Friday, July 30, 2010

Suffering Succotash!

I would like to think I am something of a history documentary connoisseur. I watch about 4 every week. I'm watching one right now! [Christianity: The First 1,000 Years] I don't have cable, I have Netflix. And, the movies that come through the mail and over the instant queue are either horror films or documentaries, my favorite being historical documentaries. (I like to clarify, because I'm not into documentaries about global warming, school shootings or fast food ... )

Earlier this week, I found what I assumed to be a great PBS documentary about Benjamin Latrobe. I was pretty excited; PBS puts on a great documentary, T.J. Ben Franklin, etc are all amazing docs. But ... the narrator/host of this DVD has the most insufferable voice I've ever heard, made worse by a speech impediment in the form of a lisp. Nothing against lisps ... I had one for the longest time when I was a child. I found out that the host is Paul Goldberger. Apparently this guy is famous ... but honestly, he should not be in charge of telling a story on camera. Not only was his voice too awkward for narration purposes, but he was far too involved in the process. A good documentary makes the subject or person of interest the main focus so that the person watching the film can learn something, right? This documentary was nearly this guy's diary or a movie he did himself ... you really get the feeling that he wants to make it about him, not poor Latrobe, as if he didn't have enough disappointment in his life already! I wish they would have put something on the box saying "follow this guy around as he talks over historians and shows off how many blazers he has .... and theres something about Benjamin Latrobe, too." Instead of the classic interview of the historians who are experts on the subject sprinkled through, telling a story, this guy awkwardly had to be on camera as well and constantly interrupted, almost usurping the information that these historians were trying to convey. At one point, as he was interviewing a woman in one of Latrobe's buildings, the camera was on her and he moved into the mirror behind her so that he was on camera, too! I would like to think that the camera man was trying something new, but I can definitely picture him saying "no, wait ... look you can see me in the reflection! Keep filming!" So awkward.  I honestly don't remember one thing about Latrobe that I didn't already know except that the host of the show is bald and sounds like the guy from The Princess Bride ...


What a nightmare. I actually wrote a review on Amazon. I know, I'm such a rebel! I'm sure that Paul is a wonderful man, I thought he was really great for the first five minutes, but this type of show should not have been billed as a biographical documentary, but a personal walk-through history for Paul. I would not have picked it up, but I would also not have gotten a headache.


  1. Wallace Shawn is going to be offended that you compared him to this man.

  2. hahaha. no joke. i'll have to write a formal apology.