Parents' Guide to

American Experience

By Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

History comes alive in excellent docuseries.

TV PBS Educational 1988
American Experience Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.

Community Reviews

age 7+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 12+

Always Excellent

“American Experience” episodes from PBS are always extremely well done and very educational. Watch any of them and you will come away smarter. Obviously many of the topics would be over the heads of some children, so use your good judgement. This series is just one example of the many shows PBS offers every day that are not only very well done and engaging, but are also enlightening. If you’re not checking out PBS every week you’re missing the boat! One of the recent shows in the series is all about how women got the right to vote in America. What could be more engaging than that?

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
age 6+

INCREDIBLE show - some of the best documentary filmmaking I've ever seen

Through the use of incredible rare footage, photographs and interviews with experts, descendants, and sometimes even people who were really there, American Experience tells the story of some of the people, places and events which define American history. The documentaries are ingeniously directed, edited and written. In every episode, you will find historic people who made a difference, for better or for worse, so there is plenty to discuss with children (although it's unlikely most kids will want to sit through a historical documentary during their free time). You will see brave people who went through tremendous circumstances, and fought to make America a better place. The stories of American Experience tackle all sorts of stories, from the life of Walt Disney to war, racism, social justice, the environment and much, MUCH more. As I write this, they are doing a gargantuan 3-parter about the Space Race and the Moon Landing that is simply breathtaking. While watching American Experience, you will be shocked, you will be outraged, you will be saddened, you will wonder "why didn't I learn this in school?" But you will also be inspired by the people who used their voices to make positive changes. American Experience offers plenty of opportunities to ask yourself, "What does it mean to be an American?" "What is our national character?" "Who are we as a nation?" "What is our legacy?" "What does it mean to be patriotic?" "How do we reconcile the flaws of our heroes?" "How do we balance technological achievement with environmental devastation?" And many other such questions. This show probes the American national character and spirit better than any other. And yet, it also gives insight to humanity itself, our ambitions, our foibles and our inner selves. It asks not only what it means to be an American, but what it means to be human. Throughout this challenging program, every episode has a totally different story, with varying amounts of violence, sex and disturbing content (especially when the show gets into really controversial subject matter) Each episode has to be taken into account as its own film. And what great films they are.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (3):
Kids say: Not yet rated

The series doesn't shy away from the flip side of these pioneering successes, making sure to cover the real costs associated with challenging preconceived notions of "how things should be." Many of the profiled innovators faced often-overwhelming difficulties as their work went from being socially resisted and politically opposed to becoming part of the tapestry of American daily life. A winner of every major broadcast award, American Experience continues the tradition of public broadcasting by working to increase public understanding of American history. To help fulfill that goal, the show often profiles innovators --including women and racial and ethnic minorities -- whose work paved the way for others who ended up getting sole credit for landmark contributions. But the series' most powerful message may be that a person's greatest contribution to America isn't actually changing it, but rather bravely taking the initiative to attempt to do so.

TV Details

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