Contact: Meredith Dickenson or Ellen Sterner
SMU News & Media Relations
(214) 768-7654

January 15, 2002


DALLAS (SMU) -- So popular are television historical documentaries that there is a 24-hour channel devoted to the past, A&E's History TV Network, but are these programs history or entertainment?

Historians and TV producers will explore the matter as part of a panel discussion titled, "Entertaining History: TV Producers and Scholars on the Making of Historical Documentaries," presented by Southern Methodist University's William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies and the Friends of the SMU Libraries. The free public event is from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, in McCord Auditorium, on the third floor of Dallas Hall, 3225 University Ave.

The panel will discuss the hard choices that must be made in the production of historical documentaries in order to strike a balance between entertainment and historical accuracy. Among the many questions panelists will explore are what production values must be considered to hold an audience? Does the script oversimplify to deliver a more compelling, easier to absorb story? Do re-enactments of historical scenes enhance or distort the audience's understanding of the subject matter? And, what does TV history do best?

Panelists will be the following:

  • Sylvia Komatsu, veteran award-winning documentary producer and senior vice president of production at KERA/North Texas Public Broadcasting, whose four-hour PBS documentary, "The U.S.-Mexican War, 1846-1848," won an Emmy Award and aired in both the U.S. and Mexico.
  • Ken Alfers, series content specialist and professor of history at Mountain View Community College, and Julia Dyer, producer/director for the LeCroy Center for Educational Telecommunications of the Dallas County Community College District. They recently completed a 26-program history telecourse series, "Shaping America," which is airing across the U.S. as well as internationally.
  • Andrea Boardman, executive director for SMU's Clements Center and historian, writer, researcher, and producer for numerous historical documentaries. She was part of the writer-producer team for "The U.S.-Mexican War, 1846-1848" and a researcher for "Shaping America."
  • SMU History Professor R. Hal Williams, co-author of America, Past and Present, and a specialist in U.S. history in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, will serve as moderator.

A short reception will precede the event at 6:30 p.m. For more information about "Entertaining History: TV Producers and Scholars on the Making of Historical Documentaries," call 214-768-1233 or 214-768-3225.