- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- Subtitles: N/A
- Region: A
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 3
- Studio: A&E Home Video
- Blu-ray Release Date: September 14, 2010
- List Price: $49.95
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
If you happened to fall asleep during any of your grade school history classes, then you might actually learn something from watching The History Channel’s America: The Story of US. Otherwise, there’s not much new to be gleaned from this series, which plays it pretty close to the script. It’s a “pop history” of the United States, from the Jamestown colony all the way through to the new millennium, bolstered by CGI effects that allow viewers to stare straight down the barrel of a revolutionary war musket, witness firsthand the building of the Hoover Dam, or glimpse a time when thirty-million bison roamed the great plains. Through twelve episodes across three discs, most of the familiar areas, objects and people of US history are touched upon: The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, slavery, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Pearl Harbor, Native Americans, pilgrims — it’s all here; well, almost. Somehow the series manages to skip over US involvement in an entire war, World War I. It’s a glaring oversight in an otherwise thorough if typical series.
Familiar pundits and celebrities are called upon throughout the series to offer their knowledge and opinions on the various subjects pertaining to US history, including Tom Brokaw, Michael Douglas, Colin Powell, Bill Maher, Sheryl Crow, Newt Gingrich and the Reverend Al Sharpton, among others. Actor Liev Schreiber handles the narration duties well, with an engaging and steady voice that draws the viewer into even the most familiar of subjects.
The episode rundown is as such:
- “Rebels” — The early settlers, tobacco, Jamestown, Pilgrims, Plymouth.
- “Revolution” — The Revolutionary War, Declaration of Independence, George Washington at Valley Forge.
- “Westward” — The Alamo, California gold rush, the Mississippi River.
- “Division” — The Erie Canal, the growth of New York City, cotton, Frederick Dougla, Harriet Tubman.
- “Civil War” — Self-explanatory; all about the US Civil War and the North’s industrial advantage over the South.
- “Heartland” — The building of the railroad, pioneers, bison across the plains.
- “Cities” — Skyscrapers, Statue of Liberty, city slums, Triangle shirtwaist factory fire in New York City.
- “Boom” — Oil discovery, prohibition, Al Capone, income tax.
- “Bust” — The Great Depression, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, the dust storms, building of Mt. Rushmore, radio, Joe Louis vs. Max Schmelling, the growth of the Nazis in Germany.
- “World War II” — Pearl Harbor, the Jeep, D-Day, Hiroshima.
- “Superpower” — Post-war America, building of the Interstate highway system, Eisenhower, the suburbs and the baby boom, the civil rights movement and the cold war.
- “Millennium” — The growth of television, Vietnam, Nixon, Watergate, unemployment and oil shortage in the 70s, computers and the Internet age; the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks.
The 1080p/24 AVC/MPEG-4 encoding of America: The Story of US’ HD source looks basically good and certainly superior to HD broadcasts of the show, but it is not spectacular HD by a long shot. There is a lot of video noise in some areas and detail is rather soft. The varying source materials also make for differences in quality.
The two lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mixes for America: The Story of Us are both a bit off. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is by far the worst of the two, with a terrible balance of sound. The low frequencies are far too boomy and narration is consistently drowned out by sound effects and the music track. Things improve a lot with the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, but the narration is still a little low in the mix and tends to get a little bit lost when sound effects kick in.
The supplements consist only of a brief introduction to the series by President Barack Obama and some additional scenes left out of several of the episodes.
The supplements provided with this release are:
- Introduction by President Barack Obama (1.78:1; 1080i/60)
- Additional scenes on:
- American Revolution (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:03.21)
- Declaration of Independence (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:03.52)
- George Washington (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:02.21)
- Additional Scenes on:
- Civil War (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:04.06)
- Transcontinental Railroad (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:03.28)
- The Statue of Liberty (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:03.12)
- Henry Ford and the Model T (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:03.21)
The Definitive Word
Although it doesn’t offer a fresh insight into US history, I’m sure there are many who will find America: The Story of US a pleasing enough series to watch, despite its omission of World War I and lackluster audio presentation on Blu-ray.
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