One of my pet peeves about television shows released on DVD is when the producers provide little, if any, bonus material. There's a lot to be said for being able to watch the third season of Happy Days whenever you want, I guess. But why pay for the whole season on video, when you aren't getting anything more than you'd see for free on television?
A lack of bonus material certainly isn't a problem for A&E's massive, 11-disc World at War boxed set. The 26-episode series takes up most of seven DVDs - leaving room for a whopping twelve hours of additional material, expanding on the landmark documentary programme and examining its impact.
The Second World War has been a television staple since the medium's early days, but The World at War, produced for Britain's Thames Television in 1973, set a standard which has never been met before or since. Narrated by Laurence Olivier, The World at War makes use of hours upon hours of archive footage - much of it in color - from all the major participants in that bloody war. The Nazis were masters of visual propaganda who filmed whatever they could, and some of the most fascinating and haunting scenes in The World at War came straight from Joseph Goebbels's dream factory.
The war had ended less than thirty years before The World at War was originally broadcast (to put that in perspective, 32 years have passed since the Americans left Vietnam), so the programme also featured hours of interviews with major players in the conflict, and ordinary citizens caught up in the maelstrom. It's striking, though not surprising, to see so many of the German participants insist they thought Hitler and the Nazis were mad all along - though a few remain unrepentant admirers.