We Should Organize a Staff Field Trip to Shenandoah: Ken Burns Take on National Parks on PBS

I’m under double deadline here and am therefore forbidden from saying one word about television. Not one word. Not a word about there being Harlem Globetrotters on The Amazing Race or about how Community and Bored to Death are essentially the same (good) show or wondering how Trauma could open with not one but two helicopters crashing and yet not have Paul McCrane involved.

But I do hope you’re all enjoying Ken Burns’ latest opus, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, as much as I am. I’m soaking in national parks around here, and as such I forget sometimes what a miracle that is. Burns doesn’t–like the best historians, he tells a story, and this story is one of democracy. Thinking about the way the world operated until just recently, it’s astonishing that Yellowstone Park isn’t an aristocrat’s gated summer backyard. Thinking about the way the world operates these days, it’s astonishing that Bryce Canyon National Park wasn’t hoarded away by someone as rich as Mitt Romney. But they weren’t–they belong to us. The national parks are the places where this land really was made for you and me. Burns saw that slender thread and has woven it into his typical gorgeous tapestry, full of wonder, nobility, surprises, and good humor (oh, John Muir–you really were something). Someday we’ll be watching a five-part documentary on PBS entitled Ken Burns: America’s Best Storyteller. Going on right now on PBS, often with multiple showings a day and, in at least some locales, starting over from the beginning next week. You really do have to check your local listings on this one, but don’t miss it.