April 22, 2019  (Web Review)

Breaking Big

(2018) 2 discs. 320 min. DVD: $34.99 ($64.99 w/PPR). PBS Video (www.teacher.shop.pbs.org). SDH captioned. ISBN: 978-1-5317-0611-1.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Why do so many of us fall short of career and life goals, while others overcome all obstacles, winning fame and sometimes fortune? Carlos Watson hosts this PBS-aired series looking at 12 men and women who achieved their wildest dreams. Trevor Noah was a product of apartheid-era South Africa, but through sheer wit, confidence, and vision, he forged a career, first in standup comedy, then as a replacement host for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Roxane Gay, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, was gang-raped at age 12 and later ridiculed for her obesity, but she used these traumas to inform her writing, becoming a bestselling author. Country music star Jason Aldean came from the small-town South, slowly but surely conquered Nashville, and then was onstage to witness the Las Vegas mass shootings. Michael Strahan never pictured himself as a football player, but his tireless work ethic, focus, and winning personality got him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he later launched a lucrative career in TV and the fashion industry. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand channeled her fearlessness, and found a mission to get women “off the sidelines” and into business and politics. Other figures featured here include former Miss America and Fox TV host Gretchen Carlson, director Lee Daniels (The Butler), and the current mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulin Cruz, who galvanized local response to a devastating hurricane. Common elements for “breaking big” are being purposeful, resilient, focused, having the ability to separate what works from what doesn’t and, of course, just a little bit of luck and timing. While some commentaries by psychologists seem glib, superficial, and unnecessary, overall this is an inspiring series. Aud: H, C, P. (S. Rees)