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Connected history

Connected history — ”Connections” returns to PBS to show the relationship between seemingly unrelated moments in time.

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What does hot-air ballooning have in common with aspirin? Outer space with electric Italian frogs? Sandwich wrapping with World War II defense radar? To find out, tune in to Connections2, renowned British egghead James Burke’s 20-episode sequel to his brainy- but-breezy 1979 BBC documentary series. Like the first Connections, the new version corkscrews through history, linking seemingly unrelated events in a giant game of connect-the-dots. ”For example,” offers Burke, ”a chap in Italy discovers that by kinking a water pipe he can make a spray; that idea gets picked up by a doctor in the 19th century to spray antiseptic; that idea gets jumped on by a German engineer who invents a carburetor from it. It’s an accidental, Monty Python view of how history works.” Unlike the original, the sequel was shot on video and is faster-paced than an MTV segment. ”Technology is changing,” says Burke. ”If we made documentaries the way we used to, they’d creak like dinosaurs.”