Carrier documentary airs next week on PBS

A groundbreaking documentary series that follows the sailors and Marines on an aircraft carrier for six months airs next week on PBS. The 10-hour Carrier debuts Sunday at 9 p.m. ET (assuming your local PBS station doesn’t have other plans) and airs over five nights, with two episodes airing each night. The series will also re-air one episode a week this summer, and will be on DVD May 6. A 90-minute version of the 1,600 hours of footage will air this summer on PBS as a film called Another Day in Paradise.

PBS says that filming the series, which took place in 2005, “required 17 filmmakers to take a six-month journey aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz during its deployment to the Gulf in support of the Iraq War.” The filmmakers were among “5,000 sailors and Marines.”

Besides drama related to their jobs and mission, The New York Times reports that there was interpersonal drama, too, like a flight deck supervisor who “got involved in an inappropriate sexual encounter with a lower-ranking female sailor while on shore leave and found his career derailed.”

The paper also notes that “[t]he men and women aboard the carrier, their average age 19, tell the story of their voyage themselves, without a narrator. They model their tattoos and let cameras and microphones sit in on their wistful telephone calls home. Selections from their iPods, solicited by the filmmakers via a shipwide e-mail request, form the series soundtrack.” The songs used are listed on PBS’ site.

Executive producer and director Maro Chermayeff, who also produced Frontier House, told the paper, “This is not a boys-and-toys show. We were not there to tell you what this bomb cost. This is a show about people: where are they, what are they doing, how do they feel about it.”

The series was funded by Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions, and the Times reports that the “project was later shopped around to a number of cable networks,” but Washington, DC, PBS station WETA bought it in 2006.

Carrier [PBS]
Life Topside: Six Months on a Flight Deck [New York Times]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.