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Series preview

By Arthur UngerStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / May 12, 1988



An Ocean Apart PBS, Mondays through June 27, 9-10 p.m. Host: David Dimbleby. Producers: BBC in association with KCET, Los Angeles, and WNET, New York. Anglophiles, Anglophobes, and anyone else interested in the geopolitics of the 20th century will find ``An Ocean Apart'' a fascinating excursion into the heartland of the British-American superpower relationship.

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Starting with the premi`ere episode, ``Hats Off to Mr. Wilson,'' the series looks at the private dealings and public perceptions that shaped the British-American relationship from World War I through the current Thatcher-Reagan partnership.

``An Ocean Apart'' does its always perceptive and sometimes factious job by looking back at events through the eyes of critical observers of those events in the making. In the first segment, we see (through use of old newsreel footage as well as selected interviews) America moving from neutrality and isolationism to active participation in World War I. Woodrow Wilson, we learn, ``tried to drag Britain into peace as Britain tried to drag the US into war.'' After the victory, Europe is described as ``a bankrupt slaughterhouse,'' and we see Wilson's collapse as he is defeated in efforts to get the US into the League of Nations.

Later parts of this extraordinary series touch on such little-known events as America's 1927 secret plan for a naval war against Britain; Churchill's disinformation campaign to lure the US into World War II; and Roosevelt's supplying of planes, before US entry into the war, to Canada for delivery to waiting RAF pilots. That is the caliber of the often surprising content and restrained, no-nonsense Dimbleby narration.