PBS brings encore presentation of Ken Burns’ National Park documentary this week
The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
What: An encore airing of Ken Burns’ six-part, 12-hour documentary on the National Park system, with gorgeous scenery from across the U.S. and narration from Peter Coyote, Andy Garcia, Josh Lucas, Eli Wallach, Campbell Scott, Sam Waterston, John Lithgow and more
When: Monday to Saturday, April 25-30 at 7 p.m. nightly
The documentary series airs in conjunction with annual National Park Week, held April 16-24. For more info on the documentary, see www.pbs.org.
On the heels of National Park Week, and in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, PBS will present an encore broadcast of the 2009 Ken Burns documentary series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” this Monday through Saturday at 7 p.m. nightly.
The 12-hour, six-part documentary series, directed by Burns and co-produced with longtime collaborator Dayton Duncan, is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence — and just as radical: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone. As such, it follows in the tradition of Burns’ exploration of other American inventions, from baseball and jazz.
“One of the great joys of making The National Parks was not only visiting the most spectacular locations on Earth, but also working with the National Park Service and meeting the men and women who take care of these parks so that they can be enjoyed by everyone,” Burns said. “As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NPS, it’s a fitting time to watch our series, but I also encourage everyone to visit as many parks as possible in 2016. And, when you do, be sure to thank the park rangers and staff.”
Filmed over the course of more than six years in some of nature’s most spectacular locales — from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska — the documentary is ultimately a story of people from every conceivable background: rich and poor, famous and unknown, soldiers and scientists, natives and newcomers, idealists, artists and entrepreneurs. All are people willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved and, in doing so, reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy. It is a story of struggle and conflict, high ideals and crass opportunism, stirring adventure and enduring inspiration, all set against breathtaking backdrops.
“We’re thrilled that PBS is showing The National Parks again, especially during a year that is such an important milestone in the history of the parks,” Duncan said. “Just as the parks themselves represent a geographic timelessness, the story of the parks and the ideas on which they were founded are equally timeless. The debates that were going on a hundred years ago — about private enterprise in the parks, how we maximize access to parks without harming them and how we use federal land — are still going on today. It’s an active conversation in which we should all participate.”
After its broadcast in 2009, the documentary won two primetime Emmy Awards, the first for outstanding nonfiction series and the second for outstanding writing in nonfiction programming. In return, the director of the National Park Service made Burns and Duncan honorary park rangers.
In addition to Peter Coyote’s narration, the series features first-person voices read by some of America’s greatest actors. Tom Hanks reads the voices of several characters in the film, including Congressman John F. Lacey, who helped push a bill through Congress to protect Yellowstone’s last wild buffalo herd.
“When we first aired The National Parks seven years ago, it was a spectacular success, not only in terms of ratings, but in how it encouraged people to become engaged with these natural treasures that belong to us all and that we must protect,” PBS Chief Programming Executive and General Manager Beth Hoppe said. “We’re thrilled to show the series again, and know that whether you saw it during its first broadcast or are seeing it for the first time, it will be an experience to cherish.”
With 409 units (59 national parks, plus 350 national monuments, historic sites and other units), the National Park Service has a presence in each of the 50 states. Like the idea of freedom itself, the national park idea has been constantly tested, is constantly evolving and is inherently full of contradictory tensions: between individual rights and the community, the local and the national; between preservation and exploitation, the sacred and the profitable; between one generation’s immediate desires and the next generation’s legacy.
“Ken and Dayton did a fantastic job of not only capturing the awesome beauty of the parks, but also putting together an epic narrative on how the parks came to be and why they matter,” said Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service. “The centennial celebration of the National Park Service will be that much more special with this opportunity to experience this story again.”
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