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Why wait until Sunday night to go back to the 90s? National Geographic has offered us an early look at their miniseries The '90s: The Last Great Decade, which is set to debut on Sunday night. The above video gives us a look at the first hour (or 42 minutes anyway) of the two-hour premiere of the 3-part miniseries, which will air Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night, beginning this weekend. The retrospective miniseries looks back at the most memorable events of the 90s, from the Nirvana and Seinfeld to the LA Riots, Bill Clinton and more.
National Geographic actually sent us all three parts of The '90s The Last Great Decade? to screen. I figured I'd watch Part 1 ("Great Expectations"), grab some first impressions and share them with you fine readers. And then I couldn't stop watching. I ended up screening all three parts over the course of the week. I wouldn't have minded if it were a bit longer -- mainly because I couldn't stop watching -- but the miniseries is broken up nicely to cover the major highs and lows of the 90s, with an eye for how these events shaped the decade and impacted the years to come.
One of the things I was most curious about was how Nat Geo's miniseries would compare to VH1's I Love the 90s, the 10-episode miniseries that aired a decade ago and featured comedians and 90s icons talking about the decade. Tonally, there's a noticeable difference, as National Geographic's miniseries veers away from humor and fads and focuses more on the state of the country throughout the decade and the major events that served to shape it. That includes the OJ Simpson's murder trial, the rise of Nirvana and grunge, and the '93 World Trade Center bombing.
While Rob Lowe narrates, the segments do feature celebrities and people with personal connections to the subject matter sharing their commentary of the featured event from their own perspective. That includes an impressive lineup of public figures, including Jason Alexander, Roseanne Barr, Arsenio Hall, Vanilla Ice, Courtney Love, Matthew Perry, Susan Sarandon and Martin Sheen; newsmakers including Tony Blair, Paula Coughlin, Christopher Darden, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Monica Lewinsky and Colin Powell.
The '90s The Last Great Decade? doesn't really have enough time to dig especially deep into any one major event, but what the miniseries does really well is tell the basic story, setting the scene and putting each event into context so that they're not just presenting these events to us with video and celebrity commentary, they're also telling a bigger story about how each subject either impacted or was a reflection of society at that time. It's for that reason that this miniseries is well worth watching in its entirety.
The miniseries doesn't confine itself to a fully chronological format. It does work its way through the decade, moving from one subject to the next, but it segments itself by topic to tell a more complete version of the story before moving on to the next segment. Beyond that, The '90s: The Last Great Decade? ties multiple topics and events together, which helps paint a better picture of not only the subject matter, but our perception of it then and now. So a segment about Roseanne is presented less about how popular the show was or why it was so funny, and more about why people responded to it as much as they did during that particular time.
Nostalgia plays a big factor in the entertainment value of this miniseries, but it doesn't appear to be the primary goal, which I think is what works so well about it. The 90s: The Last Great Decade? allows us to step back and see the decade from a broader perspective and consider how much it impacted the years that followed leading up to the present day. It's also really entertaining, Rob Lowe once again serves as a great narrator for it, and there's great use of clips and music to really set the stage for this retrospective.
National Geographic is airing a marathon of The 80s: The Decade that Made Us on Sunday at noon, and then The 90s: The Last Great Decade? premieres its first two-hour part on Sunday night at 9:00 p.m.