“Jackie Robinson” aired on PBS from April 11-12, chronicling the life and career of the title pioneer, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The two-part, four-hour documentary is directed by Ken Burns along with his daughter Sarah Burns and David McMahon. Will it add to Ken Burns’s Emmy haul?
Burns earned a pair of Oscar noms for Best Documentary Feature in the 1980s — for “Brooklyn Bridge” (1981) and “The Statue of Liberty” (1985) — but the Emmys are where the revered documentarian has made his biggest awards impact. He has won five times out of 14 nominations, including Best Informational Series for “The Civil War: A General Motors Mark of Excellence” (1991) and “Baseball” (1995), Best Documentary Special for “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” (2005) and Best Documentary Series for “The National Parks: america’s Best Idea” (2010).
Burns most recently picked up a pair of nominations last year for Best Documentary Series for producing “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” and “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.” Those programs lost to HBO’s watercooler crime series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”
The reviews have been glowing for “Jackie Robinson,” earning it a score of 83 on MetaCritic. Consider some of its raves:
Brian Lowry (Variety): “Given Ken Burns’ devotion to history – and the way key aspects of it intersect on various fronts – few topics could be better suited to his talents and passion than ‘Jackie Robinson,’ a four-hour PBS documentary produced in conjunction with Major League Baseball. Yet while the Dodger star’s career brings together sports, race and politics, it is also a tremendous love story, as well as a tragedy, as illness shortened the life of a man widely heralded as one of the greatest athletes and civil-rights advocates of all time.”
Neil Genzlinger (New York Times): “The second half of Robinson’s story — he died in 1972 — becomes a fascinating study of fame during an era of tumult. It’s almost impossible to stay ahead of a wave of rapid change; today’s heroes are tomorrow’s afterthoughts. Only with the passage of time does the lasting import of a life like Robinson’s become clear again.”
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Robert Bianco (USA Today): ” Ken Burns film about Jackie Robinson might seem inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful — or any less welcome. Spend just a few minutes with ‘Jackie Robinson,’ a four-hour, two-part film from Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon, and you can sense why the story of the man who broke baseball’s major-league color barrier would call out to our greatest film historian.”
Robert Lloyd (Los Angeles Times): “Narrated by Keith David, with Jamie Foxx reading Robinson’s words, it’s a lump-in-the-throat trip, inspiring and exciting, through a life that has often been viewed only within the confines of the game he played; Burns widens the view to take in the husband, father, activist, columnist, businessman and political figure, for better and worse (but mostly for the better) an expression of the man.”
Photo Credit: PBS