What’s Worth Watching: Remembering Vietnam on PBS

The  Ohio National Guard at Kent State
Courtesy of Howard Ruffner/PBS
The Ohio National Guard at Kent State

Dick Cavett’s Vietnam (Monday, April 27, 10/9c, PBS, check local listings)

Once upon a time, there was a late-night talk show on network TV that focused more on actual talk than on fun and games (we’re not including PBS’s distinguished Charlie Rose in this discussion). The Dick Cavett Show, which in its prime (airing on ABC from 1969-75) was a provocative alternative to Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, regularly tackled the tough issues, few more controversial or divisive than the Vietnam War. In Dick Cavett’s Vietnam, the host looks back at some of the show’s more memorable discussions of the war, from celebrities (Warren Beatty, Jane Fonda, Groucho Marx, Paul Newman, Muhammed Ali) and politicians (Barry Goldwater, Edmund Muskie, Hubert Humphrey).

This is among several notable specials PBS is presenting to coincide with the 40th anniversary this week of the fall of Saigon. Cavett’s show is preceded in most markets by The Draft (9/8c, check local listings), an examination of the history of military conscription, which inflamed an already growing generation gap in the 1960s. On Tuesday, PBS will air The Day the ’60s Died (8/7c, check local listings), focusing on the Kent State shootings of four college students by Ohio National Guardsmen in 1970, a flashpoint in the anti-war movement; and the American Experience presentation of Rory Kennedy’s Oscar-nominated Last Days in Vietnam (9/8c, check local listings), which powerfully relives the chaotic fall of Saigon in all of its wrenching human, political, and military aspects.