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How the States Got Their Shapes: Season 1

4.7 out of 5 stars 296 customer reviews

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(Nov 01, 2011)
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Editorial Reviews

When the founding fathers drew the first map of America, they confronted many of the same challenges that unite and divide us today. HOW THE STATES GOT THEIR SHAPES explores how our borders evolved--and continue to change--in response to religion, transportation, communication, politics, culture clashes and even Mother Nature. This is no textbook-style documentary series. Local experts and everyday folks lead host Brian Unger, a journalist and former Daily Show correspondent, to insights about some of America s most baffling questions. How are flying fish threatening to re-draw the shape of Illinois? What does the use of cell phones by Pennsylvania s Amish have to do with the shape of their state? How is the phrase sold down the river linked to the shape of what might be our 51st state? Why did the invention of air conditioning change how America picks its Presidents? Unger uncovers the answers, hidden in our map.

BONUS FEATURES: Feature-length HISTORY Special How The States Got Their Shapes

DISC 1: A River Runs Through It / The Great Plains, Trains, & Automobiles / Force of Nature / State of Rebellion

DISC 2: Living on the Edge / Use it Or Lose It / Church and States / A Boom With A View

DISC 3: Culture Clash / Mouthing Off

DISC 4: Bonus Special: How the States Got Their Shapes

Special Features

Feature-length HISTORY Special How The States Got Their Shapes

DISC 1: A River Runs Through It / The Great Plains, Trains, & Automobiles / Force of Nature / State of Rebellion

DISC 2: Living on the Edge / Use it Or Lose It / Church and States / A Boom With A View

DISC 3: Culture Clash / Mouthing Off

DISC 4: Bonus Special: How the States Got Their Shapes

Product Details

  • Actors: Brian Unger
  • Directors: Half Yard Productions
  • Format: Box set, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: A&E Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: November 1, 2011
  • Run Time: 420 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (296 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005ELVCDY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,450 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
By Jim Clark, publisher Lee County Courier, Tupelo, MS

You probably have never heard of the state of Jefferson. It may not exist on paper but it certainly rests in the minds and hearts of many who no longer call themselves Northern Californians. In 1941, some counties in the area ceremonially seceded. What stopped the real movement was America's entry into World War II, but the notion has been rekindled in recent years.
That's just one of the many interesting topics covered
the recently released DVD set, How the States Got Their Shapes.
The television series that airs on the History channel and is based on Mark Stein's book, How the States Got Their Shapes. It's hosted by Brian Unger, who was an original correspondent and producer on The Daily Show, from 1996-99. Comedy and history actually go together.
One state border runs right through the middle of a business, a bar (where it's legal to sell alcohol) and a restaurant (where it's not).
A lot of states got their shapes from rivers, but all kinds of things determined borders from bar fights, to guns, to churches and from too much water, or not enough.
One segment follows accents which was particularly entertaining. It turns out that speech coaches are most frequently hired by actors who want to not have any kind of accent.
The show started as a single two-hour special which first aired in April 2010, but returned as a regular series of one-hour shows starting in May 2011.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Pretty good series that is shown on the History Channel. The humor really helps. More in line with what the History Channel should be doing to help folks get alittle geography which the younger folks probably didn't get much of in School.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
So you think graft and corruption are brand-new products of modern society? Let Brian Unger lead you around this wonderful nation of ours and you will discover two things that shaped the states: 1) Water...or the lack of it. 2) Money...and a willingness to share it with some esteemed lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

Unger takes us from coast to coast and border to border; he discovers the often seamy goings on that gave our states their individual shapes. He interviews the citizens, drives the highways, rows on the lakes and eats lots of barbecue! He discovers that there are little islands of rebels who have declared their independence from this great land of ours, and they are only partially kidding!

Colorful, scenic, interesting and entertaining, this fascinating DVD from Amazon.com is a painless way to get a little more insight into how this amazing nation grew.
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Format: DVD
I absolutely love this show. It is definitely one of my favorites ever. If you love history & geography, you will most assuredly love this show. If you don't like history or geography, this series will most likely change your mind.

The facts are fascinating. I love American history and this presents it in a way that is easy to absorb and fun to watch.

The graphics in the show are fabulous. I love it when they do the "flyovers" of the country, and how they use the US map for illustrations by switching it around or re-sizing it (sounds confusing until you see the show). The show definitely has a contemporary, fun feel to it.

Brian Unger is the perfect host for this show. He is witty, hilarious and does a fabulous job of presenting the facts in an interesting way. I know that has a lot to do with the writing, etc., but Unger adds his own flair to the show and it wouldn't be the same without it. A boring host can kill a great show quickly.

I REALLY hope that since this DVD set says "Season One" that it means they are planning on future seasons!
2 Comments 9 of 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Amazon Video
We noticed that the same states seem to be covered over and over. We are interested in Kentucky and Tennessee, but they were not discussed at all. We learned A LOT about California, Ohio and Nevada. Love the format, love the host. Just wish there was a bit more diversity.
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
No matter what age you are it makes a fun time of learning the history of the USA! Every episode had me laughing, and at the same time learning many facts I never new.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This review is by "The Wife of Mike":
We love this show because it is entertaining, educational and funny. I'm not somebody who is interested in history or would ever think to watch the history channel but I was at a friend's house and this show was on TV. They happened to be covering my home state and I was hooked. I told my Husband about the show (he is from a different state) and we decided to order season one DVD set. We enjoy watching the show and especially when they interview random people (sort of like Jay Leno's "Jay walking"). Of course they put the people on who give the most ridiculous answers but that adds to the humor. Brian Unger does a great job keeping History interesting. I hope that they continue into more seasons!
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Format: DVD
A more accurate title for this production would be "Interesting Stories about States." I asked for this item as a gift because I assumed (I know... foolish me) that it would spend a majority of the time talking about how various states got their shapes... IE, their borders.

For example, the state of Maine: One of the most disputed and interesting borders in US history. There was a whole treaty about it (google the "Webster-Ashburton Treaty"). I figured at least a few minutes would be spent discussing the history of the treaty, why it was needed, what the claims were, etc., and then another few minutes reviewing the practical implications of it (for example, the border runs to the mouth of xyz lake, and how surveyors interpreted that exact point, etc.). Rather, we got a moderately interesting discussion of modern demographic disparities in Maine, how northern Mainers differ from coastal Mainers, and how some wish to split into 2 states. Then, after all that, a 10 second mention that the border was disputed between the US and England and then negotiated.

You can find far more info on the actual shapes of the states on Wikipedia.

However, I'm not saying that the video is totally worthless. If you are interested in learning about the history of ranching in Florida, or Gerrymandering, or a debate regarding which state has the best barbecue, or the proposed "State of Jefferson" (a split off movement of Northern California and parts of Oregon), than this is what you want!

It was just not what I was looking for. But it is well done... 3 stars for production quality.
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