Archive for Tuesday, November 8, 2011

History Channel presents ‘Vietnam in HD

November 8, 2011


Just in time for Veterans Day, “Vietnam in HD” (8 p.m., History, nightly through Thursday) offers a six-hour history of that war. Culled from home movies and unseen hours of color film, the footage has been upgraded to high definition and is narrated by a cast of notable actors voicing the words and memories of men and women who were there.

We see Barry Romo as a young soldier in vintage footage. Then we see him as he is now. His recollections are presented in his own voice, which then gives way to a voice-over from actor Adrian Grenier (”Entourage”). It’s an effective technique, repeated for more than a dozen participants.

The restored footage and storytelling technique liberate the era from some of the cinematic clichés that have defined it over the decades. It’s also a counter-narrative to the hackneyed view of the 1960s as one long love-in. We’re reminded here that, at least in the beginning, the war was seen as a necessary burden and was popular, even among those facing the draft. Lost in many pop histories of the decade is that the No. 1 single for 1966 was “The Ballad of the Green Beret” by Sgt. Barry Sadler.

All the same, it’s impossible to enter this six-hour experience and not feel as if you’ve returned to a slow-motion nightmare. It’s hard to even hear phrases like “search and destroy,” ‘‘body count,” ‘‘Rolling Thunder,” “strategic hamlet,” ‘‘Vietnamization” and “Peace With Honor” without feeling a little queasy all over again.

‘‘History in HD” is an ambitious and honorable project well worth watching. But its very quality has become rare on the History Channel. How do you convince a young student that the events depicted in “HD” were real and had powerful consequences when it is broadcast by the same network that hypes “Ancient Aliens” and devotes hours to programs on zombies, vampires and other popular supernatural pap? I know I’ve become a bit of a nag on the subject of the History Channel. Get used to it.

TV-themed DVDs available today include “Mr. Magoo — The Television Collection (1960-77),” a collection of 11 DVDs from the era when laughing at the nearsighted was considered fun!

Tonight’s other highlights

• A chance to perform “West Side Story” on “Glee” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Jess’ best friend stays over on “New Girl” (8 p.m., Fox).

• Live performance and elimination on “Dancing With the Stars” (8 p.m., ABC).

• “Frontline” (8 p.m., PBS) examines Syria’s regime and its opponents.

• New camera technology joins the “Hunt for the Giant Squid” (8 p.m., National Geographic).

• Jimmy resents a younger rival on “Raising Hope” (8:30 p.m., Fox).

• A public defender’s murder may be part of a bigger scheme on “Unforgettable” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Amber has a realization on “Parenthood” (9 p.m., NBC).

• “In the Spotlight With Robin Roberts: All Access Nashville” (9 p.m., ABC) visits country music stars.


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 7 months ago

“The Ballad of the Green Beret” by Sgt. Barry Sadler Click here to hear the No. 1 single for 1966:

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

I've been cursing McDonough all morning for mentioning that train wreck of a song-- it's been a multiple train wreck in my head ever since.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 7 months ago

My views on the subject of the war in Vietnam will always be colorized by my friendship at work with Benny, a South Vietnamese refugee, and one of my high school teachers.

Benny insisted repeatedly that all the Vietnamese people had ever wanted was for everyone to go away, just leave! This is our country, not yours!

He was talking about the French who were there for about 100 years, then it was the United States, and the Chinese who never set foot in the country, but were willing to supply them with arms to fight the United States. (The Chinese were very wise, actually.)

I was very fortunate to have Mr. James Bono for a German teacher during my freshman year in high school. Later, he earned his doctorate in German here at KU.

In 1968/1969 he talked a few times in class about how the war was a political thing that was in no one's best interests. He told us that right or wrong, the only way that the war could ever be actually won was with an invasion of North Vietnam, and that was not going to be done for political reasons that had to do with avoiding a serious conflict with China. No one wanted that, so Vietnam was simply a proxy war that went on and on, with the Vietnamese population caught right in the middle of it, just wishing all the invaders would leave. They had been wishing that for over 100 years.

This is something that was presented to me that I do not doubt, but I cannot cite a definitive source for it. It was from Mr. Bono himself in class, from his book, or perhaps I read it somewhere else. But I'm very sure that this is a fact:

If all the money that was spent on the conflict in Vietnam by all of the parties concerned (The French, the North Vietnamese, the South Vietnamese, China, and the United States) was instead spent on supplying goods and services to the citizens of Vietnam:

The citizens of Vietnam would have had the highest standard of living in the world.

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