A new History Channel series reimagines America's longest war as a home theater extravaganza.
Before I review Vietnam in HD, the six-hour History Channel epic, I need to get a couple of caveats out of the way.
First, if you have a high definition television, access to the History Channel’s HD signal, and a killer home stereo system, you should record the series and watch it in a dark room with no interruptions, preferably while indulging your inebriating substance of choice. It’s a sound and light show extraordinaire — a trip.
But you should only do this if — and here comes caveat No. 2 — you consider intense, often shockingly bloody documentary images to be just another thing to gawk over; something to toss up on a big screen instead of, say, Sucker Punch or The Dark Knight or The Dirty Dozen. Judged purely as a technical achievement, “Vietnam in HD” (Nov. 8-10, 9 p.m./8 Central) is impressive. It merges thousands of bits of footage collected via the History Film Corps into a nearly seamless whole — a roiling canvas of chopper evacuations, napalm strikes, city and jungle infantry skirmishes, and shots of wounded and dead soldiers with burned and mangled flesh. And it weds these images to the narratives of individual American soldiers who served in different phases of the war, from the early advisor stage (roughly 1961-1964) through the peak of infantry combat (1965-1969), the post-Tet Offensive period of “Vietnamization” and the fall of Saigon. (I’ve previewed the first four hours; the last two, “A Changing War”/”Peace With Honor,” weren’t available for critics.)
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A critic, journalist and filmmaker, Matt Zoller Seitz is the staff TV columnist for Salon.com and the founder of Press Play.