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Pioneers of Television: Season 2

A little shallow, but entertaining

Rod Lott February 21st, 2011

Season two of PBS’ “Pioneers of Television” documentary series hits DVD in one set or in four separate editions, each devoting one hour to a specific genre: “Crime Dramas,” “Local Kids’ TV,” “Science Fiction” and “Westerns.”


Your attention to them is directly related to your interest in the subject.

With all narrated by Kelsey Grammer, the episodes are driven mostly by talking-head interviews with the principles, plus clips from the featured programs. The occasional re-enactment comes off as cheesy — especially with its sepia-toned glow and fuzzy edges — and unnecessary.

Fans of TV — and who isn’t? — are likely to get nostalgic for the simpler days of the tube, but the scope of the episodes is narrower than expected or desired. For example, there were plenty of sci-fi programs that could be considered road-pavers, but only three are covered with any depth — “Star Trek,” “Lost in Space” and “The Twilight Zone” — and that depth is really just a surface-scratcher, unlikely to impart any new information.

Sometimes the choices of what qualifies as “Pioneer” seem iffy: “Dragnet,” absolutely; “Mannix,” I’m unconvinced. The most interesting of the four discs is the one devoted to kids’ shows. While you will see the likes of “Sesame Street,” of course, the hour really does stress the “local,” opening your eyes to some programming that may strike you as rather alien. —Rod Lott

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