Frontier life: feuds, divorce, and all kinds of drama
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 08/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You gotta love PBS. They make reality tv somehow more dramatic than all the contrived network shows put together. It makes for uncomfortable but fascinating viewing. Three families volunteered to live as Western frontiers for five months. Log cabins, hunting, trying to farm in the harsh Montana land. The way the three families reacted is so realistic that I really thought I was seeing an 1800s frontier documentary. The Clunes are upper-class, from California, and dont adapt well to the no-frills frontier life. They cheat. A lot. At the same time, they become closer as a family. One of the most touching moments of the series was when Gordon Clune admitted that in the 20th century, he and his wife were overly abosrbed with each other and their life of luxury. Living together in a logged cabin made him closer to his children. The Glenns, OTOH, are middle-class, and led by an iron-willed, formidable matriarch, Karen. Her husband chafes under her iron fist, and their marriage unravels. Karen alienates her neighbors quickly. The children are uncomfortable. At the same time, the family adapts to frontier life much better than the upper-class Clunes. Perhaps many frontier families needed a strong, even ruthless matriarch to survive. Watching the Glenns also gave me a sense of the stress the harsh frontier life must have taken on families. By the end of the series, Karen's husband Mark is a shell of a person. He seems shocked at how much his life fell apart. The Brooks, a newlywed couple, are by far the most appealing family on the series. They represent the optimistic frontier spirit. They are peacemakers in the petty squabbling between the Clunes and the Glenns. The series is filled with drama, and moments of humor."
Covered wagons and log cabins
Amy Wallace | San Rafael, CA United States | 08/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've seen all of the DVD's in PBS's The House series. Out of all of them, I'd say that Manor House and Frontier House are the best of them.
Frontier House is pretty realistic in terms of the clothing, the setting and scenarios follow the lives of the original pioneers as closely as possible. Seeing modern day families try and relive that style of life is entertaining and highly engaing and educational. We forget how far we've come from those days in the past and how much we rely on modern day technology. My favorite example is TOILET PAPER!! Not only do these poor folks have to build their own outhouses, they have no toilet paper, only a small tin of water, some leaves or a small rag that has to be cleaned then reused. We forget how lucky we are to have indoor plumbing!
Although the families are not the most engaging because they seem reluctant to give up modern day conviniences and complain about the harsh lifestyle and hard work, you understand their struggles and hardships. Watching these familes become more closely knit and work as a team is facinating, and shows just how hard our pioneer ancestors struggles to build lives for themselves.
As the show progresses, we watch new challenges arise, such as running out of food, dealing with livestock, building log cabins and other buildings such as outhouses and chicken coops. Learning how to slaughter and butcher animals is another task that has to be mastered, along with learning to farm.
PBS did a wonderful thing introducing this series of "time travel" shows. Not only do we learn about different periods in history, but we learn how modern day people interact and live in these settings. These are wonderful to watch with your family and children, and would be great in a classroom setting."
The Clunes --- the family you love to hate
chefdevergue | Spokane, WA United States | 01/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rarely have I heard so much whining in a PBS series. My god, the Clunes --- everyone I knew who watched this had pretty much the same thing to say about them. Rich, priviledged and delusional, the Clunes drove us all crazy with their whining and self-serving rationalizations. They were like a car accident --- they sickened you, but you couldn't help but watch them.Watching the Glenns on the other hand was pure agony, as you witnessed the disintegration of a marriage that appeared to be cracking up even before the Frontier House experiment. Although they proved to quite equal to the task (the Clunes, by contrast, would have had to resort to cannibalism to survive the winter), the Glenns might have ended up killing each other somewhere along the way. I suspect that the Glenns, unfortunately, depicted all too accurately many a domestic situation on the historical frontier.If you have photographs of your 19th-century ancestors, particularly those who were sod-busters, take a good look at those faces. They are the faces of weathered, hardened people who have looked adversity in the face. Watching this series will make you understand why they looked so hardened. Of course, the Clunes never would have gotten a chance to get their portraits made, because they would be dead."
Little House On The Prairie meets Survivor
3kingsandaduce | Just off exit 23, I-60 | 02/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen the series but I must confess, I do not yet own the DVD. Even without whatever extras might be featured on DVD this is a very worthy view. They take 5 families, some with kids, and they all must live by the rules of a different era for nearly a year, in an isolated area of Montana. So for a year, all these families, these people from the 21st century, must live like pioneers. They build cabins, dig outhouses, chop wood, plant and tend gardens, raise and harvest animals & try not to starve to death. They can only go for supplies as time and money allows; these trips take a day each way and they shop at a recreated general store, only allowed to buy things possible to obtain in the 1800's. They follow them around with cameras, documenting their lives and struggles. Except for the cameras, everything else is pretty much authentically from the pioneer era. Also, perhaps best of all, in addition to the documenting cameras, each person involved is filmed in more private, confessional-type settings, and they often say whatever they want; personal opinions, feelings about other pioneer community members, all kinds of interesting things.
The reasons I like this: It seems to unfold in a very real and natural way, never seems contrived. You get to see first hand, get a first-hand feeling of being there without becoming soiled personally, in a more detailed, more personal way than ever before, how it must have been for our brave pioneering forefathers. It gives you a better understanding and a bigger appreciation for aforementioned forefathers. You get deeply inside these people's lives for a year, feel almost acquainted with them. Like with any show or movie with many characters, you choose favorites, discover one or two with whom you can relate, yet by the end you like even those you at first were not fond of, at least a little. These families struggle and grow as we watch, some growth is in ways that we might imagine and that we could all likely benefit from, other growth is in ways none of us could really imagine, ways none of us in this century are prepared to deal with; all grow stronger in sense of individual strength and discipline, family connectivity, and community values. You get to see these people transformed as you watch in the course of their year, and in some ways you are transformed right along with them. As they live for a year in the past, we watch as they struggle, squabble and form strong bonds with themselves and with one another. By the time they leave, even the worst enemies among them hug tearfully goodbye, and we are right there with them.
In the end a panel of experts on the era come in and evaluate each family, rate their chances of survival if they really had been living in that time and had to live through the coming winter based on how they had done so far and how much they had prepared. These are the same experts who were consulted right along, and who set everything up authentically. Their final findings are surprising, and eye-opening.
All in all an excellent view, which offers a little bit of everything. You get drama, comedy, suspense, some action. You get the struggles man faces when living in the wilderness, living as in an era gone by, trying to make it on his own, and all while trying to coexist in a small community not of his choosing or particular liking.
Enjoyable family entertainment.
chefdevergue | 11/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Three very different families (the Clunes, the Glenns/Pattons, and the Brooks) leave their 2001 lives behind in favor of the 1883 Montana frontier in this highly enjoyable series by PBS. The Clunes are a modern, rich California family. The Glenns/Pattons are a semi-troubled middle class family from Tennesee. The Brooks are a young newly married couple from Boston. All are outfitted with appropriate frontier attire and left to form their own community in the style of 1883. The children were what really amazed me about this show. They all pretty much came as spoiled brats whining about missing TV and Nintendo, and by the time they had to leave to go back to their 2001 lives, they were all crying and not wanting to leave. Although I think the Glenns had the best shot at making it throughout the winter (the mom of the family is tough as nails--a necessary quality to lasting on the frontier), my favorite family was the Clunes. They seemed to enjoy it the most, and the husband and wife had a wonderful, enviable relationship. There are 3 videos, with 2 30 minute episodes each."