The Paper of Record: Damning with Faint Praise

New York Times Theater Critic Ben Brantley tries really hard to find things to like about The Farnsworth Invention.  And mostly fails:

This information-crammed, surface-skimming biodrama about the creators
of television suggests nothing so much as a classroom presentation on a
seven-figure budget.

The show certainly deserves high marks for all those traits that exacting schoolteachers hold dear: conciseness, legibility, correct use of topic sentences, evidence in defense of two sides of an argument and colorful examples to support the main thesis.

“The Farnsworth Invention” … is packed with the stuff of high drama: corporate espionage, the death of a child, the Wall Street crash, village-burning Cossacks, even the sinking of the Titanic … and a slew of those eureka moments you associate with easy-reading biographies about scientific discoveries.

And yet you’re likely to leave “The Farnsworth Invention” feeling that you have just watched an animated Wikipedia entry, fleshed out with the sort of anecdotal scenes that figure in “re-enactments” on E! channel documentaries and true-crime shows.

An animated Wikipedia entry? We could only wish. At least, if it were a Wikipedia entry, somebody could go in and correct the historical transgressions.

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Paul Schatzkin

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