Friday, December 12, 2014

The American Revolution: Forgotten Heroes Get Their Due on AHC

Losing one’s place in history is another unfortunate drawback to falling on the battlefield. Had he survived Bunker Hill, Dr. Joseph Warren probably would be remembered as a Founding Father on par with Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin. Instead, he sacrificed everything for liberty. Warren and scores of other overlooked patriots get their due in American Heroes Channel’s three-part The American Revolution (promo here), which premieres this Monday night, beginning with Rise of the Patriots.

It was Warren who dispatched Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride. He was a founding commander of the Minutemen, the organizer of an early patriot spy ring within Redcoat occupied Boston, and a leading orator for the cause. Yet, despite Warren’s prominence, Revere would become the iconic Minuteman. Through PBS-style dramatizations and several historians’ expert commentary, AHC’s American Revolution gives viewers a sense of how indispensable the good doctor was to the Patriot campaign in its earliest days.

Each installment will have a defining figure like Warren, but other notably overlooked Revolutionary War heroes will be peppered-in throughout the series. Rise, also duly salutes freed slave Salem Poor, whose courage at Bunker Hill seems tailored made for a dramatic treatment, as well as the irascible French and Indian War veteran Samuel Whittemore, who holds the distinction of being the oldest Revolutionary War veteran and apparently the hardest to kill.

The whole approach of the series is quite appealing. Clearly, there is a working assumption that freedom and love of country are worth fighting for. By focusing on the worthy but marginalized supporting players, it finds an angle to make familiar history feel fresh. No cherry trees or kite flying this time around. As an additional bonus, the talking heads are more engaging and in many cases more interesting to look at than is often the case in historical programming.

Frankly, the holiday season is a rather apt time to broadcast Revolutionary War programming, with the 238th anniversary of Washington’s Christmas Crossing of the Delaware fast approaching. Appropriately, heroes of Valley Forge and the Battle of Trenton will dominate the second episode, The Empire Fights Back, premiering immediately following Rise. AHC’s Revolution then concludes this Tuesday with Return of the Rebels. Based on the entertaining and indeed educational Rise, the entire American Revolution should definitely be well worth watching when it premieres this Monday (12/15) on Discovery Communication’s American Heroes Channel.