Picks and Pans Review: The West
Produced by Ken Burns (The Civil War) and directed and coproduced by Stephen Ives, this eight-part, 12½-hour documentary is forced to cover a lot of territory, and it spreads itself annoyingly thin. Lewis and Clark, Brigham Young, Sitting Bull, Custer, the Oregon Trail, the Gold Rush, the cowboys, the homesteaders—they're all here, served up as an enormous textbook with lavish illustrations and perhaps too much care toward maintaining balance and avoiding argument. Only in its last third—when both the triumphant whites and the defeated Native Americans are already looking backward and constructing their own drastically different histories of the West—does the series finally achieve emotional power. Worth sticking with, but don't complain if your doggies get tired.