I watched as much as I could each night of The American Experience's The Great War
, produced to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the US entry into the war. I always nod off well before 11:00, so I only caught about two-thirds of each episode. Not as comprehensive in scale as the ten part The First World War
from Channel 4 from 2003, the newer show does a deep dive, for television, about the war. Pershing is handled pretty well, and Wilson is presented with some dubious statements, some of them fawning, but also some much needed criticism. On the one hand, one talking head states that Wilson was the most religious President ever (more than one-time minister James Garfield?), and there is some discussion about the supposedly visionary nature of his Fourteen Points, but at least one commentator rightly notes that Wilson was one of the most repressive Presidents this country has had. There was one particularly irksome statement by one presenter about how the Great War saw a battle with the most American casualties ever, a rather anti-factual statement that ignores the whole Civil War thing. There is some footage of the costs of war, with shell shocked soldiers, and soldiers with up to four limbs amputated, as well as necessarily light coverage of the flu pandemic (light given the format and duration of the show). And the role of propaganda also got some much needed attention. Thankfully, we have advanced beyond its use today. The show is presented with more or less standard outlook on the US entry into the war and the role of the US in the world, and it has a nicely modern cadre of presenters sure to cover a diverse array of viewpoints, which is to be expected from the show. It's good to see one of the most important series of events in human history get a bit more attention, but it lacks the snap and pizazz and uber-bad guys of the sequel, so that will continue to get more attention.