“I Have Some TV Programs to Recommend” – You Really Will Want to Watch These
Wasteland or Golden Age?
People often lament that there is “nothing good on TV.” References are often made to the remark made decades ago that TV was a vast wasteland. I have friends today who take great pride in the fact that they don’t even own a TV.
I often say to such folks that they really are missing some good programming. This is when they sometimes reply that they watch programming via streaming on a computer. Why that is a more pure act than watching TV seems a strained interpretation to me, but to each their own I suppose.
In fairness, I think the wasteland analogy is no longer accurate. There is much written these days about a new Golden Age of TV. Surely there is a lot of terrible stuff to pass over, but there is also much of value and entertainment these days. The proliferation of outlets alone would indicate some quality productions pop up with some regularity. And so they do.
I commend three winners among current shows – and they could not be more different. I am providing content summaries and links. They are worth the effort to find them.
As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approached, we knew the airwaves would be full of programming. We were hoping to find something truly worth watching, something that would remind us not only of that terrible day but equally of how the country came together and of the heroism that rose to meet the need.
We found it on CNN, in their program 9/11: A documentary. It is an extraordinary production, well worth 90 minutes of your time. A pair of documentary film makers, friends with a NYC firefighter, had the idea of following a rookie fire fighter, from initial training through the 9 months of probation before becoming a full-fledged fire fighter. They started work in August of 9/11. This was the first fire company on the scene at the twin towers.
The story they told on film was powerful, sensitive and gave perspectives you will not see anywhere else. I frankly had forgotten how long and proud the tradition of NYC firefighting is, and how often it is a family tradition through many generations. The fire companies felt familiar to me in that they imbued the qualities of the best military units I knew over my career.
If you don’t watch anything else on 9/11 watch this one. Check your local CNN listing for “9/11” or access by this YouTube video: https://youtu.be/miA8Td4oNcY
60 Minutes – A Twofer
60 Minutes, which just launched its 54th year, closed out last season last week with two remarkable stories. This is the kind of thing they do so well. These are substantive stories, with wonderful human-interest woven into them.
This link at the end of this blog takes you to both stories. Unfortunately, it also takes you to more commercials than anyone would want to watch but hang in there. These stories are worth the wait.
DARPA – A National Asset Unknown to Most
I loved this story for two reasons.
One, it shines a bit of light on DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). DARPA. Most people do not know about DARPA. It is an amazing agency with a long history of break through discoveries and invention. DARPA thinks way ahead about requirements and capabilities.
They are not afraid to fail – they go for the Hail Mary passes in science. The list of their accomplishments that benefit us all, often well outside defense domains, is impressive. It was a pleasure to see their work highlighted in this show.
Two, you cannot miss the pleasure these people take in their work. This is serious, often deadly serious, work but the satisfaction is high. You will not how much smiling and laughing is on screen throughout the program. These are lives well lived and results for the ages.
In this episode, they talk about ending pandemics – all of them. They think they are on the trail to do that. And shades of one of my blogs from last month, they talk about developing an Engine Check Light for the human body! Here too, they are remarkably close to pulling it off.
DARPA goes after projects no one else, certainly no one in private industry, even considers trying. They are a national treasure. There are a couple of good books out in the last few years on DARPA. You might want to read further.
The Ritchie Boys (and Lessons for Today)
This one was a repeat broadcast. I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time.
The Ritchie Boys, named after the military installation where they were trained, were an elite unit recruited and trained specifically for intelligence work in WWII. They were put on the front lines against the war in Germany, from which they collected remarkably important intelligence, including interrogation of German prisoners. A West Point historian estimated that over 60% of the useful battlefield intelligence on the Western Front came from this handful of volunteers.
What made them unique was that most of them were Jewish refugees from Germany. They were eager to join the fight. They were immensely proud of their service. A number are still alive, and they still get together. An amazing percentage of them went on to very distinguished careers in many different fields.
Here is the lesson for today: The fact that they were thoroughly steeped in German culture and language made all the difference. They succeeded where any other attempt, human or technological, would likely have failed. Imagine if we had used this approach in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, rather than expecting regular units to succeed in this way.
Now, here is that link that will take you to both stories:
That’s All, Folks
There you go, friends. About 2.5 hours of entertaining, endearing, educational information – on TV of all places. Enjoy!
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