• Network: PBS
  • Series Premiere Date: Nov 18, 2012
  • Season #: 1
Metascore
83

Universal acclaim - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 17
  2. Negative: 0 out of 17
  1. Reviewed by: Tom Gliatto
    Nov 19, 2012
    100
    The heartbreak here--especially the cases of poor children who died of "dust pneumonia"--is tremendous. [26 Nov 2012, p.45
  2. Reviewed by: Gail Pennington
    Nov 19, 2012
    100
    The Dust Bowl, collecting so much oral history that was about to pass away, is a treasure.
  3. Reviewed by: Ed Bark
    Nov 19, 2012
    100
    The drought-stricken, spirit-sapping Great Plains of the 1930s get the lyrical and learned Burns treatment.
  4. Reviewed by: Verne Gay
    Nov 19, 2012
    100
    This beautiful and often moving film resonates even more powerfully with Sandy in our rearview mirror, while Burns' favorite theme--the American character--is drawn here with great clarity.
  5. Reviewed by: Ken Tucker
    Nov 19, 2012
    91
    Ken Burns' documentary about the "black blizzards" that swept across the Great Plains during the 1930s is at once rigorously sourced and heartbreakingly emotional.
  6. 90
    This series is Burns doing Guthrie, bringing a lifetime of experience and craft to bear on a story of people struggling through hard times. He's picking up a guitar and telling us a story--a great one.
  7. Reviewed by: Mark Feeney
    Nov 19, 2012
    80
    As a filmmaker, Burns brings to bear a special vividness of scrutiny. No matter how familiar the material, he makes it seem as though he's discovering it afresh--so the viewer feels that way, too.
  8. Reviewed by: David Hinckley
    Nov 19, 2012
    80
    The Dust Bowl sounds like a dry subject, no cheap pun intended, and Burns works hard to humanize it by talking with some of the now-elderly people who made it through.
  9. Reviewed by: Robert Lloyd
    Nov 19, 2012
    80
    Though it has the pokey pace and flat affect of his other films--for Burns, history is elegy--it is also one of his best works: more tightly focused than usual in time and place, with a clear shape, dramatic arcs and a conclusion that is at once cautionary and moving, topical and timeless.
  10. Reviewed by: Mike Hale
    Nov 19, 2012
    80
    The story of the Dust Bowl is complicated, twisting together ecology, economics and politics, as well as divisions of class and region, and Mr. Burns and his writer, Dayton Duncan, have done as careful and admirable a job as you would expect in laying it out.
  11. Reviewed by: Brian Lowry
    Nov 19, 2012
    80
    Unlike a lot of TV documentarians, Burns steadfastly refuses to include dramatic re-creations, relying (as he did in "Prohibition," an early-20th-century companion to this) on photographs, grainy video, actors' readings of diaries or news articles, and of course those aforementioned interviews. The last might be the most compelling, providing a bridge from the macro to the micro.
  12. Reviewed by: Nancy DeWolf Smith
    Nov 19, 2012
    80
    Although the film ends on an odd note that seems to endorse near-subsistence farming as the only moral and sustainable form of agriculture, it makes an important record of a receding era.
  13. Reviewed by: James Poniewozik
    Nov 19, 2012
    80
    The Dust Bowl is a powerful documentary about what human efforts can achieve and what short-term thinking can wreak.
  14. Reviewed by: Lori Rackl
    Nov 19, 2012
    75
    The Dust Bowl is more like eat-your-vegetables television than some of Burns' other endeavors, namely his last PBS documentary, "Prohibition." But it's still a worthwhile examination of an overlooked chapter from our past that holds plenty of lessons for our future.
  15. Reviewed by: David Hiltbrand
    Nov 19, 2012
    70
    It's a deeply researched, visually superb two-part study of what the film terms "a decade-long natural catastrophe of biblical proportions." ... The second chapter on Monday night, "Reaping the Whirlwind," is slower and less informative.
  16. Reviewed by: Joanne Ostrow
    Nov 19, 2012
    60
    It would be naughty to call it dry. But the lack of personalities leaves the viewer groping for an angle. The overwhelming nature of the event begins to feel overwhelming on the couch, too.
  17. Reviewed by: David Wiegand
    Nov 19, 2012
    50
    It's in dire need of tighter editing, most of all. Yes, the images from the '30s are powerful, but after a while, their power is diminished by repetition.
User Score
7.2

Generally favorable reviews- based on 10 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. Apr 28, 2013
    10
    It is difficult to believe that man can cause such a massive environmental disaster. Most people were in denial, then and now. Thank goodness for Ken Burns, and his unique ability to make a historic event extremely relevant to our times today. Full Review »