With all the breaking news, the best TV show got lost
See it here
With all the breaking news two weeks ago – starting with the Boston Marathon bombings, then the explosion in Texas and ending with the dramatic capture of the second bombing suspect on April 19 – you may easily have missed the best show on television.
For the baby boomer generation – those of us just hitting our peak years when Ronald Reagan deprived Jimmy Carter of a second term in the White House – The 80s did, indeed “make us.”
That is the title of the National Geographic channel’s four part special, “The 80s: The Decade That Made Us” on the major political, economic, social and cultural events of a truly remarkable decade.
It premiered April 15, with hour-long episodes following Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Remember “Greed is good?” The crash of ’87? Donna Summer? Act Up!
When Reagan stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin in 1987 and uttered his immortal four words – “Tear down this wall” – Mikhail Gorbachev was sitting on the dais just to his left.
The former leader of the then U.S.S.R. did not need a public address system to hear Reagan’s words as did the hundreds of thousands of Berlinners gathered in the platz in front of the two world leaders.
It was perhaps the darkest period of the cold war. Two superpowers, armed to the teeth with enough ICBMs to annihilate every living thing on the planet – twice – staring down at each other on a global chessboard of black and white. We, of course, wore the white hats.
Narrated expertly by Robe Lowe (who even made a cameo for his appearance in that marvelous night-time soap “The West Wing”) this was more than a trip down nostalgia lane.
The 80s saw dramatic upheavals and change in so many spheres of human endeavor all over the globe.
CNN invented 24-hour news, followed in 1986 by Fox. “The Simpsons” reinvented the TV into a looking glass for millions of dysfunctional American families.
Creator Matt Groenig “turned sacred cows into hamburgers and served them up on a weekly basis,” according to the commentary.
The first Apple computer made hitherto arcane technology widely accessible to the IBM (Idiots Behind the Machine).
The “stinger” missile was largely responsible for the Soviet Union’s defeat in Afghanistan.
The Challenger space shuttle disaster claimed the life of the first teacher to be drafted into the ranks of astronauts – and six other lives.
There is much ground covered in four outstanding hours of archival footage and insightful commentary.
The decade arguably climaxed in the fall of 1989. As a set-up of what was to come, NatGeo related the dramatic escape from East Berlin of Hans-Porter Spitzner and his infant daughter in the trunk of an American soldier’s car. They were the last people, ever, to escape through the reviled division between the two parts of the city, which came to symbolize the planet divided into east and western blocs.
When it was suddenly announced one evening in October by the highest levels of the German Democratic Republic’s politburo – seemingly by accident – that Easterners could now, immediately, tonight, cross to the west and return, the floodgates were open.
Within minutes thousands rushed out into the streets, overwhelming the border guards who had not received any instructions about how to respond. They poured over the top, while others took whatever tools they could to crack open and tear apart the concrete panels that comprised the hated Berlin Wall.
While a rapt global audience watched on live TV, the city erupted in a jubilant celebration not before nor since witnessed by all of us.
It’s definitely worth four hours of your time to check out this superb piece of documentary craftsmanship.