History Channel’s ‘Grant’ Documentary on DVD Oct. 13

Lionsgate Oct. 13 will release on DVD the three-part History channel documentary miniseries Grant, covering the career of former U.S. General and President Ulysses S. Grant.

Based on the best-selling biography Grant by Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow, the program combines interviews with experts and historians, vivid reenactments, and archival materials to reveal the rise of Grant from military man to the general who won the Civil War to President of the United States. Executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, the miniseries stars Justin Salinger, Francis Chouler and Carel Nel.

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Washington

DVD REVIEW:

Street Date 8/25/20;
Lionsgate;
Documentary;
$14.98 two-DVD set;
Not rated;
Stars Nicholas Rowe, James Robinson, Nicholas Audsley, Nia Roberts. Narrated by Jeff Daniels.

This comprehensive study of the life of George Washington, notably produced by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, offers an enlightening and entertaining mix of well-known stories about the famed general, and quite a few that many with which many viewers may be unfamiliar.

The documentary originally aired in three two-hour installments in February on the History channel, and this DVD version is well timed to take advantage of any lingering interest in the founding fathers left over from the buzzworthy Disney+ presentation of Hamilton, as well as the continuing discussions over the appropriate hagiography of America’s historical figures in light of modern attitudes over the rejection of racism.

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The first part deals with Washington’s early military career, fighting for the British in the 1754-63 French and Indian War. His inability to rise in the ranks of the British Army spurs him to take command of the Continental Army in the American Revolution, which is covered in the second part. The third part details the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, America’s troubled early attempts at self-rule, the creation of the U.S. Constitution, and Washington’s two terms as America’s first president.

The format relies on dramatic re-creations of key events in Washington’s life, mixed with documentary-style narration from Jeff Daniels, and interspersed with interviews from modern scholars discussing what made Washington an ideal American hero and a unique historical figure.

It’s a bit of a return engagement for Daniels, who played Washington in the 2000 TV movie The Crossing, about the general’s famed boat ride over the Delaware River and the Battle of Trenton.

The documentary is also something of a primer for military history, giving a good overview of battle strategies for many of the key engagements in which Washington was involved.

It’s interesting to see some of the re-creations in light of other recent presentations about the founding of America. For instance, the segment on the Battle of Yorktown offers a number of details that will give viewers a better sense of what they are talking about during the song about the battle in Hamilton.

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The narrative doesn’t shy away from examining Washington’s ownership and treatment of his slaves, but it also doesn’t editorialize or pass judgment on him, concluding that it is a complicated issue and leaving the viewer to decide based on the fuller context of the historical record.

The only real quibble with the presentation would be how the show glosses over the final two years of Washington’s life, jumping from the end of his presidency in March 1797 to his death in December 1799. The documentary doesn’t relate many of the details of his “retirement,” during which he tended his farm, expanded production of his branded whiskey, and maintained an active political voice, even accepting command of an army raised in preparation for a potential war with France. Nor does it delve into how he developed the infection that led to his death, working too hard in freezing weather. That his doctors likely bled him to death trying to drain his body of the toxins is, however, well covered.

‘Washington’ Due on DVD Aug. 25 From Lionsgate

Washington, about the nation’s first president, is coming to DVD Aug. 25 from Lionsgate.

Narrated by Jeff Daniels, Washington tells the story of a young soldier who becomes the leader of men in a liberty-or-death campaign to forge a new nation. At the zenith of his power, George Washington retires to live out his days as a farmer. But with the young country on the verge of collapse, he is once again called to lead, creating the most powerful democracy in history.

Executive produced by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and best-selling author Doris Kearns Goodwin, the program features commentary from former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and a number of esteemed historians.

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It stars Nicholas Rowe, James Robinson, Nicholas Audsley and Nia Roberts.

Netflix Partners with MGM for ‘Vikings’ Series Return

Netflix is partnering with MGM Television for a new original series, “Vikings: Valhalla,” from creator Michael Hirst that continues the “Vikings” series that is now in its sixth and final season on the History channel.

The new saga begins 100 years after the original series concludes and dramatizes the adventures of the most famous Vikings who ever lived — Leif Erikson, Freydis, Harald Harada and the Norman King William the Conqueror (also a Viking descendant). These men and women will blaze new paths as they fight for survival in an ever changing and evolving Europe.

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MGM, which produced the series for History, said it is “thrilled” to partner with original creators and Netflix on the series.

“Valhalla has been a labor of love for everyone involved and as we look ahead to the continuation of this great saga, we are excited to know that fans the world over will have the opportunity to continue with the series on its new home at Netflix,” Steve Stark, president of television production and development, said in a statement.

“‘Vikings: Valhalla’ promises to be everything that fans love about the franchise: heart-pounding, unstoppable action rooted in rich characters and dramatic storytelling that shines the light on family, loyalty and power,” added Channing Dungey, VP of original series for Netflix.

Roku Offering Free Premium Content on Ad-Supported Channel

The Roku Channel, the subscription streaming media device manufacturer’s ad-supported service offering users access to third-party catalog programming, Sept. 30 began showcasing select third-party premium content — for free.

In a blog post, Roku announced it is offering programming from CBS-owned Showtime, MGM-owned Epix, HISTORY, Cinedigm, and Acorn TV, among others, in an attempt to jumpstart subscriptions to third-party services.

Programming includes: “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” (SHOWTIME), “Godfather of Harlem” (EPIX), “America The Story of Us” (HISTORY Vault), “Heartland” (Dove Channel), and “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” (Acorn TV), and more, with no subscription or even trial required.

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“Once you’ve sampled your new favorite show, follow one-click sign-up to begin a free trial or start a subscription,” Nicole Fencel, senior manager, programming product strategy at Roku, said in statement.

The Roku Channel is upping third-party premium over-the-top video services, as well as offering more than 80,000 ad-supported movies and TV episodes, more than 35 live and linear streaming services, including kids & family entertainment. 

 

Verizon Ups Video Content Rights From A+E Networks

Verizon and A+E Networks announced an expanded distribution partnership of both licensed and original content for the telecom’s pay-TV and Oath platform – the latter including Yahoo and AOL.

In addition to A&E, Lifetime, History and Viceland content for Fios, the deal includes first window rights for content from 45th & Dean – A+E’s digital entity.

Pay-TV and TV Everywhere rights include History’s “Knightfall,” which premiered Dec. 6; as well as “Vikings,” currently in its fifth season.

Other programs include Emmy-winning “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” and “Live PD;” Lifetime’s National Women’s Soccer League games and fashion competition series, “Project Runway;” in addition to Viceland’s “Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia” and “Desus & Mero.”

Verizon’s mobile and digital footprint, which ranks No.1 in monthly U.S. millennial reach and No.2 in total monthly U.S. digital audience, will expand access to A+E’s digital content and create new mobile options for viewers across its family of media brands, including content geared toward women and other specific audience segments.

“This partnership expansion is yet another example of how we’re fueling our new Oath media brands,” Brian Angiolet, SVP, global chief media and content officer at Verizon, said in a statement.

Original mobile and digital content provided by 45th & Dean features short and medium-form content, including Frankenstein-themed sci-fi drama “Second Chance,” which reached over 80 million views in its first season, and unscripted pranks show, “Bae or Bail,” whose first episode has garnered over 40 million views to date.