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DVD Review: On The Road With Charles Kuralt

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Beginning in 1967, On The Road With Charles Kuralt ran for an unprecedented quarter century. The show elevated Charles Kuralt into a beloved national icon, and won a slew of awards. The premise of On The Road was deceptively simple. Kuralt and his crew traveled the United States in a motor home, looking for interesting, offbeat stories.

Over the course of 25 years, On The Road hit all 50 states, and managed to go through six motor homes. All told, the show produced over 500 segments. This three-disc set marks the first appearance of On The Road on DVD.

The set contains 18 episodes, featuring a total of 77 individual pieces. Like a Reader’s Digest condensed article, each segment is bite-sized, averaging approximately five minutes in length.

One of the unifying traits of the On The Road pieces was their celebration of a vanishing America. Since Kuralt’s passing in 1997, nobody has stepped up to fill his shoes. And so these vignettes become ever more poignant as time marches on, revealing themselves to be the work of a one of a kind television journalist.

When I was growing up, we watched this show regularly, and I fondly remember many of them. There is the great story of a small town library in Oregon that stays open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Another classic features a man who actively solicits for junk mail, to burn in his wood stove as a source of heat.

I recall marveling at learning that the Zildjian cymbal company manufactures 90% of the cymbals used in the world. The segment on the covered bridges in Vermont was also memorable, and led to an abiding interest in the subject for me. In fact, there really isn’t a dud in any of these 77 pieces.

As for bonus material, there is very little. Each disc contains a couple of paragraphs updating some of the stories, and disc one has a biography of Kuralt. All of this is text only.

But it hardly matters. On The Road With Charles Kuralt is kind of like comfort food for your DVD player. While the nutritional value may be questionable, the satisfaction level is off the chart.

About Greg Barbrick