For baby boomers, this is much more
than a trip down nostalgia lane
Master of the Universe Bill Gates before MicroSoft became a colossus and he became the richest man on earth.
WITH ALL THE breaking news in mid-April – starting with the Boston Marathon bombings April 15, 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 1980s did, indeed “make us.”
That is the title of the National Geographic channel’s six-part mini-series, “The 80s: The Decade That Made Us” on the major political, economic, social and cultural events of a truly remarkable decade. See the background about the show here.
It premiered April 15, with hour-long episodes following later in the week.
Remember “Greed is good?” The stock market 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.
(See an amazing video of the last person ever to escape from East Germany before the Wall came crashing down – after the jump)
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 Berlin wall came crashing down in fall 1989. The celebration on what was left of The Wall on New Year’s Eve 1990 was the most joyous event of the decade.
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,” says Rob Lowe in 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 as well.
There is much ground covered in six outstanding hours of archival footage and insightful commentary. And there’s the richly contextual accompanying web site (see it here) for background, in-depth interviews, clips and much, much more. What a superb job NatGeo has done of this entire project. It is MUST SEE TV.
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. (Watch clip below)
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 then be free to return home, 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 six hours of your time to check out this superb piece of documentary craftsmanship.
Watch this amazing video about the very last East German to escape to the West before the wall came crashing down.