Picks and Pans Review: American Almanac
NBC (Monthly; schedule varies)
American Almanac is new simply because it owes no allegiance to 60 Minutes. "Hard-hitting" is not a word you'll see in its ads. "Cozy" is more like it. Judging from its premiere earlier this month, Almanac is not a news show but truly a video magazine, reporting with perspective on how we live. Its premiere features Bijan, the man who sells $97,000 chinchilla bedspreads (as if that were cute and new). But the show also visits a truck-driving couple you wouldn't mind meeting over a cup of diner coffee. And in a fascinatingly arcane report, it looks at how weather really is changing, as seen by scientists and by a nice old lady from Nebraska named Ruby. Almanac doesn't try as hard as West 57th to look new, but it succeeds: Its writing, reporting and video editing are more sophisticated. In one way, its premiere copies 60 Minutes: The show ends with a comic commentary on the cola wars supplied by author Roy Blount Jr. The fact that he did not sound or look like tired ol' Andy Rooney was a blessing in itself. Almanac, anchored by Roger Mudd, is being bounced around the schedule like some ornery orphan. But it's worth looking for.
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