Thinking Inside the Box

Prohibition's Coming to MPTV

by Ellis Bromberg, General Manager of MPTV

Hi, Ellis Bromberg with more "Thinking Inside the Box" on

We've urged you before not to miss the latest mini-series or documentary by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ken Burns and his longtime associate Lynn Novick. You've enjoyed JAZZ and BASEBALL, THE NATIONAL PARKS and of course THE CIVIL WAR, and many others on Milwaukee Public Television. And these days, Burns and Novick are working on new films about the Dust Bowl, the Roosevelts, Jackie Robinson, and the Vietnam War, all of which you'll see in coming years.

But how about a program that covers: single-issue political campaigns, questions over the patriotism of certain immigrant groups, suspicion about a presidential candidate's religion, unfunded congressional mandates, an attempt to legislate morality through an amendment to the Constitution, and a group of people who feel they've lost control of their country and they want to take it back.

It sounds like the lineup on the nightly news, doesn't it? But what it really is is a description of PROHIBITION, the newest Burns-Novick three-part documentary series. I think it's one of their best, and it premieres Sunday night, October 2, at 7 o'clock on Channel 10.1.

It is a fascinating, uniquely American story -- well-told, I might add -- beginning in the 19th century when religion and morality really started playing a significant role in politics. Alcoholism was a growing problem in American society: it was bankrupting families, leading to abuse of women. And parallel to Women's Suffrage, the Temperance movement evolved into the Prohibition movement, which dealt with alcoholism in the most extreme way possible: the 18th amendment to the Constitution which prohibited the manufacture and sale of liquor. And then, because of its unintended consequences, the passage of the 21st amendment to repeal it just 14 years later. It's the only instance in U.S. history of the repeal of a Constitutional amendment. The film also deals with the battle between urban areas and small towns, the rise of bootlegging and racketeering, and the explosion of jazz music and speakeasies.

There's one line in the film which references four so-called "wicked" companies: Schlitz, Blatz, Miller, and Pabst. And when you hear it, you'll realize the disproportionate effect Prohibition had on our city of Milwaukee. On I REMEMBER, host Jim Peck explores Prohibition and Milwaukee with historian John Gurda. That's a special, Monday evening, October 3 at 6:30 on Channel 10.1.

And one more event to mention. I hope you'll be able to join us for MPTV's special pre-PROHIBITION party, Friday night, September 30, in the Miller Pub at the MillerCoors offices on Highland Avenue in Milwaukee. It'll feature great food and drink from Saz's and MillerCoors, and flapper-era music from the Bootless Betties. It'll be great fun -- and you can buy tickets for it right here on

And I'll be back soon with more "Thinking Inside the Box."