Review: ‘The New Europeans’

PBS' three-part documentary "The New Europeans" is a disappointingly disjointed and surprisingly superficial look at a continent in transition. Sloppy and largely unfocused, it contains little new information and consistently fails to put its material into meaningful perspective.

PBS’ three-part documentary “The New Europeans” is a disappointingly disjointed and surprisingly superficial look at a continent in transition. Sloppy and largely unfocused, it contains little new information and consistently fails to put its material into meaningful perspective.

This American-German co-production is a look at the opportunities and problems being created as Europe gradually turns into a single economic entity.

Docu suggests that some Europeans are going to have to modify cherished national traditions in order to conform to new, continent-wide regulations, but notes that the result could be greater prosperity, particularly in the poorer, rural-based nations. “New Europeans” sees great significance in the fact the entire continent now can receive MTV, though perhaps that development says more about the American influence on world culture than about European unity.

Regardless, the filmmakers’ fascination with the rock video network isn’t surprising, since they assume their viewers have an MTV attention span.

The documentary flits from country to country and issue to issue, seldom alighting anywhere for more than a few minutes. Topics are raised, dropped abruptly, then brought up again some minutes later, for no apparent reason.

Subjects aren’t explored — they’re mentioned.

Occasionally, the series does slow down long enough to present interesting and even moving stories. There’s the tale of a Polish youth who has joined the French Foreign Legion in order to become a French citizen at the end of his five-year tour of duty, and the inspiring story of abortion-rights crusaders in Ireland who hope the European unification movement will help them in their cause.

Overall, however, “The New Europeans” is more frustrating than informative. Europe may be coalescing, but this series never does.

The New Europeans

(Tues. (17, 24, Dec. 1), 10-11 p.m., PBS)

Production

A Maryland Public Television, Deutsche Welle Fernsehen Berlin and Access Communications & World Trade Ltd. presentation. Executive producer, John Potthast; producer/director, Peter Swain; coordinating producer, Linda Taggart; executive in charge of production, Leo Eaton.
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