A 26 episode documentary television series that was jointly produced by PBS
in 1995 - 1997.
History documentaries are infamous for just reciting the thoughts and actions of the powerful (invariably dead white males). This programme was unique in that it looked at how the life of the ordinary Joe Schmoe has been transformed in the twentieth century (albeit usually as a consequence of a dead white male's decision) - from ignorant toiling serf to new economy global citizen. However the programme carries an optimistic message: despite the twentieth century having wars and the Holocaust and heaps of other bad things, in the main we common people have become considerably richer, healthier, better educated and less subservient to our lords and masters.
Many people were interviewed, although only a few would be recognisable by name (General Vo Nguyen Giap, Erin Brockovich). Most instead were ordinary people who had by accident witnessed or became involved in history - a survivor of Nagasaki, a silver screen actress, an SS soldier, an environmental lawyer, a former classmate of Kwame Nkrumah, an emaciated Bosnian concentration camp prisoner, Ayatollah Khomeini's driver etc.
Intended for a high school audience, it is nevertheless quite enjoyable and informative for anybody interested in history. It is impressive how they manage to condense a few decades of events into a 55 minute episode all revolving around a common theme.
The series was produced by Zvi Dor-Ner, David Espar and Peter Pagnamenta. Zbigniew Preisner composed the programme's theme score which distinctively imitates the shifting zeitgeist of the twentieth century in its musical direction.
The episodes included :
Age of Hope (the turn of the century: 1901-1914)
People learn that first class passengers get priority to lifeboats.
Killing Fields (World War I: 1914-1918)
People learn not to volunteer for anything involving climbing out of a trench.
Red Flag (communism: 1917-1940)
People learn that Stalin is always right.
Lost Peace (the League of Nations: 1919-1935)
People learn that appeasement has limited effectiveness.
On the Line (mass production: 1908-1945)
People learn how to build Model T cars.
Great Escape (film: 1895-1964)
People learn not to crumple wrappers in cinemas.
Breadline (the Great Depression: 1929-1939)
People learn when not to buy shares.
Sporting Fever (Sport: 1919-1935)
People learn how to enjoy live soccer radio broadcasts.
Master Race (The Holocaust: 1926-1945)
People learn not to board
eastbound cattle wagons.
Total War (World War II: 1939-1945)
People learn not to march on Moscow.
Brave New World (the Cold War: 1945-1961)
People learn to settle on the west side of the Berlin Wall.
Freedom Now (decolonisation: 1947-1990)
People learn to take a hint when a burning Mau Mau spear flies through their colonial veranda.
Boom Time (economic prosperity: 1945-1973)
People learn to enjoy the swell life of the welfare state.
Fallout (nuclear technology:1945-1995)
People learn to duck and cover.
Asia Rising (the rise of the economic tigers: 1951-1988)
People learn not to sneer at Japanese products.
Living Longer (health care: 1944-1996)
People learn to use handkerchiefs and condoms.
Endangered Planet (environmentalism: 1959-1990)
People learn why their local riverbank is purple.
Skin Deep (civil rights in the US and South Africa: 1945-1994)
People learn which water fountain to use.
Picture Power (television: 1939-1997)
People learn how to enjoyably waste their lives away.
Great Leap (communism in China: 1934 - 1976)
People learn that self-preservation includes standing up against dumb mass mobilisation ideas thought up by the state, like killing birds (that eat the insects that eat your own crops).
Young Blood (baby boomers: 1950-1975)
People learn to not to trust anybody over thirty, and once they turn thirty not to trust their pension fund.
Half the people (emancipation of women: 1917-1996)
People learn to respect wimmin.
War of the Flea aka Guerilla Wars (civil conflict in Cuba, Vietnam and Afghanistan : 1956-1989)
People learn not to follow a Viet Cong into a foxhole.
God Fight Back (religious fundamentalism : 1928-1992)
People learn that pictures of girls stripping - or driving cars - can actually irritate mullahs.
People Power (Glasnost, Perestroika and the collapse of communism : 1971-1991)
People learn that the west is ultimately the best for everything except melancholic poetry.
Fast Forward (Neo-liberalism, Globalisation and the rest of the century)
People learn that as long as their job does not go south they can look forward to a prosperous life.