There’s nothing unusual about watching Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, or Dan Rather talk about current events. It’s not often, though, that you get to hear Brokaw muse nostalgically about his childhood idol — baseball star Jackie Robinson — or Jennings recall how emotional he became during the Iranian hostage crisis when he realized ”how easy it seemed to be to manipulate America.” In The Class of the 20th Century, a 12-part documentary series appearing on the Arts & Entertainment network Thursday nights at 9 through mid-March, the news anchors join dozens of other famous folk in offering their personal stories for an informal history of the past 91 years.
Class sews together brief, on-camera reflections from 100 notable Americans — plus Canadian Jennings and British pop star Phil Collins — in a running narrative of the century. ”I wanted to get past the idea of a Bill Moyers or a Walter Cronkite telling you how things were,” says Charles Grinker, the series’ co-executive producer. ”Before all these people are gone, I want to see them recollect.”
Probably nowhere else but on Class could you find dance-show king Dick Clark presented as an authority on World War II or Susan Lucci sounding off on Roe v. Wade. Completing a documentary about the 20th century in 1992, of course, leaves out eight years of memories that haven’t happened yet. Not to worry: Grinker is planning a ”Class of the ’90s” series, so you won’t miss out on what Macaulay Culkin thought about the collapse of the Soviet Union.