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Tom Brokaw Brings "1968" Up to Date
December 9, 2007  | By David Bianculli
 
Tom Brokaw, who celebrated WWII veterans as The Greatest Generation, focuses on the 1960s in his latest book - and tonight at 9 ET on The History Channel, in a two-hour documentary, he hones in on one year in particular: 1968.

The most powerful parts of 1968 with Tom Brokaw are the ones devoted to the Robert F. Kennedy assassination and the year's volatile Democratic National Convention. If you don't know, or have trouble remembering, just what made 1968 such a raw and pivotal year, those segments explain it powerfully.

What's best about 1968 with Tom Brokaw, though, is how Brokaw, rather than wallow in simple nostalgia, keeps pushing the past into the present. A nurse and an amputee from Vietnam are shown today counseling war veterans from Iraq. Racial protests in the Deep South in 1968 are compared to protests in Jena in 2007.

brokaw-smothers-stewart.jpg

And bridging four decades of political comedy, Brokaw interviews Tom Smothers from the bold 1960s variety series The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and Jon Stewart from today's bold fake news series The Daily Show - at the same time.

Seeing those two men sitting next to one another, each respecting the other's attitudes and accomplishments, is good to see. Personally, it's great to see, and to hear, because right now I'm writing a book about the content, censorship battles and legacy of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Hearing Stewart talk about Tom and Dick Smothers as his earliest important comedic influences makes me feel even better about Stewart... and I was feeling just fine about him before.

The Smothers Brothers, in 1969, were silenced by CBS - fired, not cancelled, as Tom Smothers corrects people all the time. Jon Stewart, right now, is being silenced, too - by the writers' strike. The times, as Brokaw suggests in tonight's very worthwhile documentary, haven't a-changed nearly enough.

 

1 Comment

 

Bill Chapman said:

I especially remember the winter-spring of 1968 quite vividly. I was finishing my junior year of college. It seems as if it was just one political shock after another played out in rapid succession on the screen of a small red portable TV I had setup in the living room of my apartment -- Lyndon Johnson's March 31 speech that ended with his taking a "Sherman" as he withdrew from the 1968 presidential campaign, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. four days later on April 4, and finally, the assassination of Robert Kennedy around midnight on June 5-6.

Comment posted on December 9, 2007 2:26 PM

 
 
 
 
 
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