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DVD Review: History Channel’s ‘Disasters Deconstructed’

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Our friends out at the History Channel sent over something very impressive for us, especially for those of you out there who are into disaster movies. Because Disasters Deconstructed is going to be something more terrifying than a disaster movie; a disaster reality.

Disasters Deconstructed is a six-DVD package that’s going to comprise three important facets: the first pair of DVDs will encompass episodes of a short-lived History Channel affair called “Inspector America” that takes a close look at the infrastructure of America. Inspector America examines roads, bridges, sewer systems, and plenty of the other things that we depend on every day. The second pair of discs contains eight installments of the History Channel’s popular Modern Marvels show, specifically, the “Engineering Disaster” series that offers a variety of exactly what the title implies. The final pair of discs covers two key disasters in history, the Titanic in the form of “Titanic’s Achilles Heel” and three separate specials on the Hindenburg, including “The Hindenburg”, “What Went Down: Hindenburg”, and “Tech Effect: Hindenburg”.

Disasters Deconstructed is a spectacularly mixed bag. For instance, “Inspector America” was pretty much designed to be disturbing. But with that design comes the inherent problem: you can only spend so long screaming at the audience that everything is always horrible before they just plain stop caring. The worst part of watching “Inspector America” was the sheer magnitude of the problems coupled with the inevitable feeling of helplessness that came with it. Fixing the problems “Inspector America” would have required potentially billions–if not outright trillions–of dollars, and given the state of the economy, the solutions were largely impossible.

What, therefore, is the entertainment value of watching a show that features nothing but unfixable problems and a host that’s so emphatic and shrill about their need to be fixed that he won’t stop talking about it? Maybe there’s something more to this than entertainment, but still, it’s tough to watch, though some would say it should be.

Meanwhile, “Engineering Disasters” is a bit more interesting, taking disasters that already happened and taking them apart to show just what exactly happened to cause them, as well as providing something on not only how they might have been fixed, but also how to avoid similar in the future. The final discs should have had a bit more balance–why one Titanic bit and three Hindenburg bits?–but it still does a good job of showing just what’s going on here with these famous tragedies. All of the discs will go throw disasters, both past and potential, with a fine-toothed comb, and the level of detail is amazing.

Given that it’s all pretty well fact-based, it’s going to have something of a limited appeal. But it’s still very well done overall, some parts more so than others, but it’s all extremely watchable and if not always entertaining, then certainly enlightening.

Deconstructing Disasters has an extremely specific audience in mind, but is also extremely deep, and by and large, a great time for those who can’t get enough of disaster.

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