A ‘Plug’ for Showtime’s Coming ‘Years of Living Dangerously’

The upcoming Showtime documentary series knits together a powerful message on a critical global issue through punchy storytelling and an emphasis on ‘real people’ confronting a warming planet. First episode to be available free online starting April 7.


Prepare to be not disappointed.

Repeat: Not.

It’s risky advice, of course, when suggesting a television documentary to people you don’t actually know. And particularly when the documentary itself runs not one or two hours. Or even three. But rather, over a period of weeks, eight.

All the more dicey when the subject of the documentary, as in this case, involves climate change, an issue many in the public may prefer to ingest in small bites. And sometimes, let’s be honest, not even then, given the often somber messaging by necessity involved. And add to the equation the fact that this particular documentary, airing on one of those extra-fee “premium” cable channels, for many may entail shelling-out a bit more of that hard-earned discretionary spending.

Add it all up, and what have you got?

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The advice stands. Prepare to be not disappointed, not in the least. The eight-part “Years of Living Dangerously” Showtime series beginning April 13 (see related article) is worthy of the high hopes. It’s stunning. It’s beautifully produced and shot. It’s dramatic. It’s about “real people” and their real lives, and not just ivy tower scientists, celebrity actors, and climate geeks. And it rests on a firm foundation of science.

One who were king might deign it “essential watching” for a whole nation’s young and old. One who were king might use it as a stepping stone to one of those “national [make that international] dialogues” we hear of so often, but actually experience so seldom. One who were king would find a way to use its content for ongoing science education at the primary, secondary, college, graduate school, and continuing education levels. And in multiple languages too.

Granted, I could be wrong here. It’s happened before (and, some might say, rather often). T’was I, after all, who waited eagerly for the supposedly new and improved “Cosmos” series now airing on Fox and National Geographic stations. A tough act to follow, given the extraordinary and lasting power of the Carl Sagan PBS original “Cosmos,” and a new offering not helped for being broadcast this time with only too-eager interruptions for paid commercials. (Am I the only one who several times found myself momentarily confused about whether I was watching the actual broadcast or instead a high-tech pitch from some commercial advertiser?) But disappointing for sure.

So alas, for many others too the new “Cosmos” may somewhat disappoint, perhaps even substantially disappoint. But “Years” will not. Not, that is, if those behind it stand by their commitment that it not be “a sort of partisan drum-beater” for a liberal campaign. Not if it truly does combine powerful storytelling, sound science, and impacts on and efforts by average Joes and Bettys. Not if it succeeds with plans to go beyond those seeing it on Showtime and instead reaches into schools, “MOOCs” (Massive Online Open Courses), libraries, home entertainment systems, tablets, smart phones, and social media. And not if it helps stir that serious “national dialogue” so badly needed.

Lots of Ifs there. But lots of potential too. Come April 7, anyone, for no cost, can view the initial episode in the series online at yearsoflivingdangerously.com, or on the “Years” YouTube channel. Discussions are under way on whether some subsequent episodes also just might be made available free to those not subscribing to Showtime.

But bite this bullet. Subscribe, if that’s your choice or only option, and pay for Showtime during the several weeks “Years” is on. It’s a sound investment in your … all of our … futures. And many will likely find the dividends to be substantial.

A Note from the Editor

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