DVD Review: THE PRESIDENTS COLLECTION

PBS Paramount
Release date: August 26, 2008
MSRP: $129.98
Fourteen DVDs for 2100 minutes

Randy is a big fan of history (though he appears to enjoy the darker side of it…I wonder if that says something about him?), so I gave him the Presidents Collection for review.
After a few days, I followed up with him, only to find him feeling overwhelmed. “This thing is huge! I thought it would be 20-30 minutes per president, but these things run hours long!”

He went on to explain that while he was thrilled with the set, he could not complete it in time, or even get his head around how to review something so big and detailed.

Enter your friendly editor.
The Presidents Collection is an amazing set, fifteen DVDs, running around thirty-five hours, that covers ten presidencies of the 20th Century.
Each of these segments originally aired on the PBS series The American Experience. Included are Theodore Roosevelt , Woodrow Wilson , FDR , Truman , JFK , LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and the first George Bush. The original airings were between 1996 and 2008.
I am not sure why Harding, Eisenhower and Ford (Ok, Ford I actually understand) were excluded. Harding’s admin was notoriously corrupt and Eisenhower resided over a very complex post-WW II period that saw the start of the cold war. One would think that both of those presidencies would offer a wealth of material to examine.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of these sets is the amount of material they present, photos, footage even comments from descendant, friends and relatives. These were not done half-assed; PBS did an amazingly thorough job, going over not only the major points of history, but also many small details that make these iconic figures of our history very human.

With the holidays fast approaching, this set would make an excellent gift for any history buff on your list. I would go so far as to say that it would be an essential part of the library of such a person.
If you have kids, these would really assist in any papers they might write on American history, and are far more interesting than reading info online.
Extra Features
There is a PDF educational guide for all but Wilson, but fans of Woody should not feel bad because there is also an extended version of his piece, with an hour and a half of extra footage, plus interviews scholars, some photo galleries (including a very cool one of WW I posters) and a piece on Wilson’s legacy.
Fans of JFK will also be thrilled with the impressive set of extras he gets; with a family tree as well as an interview with historian Robert Dallek.
Like Randy, I have not watched all of them, but have no problems calling this set an invaluable educational resource.
As I said, any history buff will be in nirvana with this collection.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.