Recently I was poking around the PBS channel on my Roku and found the 2008 documentary series Carrier. I like airplanes, and I wanted to be a Navy pilot when I was a kid, so my wife and I checked out the show out of curiosity.
I was expecting some cool stuff about fighter planes, but it turned out to be much more than that — in a great way. For six months, a documentary crew traveled on an entire deployment with the USS Nimitz as it went from San Diego to Iraq, as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The filmmakers have what seems like total access to the ship, and they follow the fortunes of several dozen individual sailors, from hotshot pilots to mess cooks, missile technicians to office jockeys, throughout the entire voyage.
It’s got lots of airplanes flying around, but it’s a very human show, about the people — from all walks of life, of diverse political leanings, and with very different personalities — who all have to live and work together in a hunk of metal in the middle of the ocean.
Here’s an LA Times article from a few years back:
The American public can watch what may be one of the riskier and more unconventional public relations strategies in U.S. naval history unfold on PBS’ Carrier, a 10-hour documentary series about life aboard an aircraft carrier during wartime….
Unlike with its one-dimensional recruitment ads that invite young Americans to “Accelerate Your Life,” the Navy did not pay for a camera crew to chronicle the warship’s six-month deployment that began and ended in Coronado, and covered 57,000 ocean miles including a combat mission into the Persian Gulf. The Navy paid instead by surrendering almost total editorial control to the filmmakers, who promised military officials they were out to capture the human stories inside the nuclear-powered ship’s massive steel hulls.
It’s super interesting, and I highly recommend the show, whether you’re usually interested in military-type stuff or not.
It’s 10 hours long, and since it’s a PBS show, there’s no commercial breaks, so it’s ten full hours. Make a weekend of it.
BONUS LINK: Woody Allen on Candid Camera, circa 1960. Guys I just love this video so much.