Washington DC is home to over 150 monuments and memorials, some famous
and some obscure. The Smithsonian channel came up with the good idea
of making a show that explored and discussed some of the more prominent
monuments in our nation's capital. The result, America's Greatest
Monuments is a brief overview of the more well known places in Washington.
Unfortunately this hour long program tries to cover too much ground and
ends up not really revealing much that's new or informative.
The show looks at 11 monuments all together, discussing the meaning
behind the memorial as well as the facts behind they're creation.
While there are a couple of interesting facts thrown out, I didn't know
that the Jefferson Memorial was blocked for years by Republicans in Congress
since Jefferson was a Democrat, and some unusual sights, like the "Kilroy
was here" carving purposefully inscribed in the WWII memorial, most of
the information is well known. The Tomb of the Unknowns is the final
resting place of an unidentified soldier from WWI, WWII, and Korea.
The Marine Corps Memorial is patterned after an iconic Pulitzer Prize winning
photograph. The Washington Monument was halted part way through construction
due to the civil war. While this is a nice overview, there wasn't
The best memorials inspire emotion. Who can't walk the length
of the Viet Nam Memorial and, no matter what your opinion of the war, walk
away unmoved by the seemingly countless names carved in black stone that
reflect the viewer's image? It's hard not to think of the Martin
Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech when looking at the Lincoln Memorial,
and feel sadness at a young president who was shot down when staring at
Kennedy's Eternal Flame. That's what this documentary lacked.
Each monument was only give a few minutes, less than five minutes on average,
and the discussion was a bit to dry. The dates of construction were
given and the architect(s) named and any controversy surrounding the placement
or content was mentioned along with a brief description of the monument,
but the show rarely connected with the viewer's emotions or succeeded in
making them feel proud or grateful.
A lot of this was due to the speed of the show. With so much ground
to cover, the monuments flew by rather quickly. While inscriptions
on walls were often highlighted, they were rarely on the screen long enough
to read. This not only gave the show a rushed feel, but lessened
the impact of the monuments that were shown.
The memorials and monuments profiled is this show are:
Kenndy's Eternal flame
The Tomb of the Unknowns
Viet Nam Memorial
Marine Corps Memorial
Korean War Memorial
The DD 5.1 track was pretty much overkill on this show. The narration
and all of the interviews were firmly centered on the screen and while
the background music did come from the rear speakers, it never created
an engulfing feeling. There were no audio defects worth mentioning.
Originally presented on the Smithsonian HD channel, I was disappointed
to find out that not only was this not released in HD, but the SD DVD isn't
even anamorphically enhanced. The 1.78:1 image is okay, but soft
and not nearly as detailed as I was expecting.
There are no extras aside from a reel of trailers for other Smithsonian
This was a great idea, but it fell flat in the execution. An hour
long show could have been created around any one of these monuments, and
to cram 11 into less than an hour is just pushing it too much. This
would be a good overview for an elementary school child who was going to
DC for the first time, but most adults will already know the pertinent
information contained on this disc. Make this one a rental.