×

TV Review: CNN’s ‘The Sixties’

Tethered to the rather sobering notion that the youngest baby boomers are turning 50 this year, CNN’s “The Sixties” provides a nostalgic if not particularly insightful look at that tumultuous decade, one that inevitably features considerable overlap as it crisscrosses from topic to topic. Produced by Tom Hanks and properly littered with both experts and participants in its history, the 10-part production is a classy trip, but as constructed (with occasional exceptions), not quite the magical history tour it might have been.

So much went on during this formative period that it’s difficult to choose where to begin. Moreover, an hour devoted to Vietnam can’t help but bleed into others subtitled “The British Invasion” and “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ’N’ Roll.”

Perhaps appropriately, “The Sixties” opens with “Television Comes of Age,” charting the advancement of the medium’s influence, starting with the Kennedy-Nixon debates, and proceeding through JFK’s assassination (“the moment television journalism comes of age,” says Dan Rather), as well as groundbreaking programs like “Star Trek,” “The Smothers Bros. Comedy Hour” and “Laugh-In.”

Throughout, there are fascinating clips, quotes and tidbits, like a young Ralph Nader saying TV is “the medium that’s either going to save America or send it down in demise,” or a young Mick Jagger being asked — two years into his stardom — how long he thinks he and the Rolling Stones can continue to perform. During the segment devoted to Vietnam, there’s also chilling audio of President Johnson confiding to aides regarding the war, “I don’t think it’s worth fighting, and I don’t think we can get out.”

Among the handful of segments previewed, the best is clearly a two-hour installment (the other extended chapter addresses the Civil Rights movement) that chronicles the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath, including the skepticism that followed the Warren Commission Report and attempts in its wake to prove a conspiracy.

For all that, what’s largely missing from “The Sixties,” despite its meticulous detail in capturing these memorable events, is how much they resonate to this day, and the oversized influence that decade continues to wield over modern-day culture. Indeed, “Mad Men” has drawn much of its relevance from the desire to keep re-litigating the ’60s politically, and addressing at least some of that within the documentary would only have made it richer and more contextual.

Instead, “The Sixties” primarily plays like an opportunity for those who actually experienced the changeover from black-and-white TV to living color to re-experience that glow, without necessarily bridging the gap for a younger generation weaned on having access to all that entertainment and more in its pocket.

At its best “The Sixties” is admirable, but to riff on an old promotional slogan, it isn’t all that it could be: Yes, it’s an exercise that might capture the magic of landing on the moon, but doesn’t take the extra step that would send viewers over it.

TV Review: CNN's 'The Sixties'

(Documentary series; CNN, Thurs. May 29, 9 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Playtone and Herzog & Co.

Crew: Executive producers, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, Mark Herzog; co-executive producers, Christopher G. Cowen, Kirk Saduski, Matthew Goldberg; producers, Jonathan Buss, Stephen J. Morrison; camera, Craig Kief; music, Blake Neely. 60 MIN.

More TV

  • Peter Coyote, winner of the award

    Peter Coyote to Play Robert Mueller in CBS Studios James Comey Miniseries

    The CBS Studios miniseries based on James Comey’s  book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership” has added another player. Robert Coyote has boarded the series to play Robert Mueller, joining Jeff Daniels as Comey, Brendan Gleeson as President Donald Trump, Michael Kelly as Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and Jennifer Ehle as Patrice Comey, [...]

  • CBS HEADQUARTERS

    Wall Street Trims ViacomCBS Forecasts After Post-Deal Financial Disclosure

    Top media analysts have cut their short-term growth prospects for ViacomCBS following last week’s financial disclosures that came as part of the closing of CBS Corp.’s stock-swap takeover deal for Viacom. In the Oct. 17 filing, CBS Corp. released specific year-to-year projections for its free cash flow yield, guidance that the company has not offered [...]

  • CBS

    CBS Sets Six Participants in 2019-20 Writers Mentoring Program

    CBS has announced the six writers who will participate in its 2019-2020 Writers Mentoring Program. The eight-month mentoring program, set up in 2004, aims to provide access and opportunity for writers by pairing them with a CBS executive mentor who helps them develop a new piece of material. Following the mentorship period, the writers will [...]

  • Alexander Vlahos (Monsieur/Philippe d'Orléans), George Blagden

    Merged Banijay-Endemol Shine Would Be Global Powerhouse in a Content-Hungry World

    If France’s Banijay Group clinches its proposed purchase of Endemol Shine, which could happen within the next few days, the deal would mark peak M&A in the international indie content world. The MO of both companies is acquiring and aggregating brands and IP, and their union would be the largest ever of its kind on [...]

  • Houston Astros' Alex Bregman reacts after

    TV Ratings: World Series Opener Down on 2018

    The Washington Nationals, making their first World Series appearance in franchise history, took game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night 5-4 over the Houston Astros. While the game might have been a thriller, according to Nielsen’s fast national ratings it looks like it will be down on last year’s opener between the Los [...]

  • Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg Quibi

    Quibi Says It Has Sold Out $150 Million First-Year Ad Inventory

    Nearly six months before Quibi is slated to hit the market, a cluster of large advertisers has committed millions in ad spending to the ambitious — and untested — premium mobile-video brainchild of Jeffrey Katzenberg. Quibi announced that it has sold out its $150 million advertising inventory for the first year. The startup’s category-exclusive ad partners [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content