Tagged: Ken Burns

World War II, Cognitive Dissonance, and Binge Watching

Last fall, I was itching to watch the Ken Burns–produced, seven-part series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. Alas, last fall was a distracting time, and I never got around to watching the series while it aired on the local PBS station or during the short, seven-day window it was available via the PBS mobile apps.

Now that it is streaming on Amazon Prime, there has been some measure of cognitive dissonance watching the fifth and sixth episodes of The Roosevelts and the recent Amazon-original adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle.

In the documentary, the Allied Powers undertook a number of offensive attacks against the Axis Powers of Germany and Japan while FDR kept the country’s spirits, its military, and its industrial output focused on victory. In the Amazon series, on the other hand, things go much different. It is 1962, and the Axis powers have vanquished the American, British, and Soviet forces to conquer the US into parts of the German Reich and Japanese Empire.

Binge watching can do strange things to the mind.

The above links to Amazon and iTunes are affiliate links. If you buy something through those links, I will earn a commission fee.

The Roosevelts Everywhere

Since Sunday, many PBS stations across the country have been broadcasting The Roosevelts, Ken Burns’s new seven-part, fourteen-hour series. The series runs through Saturday, and many stations will likely be showing encore performances in case you any of the episodes.

As a not-for-profit broadcast service, PBS has been ahead of commercial broadcast and cable networks in making available their content online. Between now and September 28, you can watch the entire series, even before it broadcasts on your local station, on a variety of connected and mobile devices.


Most commercial television stations have been offering a TV Everywhere product that allows you to watch TV on your Internet devices as long as you pay for a cable or satellite TV subscription and authenticate accordingly. On the other hand, PBS lets anyone with the necessary hardware and broadband connection to watch the whole series for free, albeit for only a limited time. Because PBS broadcasts do not live or die based on raw audience numbers or on retransmission fees, they can afford to cannibalize their broadcast product and let audiences stream their content for free or buy digital copies on iTunes.

I just started watching the series with great interest. It’s hard to live in New York and not be touched by their name or legacy in some way. Roosevelt Avenue spans most of western Queens. Roosevelt Island sits in the East River between Manhattan island and Queens. FDR Drive shuttles cars along the East River on Manhattan. And if you’re ready for a day trip, head to Oyster Bay on the north shore of Long Island to visit Teddy Roosevelt’s summer retreat at Sagamore Hill. Or, as my mom and I did over the summer, head north to Hyde Park on Hudson to visit the FDR Museum and Presidential Library.

My mother with Eleanor and Franklin at the FDR Presidential Museum and Library in Hyde Park on Hudson.

My mother with the Eleanor and Franklin at the FDR Presidential Museum and Library in Hyde Park on Hudson.

By the way, if you don’t get to watch the broadcast television run this week and if you miss streaming the series before September 28, you will be able to buy the series on iTunes. Consider it your annual contribution to public broadcasting.