The Reagans is obviously a partisan production, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching. By re-contextualizing Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the series makes a clear case for how we got to this point as a country. It didn’t just start with Donald Trump.
“The Reagans” is largely conventional in its structure. So while the series is compact and has a clear set of theses on the efficacy of his policies and the lasting effects of key rhetorical choices, there is a matching metanarrative in its very existence.
Eight years of Reagan produced a legacy we're still grappling with. It's a shame that four hours of "The Reagans" doesn't do a better job of helping us to better understand what his part in reshaping America back then implies about our future.
The prominence of race in the series’s analysis — critical theory, in a mild form, manifesting in a mainstream television project — can seem both entirely appropriate and slightly out of balance. While the documentary also gives a detailed portrait of Reagan as a fantasist who believed in and embodied a mythical American ideal, it could do a more comprehensive job of showing how race, nostalgia and American exceptionalism were inextricably woven together in his politics.
An assemblage of archival footage and talking heads, The Reagans is certainly more pointed and zippily edited than if it had run on, say, PBS. But there’s little here that isn’t conventional progressive history, even if some of the minor details retain their power to shock.