‘Prohibition’: Drunk with power

Government agents dumped liquor into the gutter in 1922 New York City, one of the events covered in “Prohibition.” The PBS documentary premieres Sunday at 8 p.m.

In the simplest terms, Prohibition — the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” — became law under the auspices of lobbyists who believed that a corrupt society could be bettered with the elimination of alcohol. Of course, nothing about Prohibition is simple.

“We not only didn’t fix everything about society, we made half the nation lawbreakers, and we created organized crime and a host of other horrific unintended consequences,” says Ken Burns, who, along with filmmaking partner Lynn Novick, examines the law and the 1920s era so defined by the ruling in the PBS documentary, “Prohibition.”

In typical Burnsian fashion, the three-part, five-and-a-half-hour series utilizes well-documented history (the rise of Al Capone) and lesser-known stories (23-year-old Lois Long — pen name Lipstick — covering the speakeasy lifestyle for the New Yorker) to shed light on an important moment in American history. But it’s a period of political and cultural upheaval that reverberates today.

“If I told you that I had been working with Lynn for several years on a film about single-issue political campaigns, if the story was about the demonization of recent immigrants to the United States, if I told you we’d been working on a film that involved smear campaigns during presidential elections or unfunded congressional mandates or, more importantly, a whole group of people who felt they’d lost control of their country and wanted to take it back, you would insist that we had abandoned our historical interests and were covering the contemporary political scene,” Burns says. “But, of course, we are only dealing with a handful of the topics that are engaged throughout our series on Prohibition.”

The ‘Boardwalk Empire’ factor

There’s another series about Prohibition on the air right now — HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” — and Ken Burns admits that he’s a fan.

“They’ve done their homework,” he says of the drama set in 1920s Atlantic City. “It’s very complex and nuanced, and they’ve found not just the primary characters, but the secondary and tertiary ones.”
Burns refers to “Boardwalk Empire” as a hit in the vein of “The Sopranos.” “They’re not that dissimilar, you know,” he says. “Americans always love to watch people who get to kill people that piss them off and women who take their clothes off at the drop of a hat.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

City Council budget asks for 1,000 additional NYPD…

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled the City Council's budget priorities on Wednesday, including the extra cops for the NYPD at a cost of $94.3 million.

Local

Behind the costumes at the Brooklyn Cosplay Fashion…

Echo Chronum, 17, is a quiet and reserved Brooklyn high school student who often buries herself in her homework. But there is another side to…

Local

Reddit helps man locate missing mother in New…

The Reddit community helped Josh Goldberg find his missing mother on Tuesday.

National

Hamas, Abbas's PLO announce reconciliation agreement

The Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact.

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.

Books

A debut novel about fate, love and moving…

Pia Padukone talks about her debut novel, "Where Earth Meets Water."

Movies

Review: 'The Railway Man' is a literal-minded look…

In "The Railway Man," Colin Firth plays a WWII vet suffering from massive trauma acquired from his days as a beaten POW.

NBA

Phil Jackson talked to Steve Kerr, pushes for…

Knicks president Phil Jackson spoke to the media for the first time since firing head coach Mike Woodson on Monday.

MLB

Fantasy baseball: Searching for early season prospects

It’s relatively rare for a mediocre 30-year-old hitter to suddenly go nuts offensively for 162 games. That’s why minor league prospects are so exciting.

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC 'targeting' US international Mix Diskerud

Metro New York has learned Mix Diskerud has drawn “interest” from the expansion MLS side, NYCFC.

NFL

Jets announce they will return to Cortland for…

The tradition of holding camp in Cortland began in 2009 when Rex Ryan wanted to get his Jets away from the distractions of New York City.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."