Calling All Hands: Thirteen Launches Carrier

April 8th, 2008

Thirteen Blogger: Andrew Yamato, Life After Broadcast (LAB)

Before coming to Thirteen, I’d worked as a curator aboard New York City’s own aircraft carrier—the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum—so I was very excited to hear about the new 10-part PBS series Carrier, shot over six months aboard the nuclear carrier USS Nimitz during its 2005 deployment to the Persian Gulf.

The series airs nationwide from April 27th through May 2nd, but as part of Thirteen’s outreach effort for the series, we held a sneak preview screening of the series’ first episode for our Educator Members on Tuesday, March 25th. This was an audience in many cases coming straight from the classroom, so we served up some hearty chow before dimming the lights (including some MRE desserts which, judging from the leftovers, our guests found about as appetizing as our servicemen and women do!) From the first scenes of Nimitz’s crew bidding farewell to loved ones in their home port of San Diego, it was clear that Carrier would be less about a ship than about its shipmates. With unprecedented access to young men and women serving far from home in a controversial war, and the screen time to really to tell their stories, Carrier sets a new benchmark for “reality” television.

The focus on humanity rather than hardware extended into a lively post-screening discussion and Q&A featuring a special guest panel: Carrier producers Deborah Dickson and Jeff Dupre shared their recollections of having shot over 2000 hours of footage during Nimitz’s six month deployment; Lt. Suzanna Brugler fielded questions about today’s U.S. Navy, drawing on her own experience aboard the carrier USS Ronald Reagan; and a couple of old friends of mine, former USS Intrepid crewmembers Ray Stone and Bob Dougherty, described how life was different—and not so different—aboard aircraft carriers during WWII and the Cold War.

With insightful observations coming from both the panel and the audience, we were sorry to have to cut the conversation short, but the evening was appropriately rounded out with a preview of Thirteen’s new Carrier website, which invites sailors past and present to share their written or videotaped recollections of life aboard America’s fighting ships.