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James May's 20th Century (2012)

Director: Simon Baker, Paul King, Helen Thomas, more...
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Acorn Media
Genre: Documentary, Nature & Science

James May's 20th Century (Disc 1 of 3) (2012)

Top Gears James May revisits the 20th century to discover how inventors and their innovations changed the way we live today. With his trademark curiosity, insight, and wit, he shows how new technologies have revolutionized every aspect of our liveshow we made the world smaller, conquered space, improved our bodies, modernized warfare, built our cities, and created the teenager. In this engaging and entertaining six-part series, May travels from continent to continent, as well as back in time, to learn how we enhanced the world around us and improved ourselves.

Episode 1: Honey, I Shrunk the World
May reconsiders the major breakthroughs in transportation over the last 100 years, starting with the first transatlantic airplanes and the Model T. In the end, he concludes that these inventions shrunk the world not by allowing us to see more of it, but--thanks to television, computers, and fiber optic cable--by increasingly bringing it to us.

Episode 2: Blast Off!
His childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut so far unfulfilled, May instead reruns the 20th century's space races. He begins with the V2 rockets that the Nazis rained down on London and moves on to the eventual rocket rivalry between Russia and America. All the while, he seeks to answer the question, was it all really worth it?

Episode 3: Body Fantastic
Not so long ago, each of us had to spend our whole lives with the bodies we were born in--but not anymore. May examines how we can correct and compensate for medical problems, such as missing limbs or defective hearts. In the process, he shows that we can now defy the hand we were dealt at birth and, by unraveling our DNA, discover who we really are.

James May's 20th Century (Disc 2 of 3) (2012)

Episode 4: Take Cover!
According to May, necessity isn't the mother of invention--war is. He posits that humans do their best work "when trying to kill each other." May tracks developments in the 20th century's most deadly form of warfare, aerial warfare, from the earliest reconnaissance planes and WWI dogfighters to the Royal Air Force's latest supersonic jet.

Episode 5: Inventing the Teenager
In 1900 "there were no teenagers," claims May. So what spawned them? Was it the nylon-inspired fashion revolution, crystal radio, vinyl records, the first Japanese motorcycles, or the electric guitar? May sets out to discover how, during the course of the 20th century, the teenager emerged as a distinct entity.

Episode 6: Big City, Bright Lights
As more and more people moved to urban centers in search of work and excitement, the only way to build was up. But how did we construct skyscrapers that appear to defy gravity? Why is an electrician from Newcastle the unsung hero behind our 24-hour lifestyle? And what motivates May to drop a Mini Cooper on a plate-glass window?

James May's 20th Century (Disc 3 of 3) (2012)

Bonus Disc: James May's Big Ideas

Episode 1: Come Fly With Me
What's the best way to beat the traffic? The most obvious solution is to fly above it all. May examines the most efficient means of getting from A to B, from the rocket belt and the sky car to teleportation and the once top-secret Soviet-era "Caspian Sea Monster."

Episode 2: Man-Machine
May goes on a quest for a better robot: a hybrid with the intelligence of a human and the brawn of a machine. He meets a mechanically assisted superwoman and a freaky android double, comes face-to-face with a robot that can think for itself, and is transformed into an avatar, a digital representation of himself.

Episode 3: Power to the People
How can we satisfy the world's insatiable appetite for energy--and find a source that is cheap, clean, and will never run out? May visits inventors all over the world who believe they can accomplish all four by capturing the power of sun, sea, and wind. Some claim they can even create fuel out of thin air.

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