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Monday, August 20, 2007

YOUNG INDIANA JONES on DVD and why history teachers should want it

TVShowsOnDVD.com has the scoop on what to expect with next month's long-awaited (well I sure have been wanting this anyway :-) release on DVD of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles - Volume 1.

In case you never saw this, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was a show on ABC that started in March of 1992 and ran for a year or so on-and-off. The brainchild of George Lucas, Young Indiana Jones Chronicles followed, well, young Indiana Jones on adventures from the time he was 9 on up into his early twenties. We got to see Indy meet T.H. Lawrence (of Arabia) and Howard Carter (discoverer of Tut's tomb) in the burning sands of Egypt, all the way to fighting in the trenches of World War I and then as a college student in Chicago where he was roomies with Elliot Ness. It was an amazing show that happened to come along at the wrong time: I've always thought that television networks struggled quite a bit back then with a lot of new shows that were well ahead of their time. ABC was rife with this: first Twin Peaks, and then Young Indiana Jones. I also think in hindsight that the show was probably marketed the wrong way. How it should have been marketed is something I'm still trying to figure out. In any case, I've always thought that The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles had enormous potential as a teaching aid in the classroom, and indeed that was the driving impetus that was part of the show's production from its inception.

Well, it's coming 15 years after its premiere, but it looks like The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles is finally going to bear the fruit it was always intended to bear. The DVD set of Volume 1 is going to weigh in at 12 discs. What's on them? Well there'll be the first several episodes from the show, but also a bunch of historical documentaries that George Lucas and producer Rick McCallum have been working on for several years now just for this DVD release, an "interactive timeline" and some other goodies.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles - Volume 1 is going to street with a suggested retail price of $117.99 (U.S.). Which is the most that I've ever heard of for a DVD set of a television series. But I cannot emphasize enough how much of a wonderful tool this is going to be for teachers of middle and high school history classes. The episodes themselves, I always found to not only be rollicking fine entertainment... but they were also some of the finest historical fiction that I've ever come across. This was a show that showcased the history of the early 20th Century with an unprecedented amount of detail and accuracy for a show with a network television budget. Much more important than that, the show made viewers appreciate - through the eyes and experiences of young Indiana Jones - some of the most important events of the past hundred years in a way that perhaps audiences had never been led to empathize with before. The episode that takes place at Verdun, during which Indy is a courier for the Allied army in World War I: to this day, that episode haunts me like precious little on television has. That's one episode that might have a lot more relevance today than it did when it first aired in the spring of 1992, even (if you saw it you'll probably understand what I'm talking about).

If I ever wind up teaching history in a high school setting, you'd darned well better believe that I'm going to get this set. Not just for my own collection and as an Indiana Jones fan, but because this is going to present a lot of material that I'm eager to share with my students in a way that is going to thoroughly engage them and make them want to learn more about it on their own. Which, I've always thought, is how you can know that you've succeeded as a teacher.

So if you are a history teacher already, you may want to check this out: I've a hunch it's going to wind up seriously recommended as an instructional aid, and you might want to look at having this in your school's library.


qemuel said...

I am pleased that this show is being released; I always loved it.

Anonymous said...

Dont' forget the North Carolina connection! The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was shot in part at the studios in Wilmington.

Anonymous said...

I just had to look around and see if anybody else had anything serious to think (and write) about this... I think, this is one of the TV series that were formative for me, during my childhood. People may say that there are no more good examples (in real life), but with young Indy, Kwai Chang Caine, and MacGyver (and later, The Pretender), I had my heroes.

I am still, and again, carrying a leather bound journal (Ep. 1, Egypt..). I am still thinking about how to live a meaningful life, and whether you would even realize, at the time, that you were witnessing a historical event - like young Indy did so often in the series - while you were in it. The talk between Freud, Jung and young Indy, when that (second?) episode was on German TV, was featured in the German version of Psychology Today, it was written so well...
And, as I'm now teaching students (English, however) at high school, I might just have to use this.
Glad to see others also have fond memories!