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Picks and Pans Review: Empire of the Air

Posted on

PBS (Wed., Jan. 29, 9 P.M. ET)

Grade B+

This new documentary from Ken (The Civil War) Burns is an engrossing history of commercial radio. It focuses on three pivotal figures: visionary businessman David Sarnoff and rival inventors Lee de Forest and Edward Howard Armstrong.

Though smaller in scale and less dramatic, the film succeeds with the same elements that made Burns’s Civil War so compelling: a glorious assemblage of still photographs, anecdotal narration (by Jason Robards) and lively commentators including Garrison Keillor and Norman Crowin.