(imported: Wikipedia: The_Vietnam_War_(TV_series, 2018, 26 March)  —  The Vietnam War (2017, Burns_ Novick)

The Vietnam War is a 10-part, 17-and-a-quarter-hour American television documentary series about the Vietnam War written by Geoffrey C. Ward and directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.[1][2][3] The first episode premiered on PBS on September 17, 2017. The script is by Geoffrey Ward, and the series is narrated by Peter Coyote.

Production[edit | edit source]

The series cost around $30 million and took more than 10 years to make.[4] It was produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, who had previously collaborated on The War (2007), Baseball: The Tenth Inning (2010), and Prohibition (2011). The production companies were WETA-TV in Washington, D.C., and Burns' Florentine Films.

The series features interviews with 79 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war or opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the North and the South.[5] Burns deliberately avoided "historians or other expert talking heads" and "onscreen interviews with polarizing boldfaced names like John Kerry, John McCain, Henry Kissinger and Jane Fonda." Instead, interviews were intended to provide a ground-up view of the War from the perspective of everyday people who lived through it.[4] The third episode features an interview with retired UPI reporter Joseph L. Galloway, who was awarded a Bronze Star with "V" device for assisting with the wounded in the Battle of Ia Drang.[6] Others interviewed include Vincent Okamoto, and Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried, a popular collection of linked short stories about the war.

The researchers for the film also accessed more than 24,000 photographs and examined 1,500 hours of archival footage.[4] Within the series' 17-and-a-quarter-hours, there are scenes covering 25 battles, ten of which are detailed scenes documenting and describing the action from multiple perspectives.[7]

Episodes[edit | edit source]

No. Episode Original air date

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Interviewees[edit | edit source]

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Photographs and additional details about the interviewees can be seen on the PBS website.

Home media[edit | edit source]

The Vietnam War was released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 19, 2017. Extras include a 45-minute preview program, two segments on the lives of two of the series' participants, and deleted scenes.[8] The series is also available for digital download.

Book[edit | edit source]

Accompanying the series is a 640-page companion book, The Vietnam War: An Intimate History by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns. Containing an introduction by Burns and Novick, it was published by Burns’ long-time publisher, Alfred A. Knopf,[8] and released on September 5, 2017.[9]

Reception[edit | edit source]

Critical reception[edit | edit source]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the series an approval rating of 97% based on 30 reviews and a weighted average score of 9.5/10. The site's critical consensus states, "The Vietnam War revisits a dark chapter in American history with patience, grace, and a refreshing -- and sobering -- perspective informed by those who fought."[10] Metacritic, another aggregator, gave the series a normalized score of 90 out of 100 based on 18 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[11]

Washington Post opinion writer George Will noted that the series is "an example of how to calmly assess episodes fraught with passion and sorrow." He continues: "The combat films are extraordinary; the recollections and reflections of combatants and others on both sides are even more so, featuring photos of them then and interviews with many of them now." Will concludes his column by declaring the series a "masterpiece".[12]

On the other hand, the San Jose Mercury News writer Tatiana Sanchez reported that some American and South Vietnamese veterans were "angry, (and) disappointed" with the documentary. They characterized it as a "betrayal". She writes: "veterans of the South Vietnamese military say they were largely left out of the narrative, their voices drowned out by the film’s focus on North Vietnam and its communist leader, Ho Chi Minh. And many American veterans say that the series had several glaring omissions and focused too much on leftist anti-war protesters and soldiers who came to oppose the war."[13]

Historian Mark Moyar published a review in which he criticized the series.[14] Moyar felt that Burns and Novick overemphasized American battlefield defeats from 1966–1967 while glossing over the many victories. He also felt that Burns did not properly explain why American generals ordered their forces to fight so fiercely for seemingly meaningless hills; Moyar feels that engaging the Viet Cong in sparsely populated areas was a superior option to letting them draw near populated cities, where American airpower and artillery would require more careful use. Moyar also contended that Burns and Novick should have more strongly emphasized the amount of foreign aid that the North Vietnamese received from the Chinese and that both Vietnams were not entirely self-sufficient. He also believed that Nixon, a mercurial president who expressed many contradictory opinions, could not be taken entirely seriously in the tape excerpts used in the documentary wherein he appears to express a desire to cut South Vietnam loose immediately after the 1972 elections and the Paris Peace Accords, while the documentary let the excerpts stand as seeming fact.[14]

Vietnam Veterans for Factual History, a Texas-based interest group with which Moyar is associated, wrote an open letter to Burns saying the film's "significant factual inaccuracies, omissions, and distortions deliver a message that is very negatively slanted against both the nation of South Vietnam and American involvement."[15] The letter also said "The film portrays U.S. support for South Vietnam as blustering, blundering jingoism and the choice of music, graphics, and interviewees demonstrates a bias in favor of the militant leftist anti-war cliches of the 1960s."[15]

Soundtrack[edit | edit source]

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, current members of the band Nine Inch Nails, were tasked to score the series, and provide both original music and a compilation soundtrack of popular songs.

Episode overview[edit | edit source]

Original score album[edit | edit source]

The score includes original compositions and reworked pieces from Nine Inch Nails songs and their award-winning scores for The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.[16] In addition, supplemental new music was arranged and performed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble, and also by David Cieri and Doug Wamble. The CD was released on September 15, 2017.[16]


Soundtrack album[edit | edit source]

The PBS website describes the series as featuring "more than 120 iconic popular songs that define the era",[17] including songs by then contemporary artists. Of these, 38 songs were selected for the series' soundtrack album, which was released on September 15, 2017.[16]


References[edit | edit source]

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  5. (in en-US) Watch Full Episodes Online of The Vietnam War | Broadcast Version on PBS, http://www.pbs.org/show/vietnam-war/, retrieved 2017-09-18
  6. 'The Vietnam War Episode 3' preview, PBS Tuesday, PBS, Ken Burns, September 19, 2017. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
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