America in Primetime (2011)

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Released 5-Dec-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 208:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Lloyd Kramer
Judd Apatow

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Peter Nashel

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Are we truly living in the Golden Age of television? It is a point that not only gets discussed around a few water-coolers but is posited on more than a few occasions in this excellent series from The Documentary Group and WETA, Washington DC. Opinions may vary but there can be no denying that TV viewers are currently spoiled for quality viewing choice. Richly detailed historical drama - see Mad Men. Violent fantasy epic - Game of Thrones. Joyously trashy sex and supernatural- try True Blood. Costume drama/melodrama - Downton Abbey.

     It is not that there are quality shows on TV, there have always been quality shows, but that there are so many of them. Cable television with its greater freedom of content can be thanked for bringing adult concepts into mainstream television. The above selections don't even include comedies, like Modern Family and Girls and leave out a number of defining dramas - Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy, Justified, Breaking Bad are just a few more. What is more the series focuses on US product only. Shows of equal quality are being made right here as well as in Europe.

     So if TV is getting better is it because cinema is getting worse, dishing up one too many soggy romantic comedy and empty CGI blockbuster? That is perhaps another question and one not answered by America in Primetime. What the show does do, however, is shine a light on the history and development of quality television. It is not a fluff piece and it is clear that those involved in making great TV take their job very seriously, but neither is it cold and intellectual.

     Any chronological history of American primetime television is bound to be unwieldy and difficult to comprehend as the subject is so vast. Cleverly the filmmakers have chosen to make this show into four thematically separated episodes, each allowing them the depth to explore the history and meaning of TV scripted shows.

     The episodes are:

     As the titles suggest each episode focuses on an archetype. What follows is a blend of footage from shows old and recent interspersed with interviews with writers, directors and stars. Gradually a compelling picture emerges not just of the TV we watch but how it represents societal values ( the post-war America embracing the western heroes of Gunsmoke and The Rifleman) and changes it ( the anti-war sentiment of MASH, the post-feminism of Sex and the City).

     Of course gender roles are a key feature of television. The show charts the dual courses - of men through Father Knows Best to The Cosbys and Homer Simpson and for women - The Lucy Show, Mary Tyler Moore Show and Sex and the City.Cataclysmic shifts in gender roles are seen in the tiniest moment such as when Agent Scully walked alongside, rather than behind, Agent Mulder in The X-Files.

     The format is very engaging. Even when the show is one you never managed to catch (Homicide: Life on the Streets for me) it is fascinating to see how it drew on the past and forged new paths for the future.

    America in Primetime is essential viewing for anyone with a love of scripted television.

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Transfer Quality


     America in Primetime comes to DVD in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio consistent with its original wide screen television presentation. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     The show mixes old TV with fresh interview footage and both, with age limitations, look extremely good. There is no way that ancient TV footage is going to look newly minted though the quality has been freshened up for inclusion in the show.

     The image quality is sharp. Colours are strong and stable. Flesh tones of the interviewees are accurate.

     I have, in fact, only one gripe. It is the same gripe that applies to any of those TV shows that are presented in 1080i on TV then put out on DVD only in this Region. Although this DVD is good looking the fact remains that it looked better when I saw it on SBS last year.

    There are subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The sound for America in Primetime is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track running at 224 Kb/s.

     This is perfectly adequate for a show that consists of interviews and excerpts from TV shows that were primarily 2.0 to begin with.

     There is no criticism to be levelled at the sound transfer. The interviewees are well recorded and everything can be heard clearly.

    Music comes from a variety of sources and is well used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras on this DVD. It is All Region DVD.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There is a 1080i Blu-ray available in Region A which includes some extra interview footage. If you want the Blu-ray get Region A but otherwise our Region is fine.


     America in Primetime doesn't try to cover everything about television but it does do a great job in getting to the heart of what our TV is about.

    The DVD presentation is excellent, though not as good as the original HDTV broadcast.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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