I've been watching one of Mr. Burns' documentaries recently, so I decided to start a discussion thread about his work. First, let's start with the bad. His stuff tends to be mawkish, ethnocentric to a highly irritating degree, and not terribly insightful. He completely lacks perspective, and everything is from an American viewpoint. EVERYTHING. I remember during his civil war series that he said over & over & over that "The world is watching", as if the entire world was enthralled by our struggle. Which, actually, it was. But not because we were so important, as he implies. No, they wanted to see how "modern" warfare on a large scale would turn out, and how it was fought. But to Ken Burns, America is the best ever, and every American should glow with pride at how awesome we are. The plaintive violins that he uses when he wants to evoke sadness (which he often does, given his subject matter) are pretty tedious, as are the quiet sad piano pieces. And he uses more sepia toned pictures than you can shake a stick at. There's more bad, but I can't think of any more at the moment, so on to the good! When he doesn't go overboard with his mawkishness, his work is highly engaging. In fact, it's the very emotions with which he imbues his documentaries that makes people interested. He often soaks them in too much emotion for my taste (hence the "mawkish" label), but nevertheless, he does tend to create watchable documentaries. If his documentaries were books, they would be "page turners". I've criticized him for his absurd ethnocentrism and America boosterism, but I have to give him credit for one thing: he doesn't shy away from recounting the racism that is the ugly underbelly of much of American history. He regularly gives blacks plenty of screen time, and after watching his documentaries you have a pretty good grasp of how the slaves suffered before (and during) the Civil War, and how Japanese-Americans suffered in their internment camps, and so on. He may love America to a degree I dislike, but it's clear he wants his American audience to ensure that certain things Never Happen Again. And that requires telling some painful stories. Finally, some recommendations: I'm currently watching his series the War, which is a series about WWII. It's quite good, and I would recommend it. He hardly touches the Russian front, which is a shame. But at the same time, given his focus, it's understandable. He's upfront about his desire to describe how the war affected four American towns, and the fighting in Russia just didn't affect them that much. On the other hand, he's *very* good at bringing the war home and showing how the people in the States dealt with it & suffered, while at the same time showing what the fighting troops experienced & how they suffered. But it's not all suffering; life is rarely all suffering. He also recounts how people let off steam, what they did in their spare time, etc. My words are probably making the whole thing sound tedious, but it's a typical Ken Burns production, so it's a "page turner", like all of his work. My favorite documentary he ever did was Mark Twain. This documentary was one of the most powerful I've ever seen. Burns' tendency to over-emotionalism is actually a strength here, since Mark Twain's story is inherently pretty sad & tragic. And although Twain had many faults, especially around money, he was a good man who railed against injustice. (Even a cursory reading of Huckleberry Finn demonstrates that about Twain.) All this is recounted against the backdrop of Twain's tragic personal life, where he lost child after child, and it was clear that he dearly loved every one of them. His misanthropy & cynicism near the end of his life was born out of despair rather than hatred, and you come to feel for the guy, rather than despise him. In any case, watching that documentary was a moving experience.