TELEVISION: THESE ARE THEIR LIVES

A DOCUMENTARY FACTORY, A&E'S ZIPPY BIOGRAPHY SERIES HAS BECOME CABLE'S OWN MUST-SEE TV

When documentary filmmaker Ken Burns' latest opus, Thomas Jefferson, debuted on PBS last month, complete with the voice of Gwyneth Paltrow reciting the diary entries of Jefferson's granddaughter Ellen Coolidge, at least one history buff in America bailed out before the closing credits. "I couldn't bear it," says Michael Cascio, executive producer of the A&E network's hour-long documentary series Biography. Cascio is annoyed that Burns' often tiresomely long dissertations are the standard by which all TV documentaries should be measured. "We're trying to develop a style without having to linger on a meadow for 45 seconds," Cascio says. "Biography speaks the...

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