their sights and cameras on other pivotal points or decades in history.


Originally published on 22 December 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/12/22/dvd-review-the-sixties-usa-2013/

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