Ken Burns’ Prohibition

Where Prohibition benefits is in its use of film. I have no idea where Burns found all this footage, but it’s amazing in its portrayal of American life in the 1910s.

I am sitting down to watch Part II of Ken Burns PBS series, Prohibition. I watched Part I last night.

Like all of Burns work it is thorough, fact packed and very slowly paced. Really slow.

I know. I’m supposed to love Ken Burns unconditionally as if he were my child or anything bought at the Apple Store. He needs less time!

The documentary is the story of the 18th Amendment, prohibition in America. As told by Burns (through the voice of Peter Coyote) it was an unpopular movement that lucked out while no one was looking. As soon as America came to its senses it was repealed.

It’s a fascinating story full of fascinating characters. It is extremely well researched.

Where Prohibition benefits is in its use of film. I have no idea where Burns found all this footage, but it’s amazing because there’s so much real American life from the 1910s and 20s. I’m seeing nearly all of it for the first time. This alone would be worth watching for.

If it were only faster, or shorter.

7 thoughts on “Ken Burns’ Prohibition”

  1. I’m really enjoying the storytelling in this series. I’m 3 hours in and I think it is good TV. What is better? 2 hours a night of American History on PBS or 2 hours a night of Extreme Makeovers Dancing with the X-Factor from New Jersey? It may be long, but it is SO much better than everything else.

  2. If you want to see fast TV, watch any segment of The Today Show between 9AM and 11AM..where the guest or presenter of a a product or a cooking segment is rushed on and off camera in less than 90 seconds, while the host squeezes in, ” the is Today on NBC”. It’s dizzy-ing.

  3. Looking for a fantastic vacation? Ken Burns is working with TAUCK in producing vacations with history and charm. There are a few ‘events’ planned where Ken Burns will be a keynote speaker and a meet and greet afterwards. Other vacations have vignettes during the tour where Ken Burns speaks to the TAUCK guests through short films. Check out

  4. Nooooooooooo don’t shorten it or make it faster. It’s the lack of dumbing down that makes it the best documentary I’ve seen on American TV. He takes you for having the intellect to follow his story and what an intriguing story it is. The way they presented the run up was almost like how we ended up in 1939 with Nazi Germany. How a certain sequence of events had to play themselves out to get to a point where the prohibition was almost forced onto the statue books. Politicians lost their jobs because they didn’t want to vote to keep their town dry, so you ended up with a situation where the only possible outcome was prohibition. I would like to say thank you to PBS for making such an interesting and detailed documentary about which you can find modern parallels within and the dangers of one policy politics…..

  5. I like all of Ken Burns’ work for the fact that I always learn something from it and I almost always go on to study the subject further. I love history and prefer it to anything else on television. I’m curious as to why the poster above would believe Burns is “creepy.” I perceive him as a quiet man who knows his stuff, and I respect that greatly.

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