Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Stephen Fry in America: An Introduction

"I was so nearly an American. It was that close. In the mid-1950s my father was offered a job at Princeton University – something to do with the emerging science of semiconductors. One of the reasons he turned it down was that he didn’t think he liked the idea of his children growing up as Americans. I was born, therefore, not in NJ but in NW3."

So begins Stephen Fry in America.

When a documentary is made about a particular country or state usually you see the normal tourist highlights. When one thinks of the United States places like Washington D.C., Miami Beach, Hawaii, Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis might come to mind. Stephen shows you those things in this documentary, but he also focuses on the roads less traveled in America. He doesn't just show the beautiful side of life in America, he shows a part of American life that is gritty, depressing, violent and heartbreaking. He sugar coats nothing and you get to see parts of America for all they are worth--both good and bad.

I'd wager that even people who were born and raised their entire lives as United States citizens will be seeing some things that they've never seen before. Mr. Fry is able to take viewers places the average traveler wouldn't be able to go or wouldn't care to go such as inside a home built by Marjorie Merriweather Post, on a tour of a U.S. Navy submarine, to a "body farm", sitting in on a Pardons and Paroles session in Alabama, inside Angola State Penitentiary, to the factory where the Oscars are made and a home once lived in by Edith Wharton.

Stephen Fry in America was presented in the United Kingdom in six, sixty-minute segments on BBC One in October and November of 2008. Viewers in the United States were able to see the documentary on HDNet. Stephen drove a black London cab, "albeit hired in the U.S." to all 50 of the States (he couldn't take his little cab to Alaska and Hawaii). Each segment comprised one section of the United States.

He meets a wide variety of people in his travels: barbers, deer hunters, prisoners, celebrities, Native Americans, distillers and amateur musicians. The people themselves are often as colorful and unique as their surroundings. I mean, how many people would really have the state of Kentucky tattooed on their posterior? That's being unique!

Episode One, New England saw Stephen visiting Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York City, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.

Episode Two, The Deep South took Stephen through Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

Episode Three, The Mississippi River brought Stephen to Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Episode Four, Mountains and Plains took our host through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas

Episode Five, True West continues the journey to New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Nevada

Episode Six, Pacific completes the journey by visiting California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii

Fans of Stephen Fry in America, myself included, have been hoping for a long time that extra footage Stephen and his crew obtained during his travels in America would be compiled into a second series. The original series and a companion book, Stephen Fry In America, was released onto DVD in the United Kingdom. Fans in the United States are still awaiting the release of this brilliant documentary of their country to be released on DVD.

For more information about this amazing six part documentary series please visit Stephen Fry's official site. While you are there, why not enjoy the rest of the great content on Stephen's site? You might even want to join Club Fry so you can leave comments for Stephen and discuss all things Fry (and even things non-Fry) with other Stephen Fry fans.

Over the course of the next several days I will be discussing each of the six parts in greater detail. To start off with, enjoy a brief introduction to Stephen Fry in America from You Tube presented on the BBC's Official YouTube channel:

1 comment:

  1. I watched this program in full last year and it was excellent. Fun and informative all at once. It comes highly recommended.