A companion to the new book "Presidents and Prophets" by Michael K. Winder is this DVD, also titled "Presidents and Prophets" (Covenant, 2007, $16.95) a sort of pop quiz-formatted look at historical trivia masquerading as a documentary.
The hourlong program which premiered on KSL-TV between LDS Conference sessions earlier this month chronicles footnotes in U.S. history and the history of the LDS Church, moments when U.S. presidents and presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints crossed paths.
Some of this is tenuous at best, but some of it is enjoyable fluff, done with a sense of humor and irony.
And the subjects interviewed include well-spoken historians and politicians, among others, led by Richard L. Bushman, author of the recent Joseph Smith biography "Rough Stone Rolling"; Sen. Bob Bennett, former Sen. Jake Garn, and Craig Jessop, conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
But a big drawback is Winder himself, who, despite having little or no talent for doing so, places himself in the center of things as on-camera narrator. With all the TV and radio talent in the Salt Lake Valley, you'd think Covenant could spring for a professional. Add to that too many zany camera angles, and a few loopy object lessons, such as those involving a cookie or a cell phone, and it becomes rather tedious.
It's telling that virtually every time Winder is shown, his name is displayed on the screen, along with a plug for the book at least 10 times in the first half-hour!
Fortunately, Winder goes away for most of the second half, which, consequently, causes the show to get better. That is, until he ends it with the most tenuous LDS connection of all his own to President George W. Bush.
I also got tired of the screen going red for a trivia question every few minutes, redundantly playing the same music each time. (This should have been relegated to a bonus feature.)All of which is unfortunate, given the amusing, entertaining material.