America: The Story of Us

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America: The Story of Us
America The Story of Us cover.png
Genre Documentary
History
Written by Ed Fields
Daniel Hall
Narrated by Liev Schreiber
Danny Webb (international version)
Music by Anne Nikitin
John Hardy (4 episodes)
Stuart Fox (4 episodes)
Country United States
Language English
Original channel History
Original run April 25, 2010 (2010-04-25)  – May 31, 2010 (2010-05-31)
Running time 540 minutes
No. of episodes 12[1]
Official website

America: The Story of Us (also internationally known as America: The Story of the U.S.)[2] is a six-part, 12-hour documentary-drama television miniseries[3] that premiered on April 25, 2010, on History channel.[4] Produced by Nutopia, the program portrays more than 400 years of American history (with emphasis on how American creation of new technologies has had effects on the nation's history and, by implication, the world). It spans time from the successful English settlement of Jamestown beginning in 1607, through to the present day.[5] Narrated by Liev Schreiber (Danny Webb for the international version), the series recreates many historical events by using actors dressed in the style of the period and computer-generated special effects. The miniseries received mixed reviews by critics; but it attracted the largest audiences of any special aired by the channel to date.

Production[edit]

The series was filmed in South Africa, using mostly South African actors and with a South African director of photography.[6]

Episodes[edit]

No. Title[7] Original air date Viewers
(in millions)
1 "Rebels" April 25, 2010 (2010-04-25) 5.674[8]
From Jamestown to Plymouth, early settlers fight for survival. Tobacco sows the seeds of opportunity; the north becomes a powerhouse of trade. Tension, taxation, and resistance causes the American colonists to begin doing what many consider impossible: to successfully rebel against the British Crown.
2 "Revolution" April 25, 2010 (2010-04-25) 5.674[8]
George Washington's army is near defeat, but new weapons and battle tactics turn the tide. The colonies declare independence from the British. Forged through revolution, a new nation is born.
3 "Westward" May 2, 2010 (2010-05-02) 3.881[9]
Trailblazing pioneers set out to conquer the west in the mid-19th century, but find the land already occupied. Wagon trains meet hardship on the road to California's gold. The steamboat ushers in a new era of commerce, industry, and unprecedented wealth.
4 "Division" May 2, 2010 (2010-05-02) 3.881[9]
Commerce and industry thrive across the new nation, now one of the wealthiest in the world. The Erie Canal brings big risk and bigger reward. In the South, cotton is king but slavery fuels a growing divide. Violence flares across the territories and abolitionists make a stand for freedom. The election of Abraham Lincoln is a catalyst of war.
5 "Civil War" May 9, 2010 (2010-05-09) 3.281[10]
The American Civil War rages. The formidable Confederate army cannot match the Union's mastery of technology; railroads, manufacturing capacity, supply lines and the telegraph become new weapons in a modern war.
6 "Heartland" May 9, 2010 (2010-05-09) 3.281[10]
The Transcontinental Railroad unites the nation and transforms the American Heartland. Native American civilizations decline as farmers settle the continent. Cattle replace wild buffalo as king of the Great Plains. The cowboy becomes a new American icon.
7 "Cities" May 16, 2010 (2010-05-16)
Americans conquer a new frontier: the modern city, with Andrew Carnegie's empire of steel as its backbone. Skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty are symbols of the American Dream for millions of immigrants. Urban life introduces a new breed of social ills, causing several bold individuals to make a stand.
8 "Boom" May 16, 2010 (2010-05-16)
America strikes oil and the boom time begins. Henry Ford brings the motorcar to the masses and the nation hits the road. Massive engineering projects modernize the American West. Intended to cure vice, Prohibition fuels the growth of organized crime in burgeoning cities, as well as widespread moonshine production and bootlegging in many rural areas, and smuggling around the Great Lakes.
9 "Bust" May 23, 2010 (2010-05-23) 2.759[11]
Boom turns to bust when the stock market crashes. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl blanket the nation in darkness. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal signals recovery, while the boxer Joe Louis overcomes racial disputes to help bring America's pride back.
10 "World War II" May 23, 2010 (2010-05-23) 2.759[11]
The attack on Pearl Harbor brings America into World War II. The war effort revitalizes the nation's economy. American innovation and manufacturing invigorate the Allies in Europe and in the Pacific; nuclear weapons help end the war.
11 "Superpower" May 31, 2010 (2010-05-31)
America becomes a global superpower; technology fuels a boom in the economy and the population. American pioneers conquer new frontiers, from the jet age to the space age, and perceive a new threat: Communism.
12 "Millennium" May 31, 2010 (2010-05-31)
In 2001, the September 11 attacks fuel the War on Terror and America continues its journey towards the future, whatever it may be.

Commentators[edit]

The following are commentators who appear on the miniseries[12] (listed in alphabetical order):

Reception[edit]

The documentary received a 60% approval rating from Metacritic.com. Many criticized the series for having too many "celebrities" express their opinions about the United States, rather than having historians provide more insight and data about particular periods and events.[13]

Critics praised the series' willingness to grapple with some of the difficult issues in US history, including African slavery, racial segregation and the mistreatment of Native Americans.[14][15] Mary McNamara, of the Los Angeles Times, wrote that "'America: The Story of Us' seems to draw its inspiration from Fox's '24' and the E! Channel." She continues, "[I]n the first hour, producer Jane Root seems more enamored of her ability to conjure, in glorious CG, the lifecycle of a tobacco plant or the brick-by-brick construction of New Amsterdam than anything so dull as explaining the complexities of actual history."[16]

Critics generally commented that CGI effects were overused, as were clichéd soundbites and hyperbole that seemed intended to move the narrative along.[14][16] Tom Shales of The Washington Post found seven repetitions of the notion that "What happened next would change the course of US history forever" within the first episode, and remarked:

"Maybe everything that happens changes the course of something. Or maybe nothing that happens changes the course of anything. Simply saying 'everything changed forever' is really a substitute for thinking, not an example of it, but then 'America: The Story of Us' is basically a poor excuse for a documentary—even if it succeeds on the superficial level of, say, a lava lamp."[14]

Surpassed by the series The Bible,[17] which garnered over 13 million viewers of its first episode,[18] America: The Story of US was watched by 5.7 million total viewers for its first episode and drew a 4.0 household rating.[19] In conjunction with the broadcast, the History channel launched its largest educational outreach initiative, offering a series DVD to every school and accredited college in the United States.[4]

America: The Story of Us has been nominated for four Emmy Awards for the episode "Division", which traced the growing tensions between the North and South, as well as contrasts between plantation and urban economies. The nominations were in the categories for non-fiction programming of "Outstanding Cinematography", "Outstanding Picture Editing ", "Outstanding Sound Editing" and "Outstanding Writing".[20]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nutopia: Projects
  2. ^ "America The Story of the US". Retrieved July 18, 2010. 
  3. ^ Shales, Tom (April 25, 2010). "Review of 'America: The Story of Us': TV miniseries has flash but not creativity". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 25, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "America The Story of Us – About America The Story of Us". A&E Television Networks. 2010. Retrieved April 27, 2010. 
  5. ^ MacIntyre, April (May 12, 2009). "History announces 'America The Story of Us' 12 part series for 2010". Monsters and Critics. Archived from the original on 1 May 2010. Retrieved April 27, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Ah, but your land is beautiful – SA up for an Emmy for film on US", Times Live
  7. ^ "Episode Guide". History. 2010. Retrieved 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Seidman, Robert (April 27, 2010). "Cable Top 25: NFL Draft, America The Story of US Top Weekly Cable Viewing". TVbytheNumbers.com. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b Seidman, Robert (May 4, 2010). top-weekly cable-viewing/50419 "Cable Top 25: Lebron is the King (of Cable), Celtics vs. Cavs, WWE RAW, iCarly Top Weekly Cable Viewing". TVbytheNumbers.com. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b Seidman, Robert (May 11, 2010). "Sunday Cable: NBA, 'Army Wives' Tops With 18–49; 'The Pacific' Dives Below 2 Million". TVbytheNumbers.com. Archived from the original on 14 May 2010. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  11. ^ a b Gorman, Bill (May 25, 2010). "Sunday Cable: Lakers/Suns NBA Playoff, America: The Story Of US Tops With 18–49". TVbytheNumbers.com. Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  12. ^ "America: The Story of Us". IMDb.com. Retrieved May 14, 2010. 
  13. ^ Metacritic reviews
  14. ^ a b c "Tom Shales – Review of 'America: The Story of Us': TV miniseries has flash but not creativity". Washingtonpost.com. April 25, 2010. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  15. ^ "America: The Story of Us : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Dvdtalk.com. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  16. ^ a b MARY McNAMARA (1993-02-27). "Television review: 'America: The Story of Us' summarizes hundreds of years in 12 hours". Los Angeles Times (Articles.latimes.com). Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  17. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (March 1, 2013). "‘The Bible’ Mini-Series on the History Channel – NYTimes.com". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-11. 
  18. ^ Bibel, Sara (March 4, 2013). "History's 'The Bible' is the Number 1 Cable Entertainment Telecast of the Year". TV by the Numbers. A+E press release. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  19. ^ Jason J. Hughes (April 29, 2010). "America: The Story Of Us Breaks Ratings Records". Television Blend. Retrieved May 28, 2011. 
  20. ^ "America Story Of Us up for 4 Emmy Awards". Nutopia. July 12, 2010. Retrieved May 28, 2011. 

External links[edit]