Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Going Back in Time

with one comment

Tonight Charity and I finished Colonial House, the latest in a series of reality TV shows produced by PBS. The general outline of a PBS reality show is as follows:

Pick a time period, a location, and a diverse group of normalish people from the 21st century. Then give the participants basic training in the skills of the time needed for survival and guidance on the social laws of the time. Finally, turn them loose for four or five months with following instructions

1) Use only the technology of the time period.

2) Become as functional a replica of the time as your community can (especially in regards to be prepared when winter arrives).

3) Live by the social customs of the time.

Colonial House is set in 1628 New England and is comprised of a Southern Baptist family from Texas, two college professors from California, an atheistic family from Massachusetts, and assorted single folks from New York City, Charleston (SC) and England who are charged with the goal of becoming an economically viable endeavor. On the whole they were a likeable group and the eight part series was an eye raising revisitation of realities of 17th century life. Watching people sleep on dirt, chop their fire wood, and eat peas-porridge hot and cold for months on end makes me very thankful for electricity and grocery stores. Watching them wrestle with state enforced church attendance has sparked much discussion over the last week and listening to the reflections of the visiting Indian tribes will probably spark some reflections on the reading I do for school.

* * *
I keep coming back to these shows. This installment is the third one that we’ve watched over the last year with previous series being Frontier House set in 1883 Montana and Manor House set in 1905 England. I think it’s interesting to learn about the technology of day: and watch people struggle with it while trying to building houses and pigpens or learn to cook. I get squeamish as I watch them mill about uncomfortably as they knock a sheep unconscious, quickly try to slit its throat and then relish and revel in fresh roasted meat. I enjoy the economic, historical and social perspectives of the times. I appreciate how they give voice to all the participants and to people I normal wouldn’t know.

I also find it really interesting to listen to the people reflect on their experiences during the filming of the show after several months back in their regular lives. It’s interesting how over each of the series the participants mourn different parts of the modern world and you can’t help but wonder if the technology and wealth that make our lives easier isn’t part of what keeps us apart.

It’s a close call but after reflecting with Charity I’d say that of the three we’ve seen Colonial House is our favorite. Each are recommendable for their own reasons, but with Colonial House you get to know the characters more closely. The layout of the community provides more interaction between the multiple families and single folks. And I think the issues encountered are larger than the others and have left me thinking more about them. Good television!


Written by furthermusings

June 29, 2006 at 10:20 pm

Posted in Reviews

One Response

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  1. I always wanted to see these but so far haven’t caught them. Are they on DVD, then?

    ku nkiko

    July 1, 2006 at 7:14 am

  2. Yep. We got them through Netflix.


    July 1, 2006 at 2:24 pm

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