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The boomer story is getting old

PBS's "Boomer Century" discusses foreseeable burdens on Social Security and health-care system issues, but lacks discussion about how to resolve the problems. (PBS)

"The Boomer Century: 1946-2046" will be a stunner for everyone who has been asleep or sequestered in Tora Bora since the end of World War II. You'll learn for the first time everything the rest of us have experienced, heard, read, or watched ad nauseam about the over exposed generation that began in 1946.

I'm in the vanguard of this 78-million-person cohort born between then and 1964,and I've been bored with us for years. Imaginethe suffering the rest of you will experiencetonight, when this two-hour yawn of a thingairs on Channel 2.

The program is hosted by Ken Dychtwald, a gerontologist who's focused on boomers. Through endless film clips, he begins with the end of the war and takes us inexorably to the present. If we treat "Boomer Century" as entertainment rather than journalism, we're fine. Who, after all, doesn't get misty over his Davy Crockett coonskin cap?

And it's always fun to review icons of American culture: Ozzie Nelson and his brood, the Mickey Mouse Club, JFK. Then drugs, Vietnam, civil rights , and Watergate. Feminism, environmentalism, birth control. Botox, lipo, Prada. But so what?

Dychtwald has assembled an impressive cadre of talking heads who, somehow, manage to say little that is interesting. From David Gergen to the likes of Oliver Stone, Julian Bond, Craig Venter, Erica Jong, Alvin Toffler and Andrew Weil, they pretty much state the obvious.

We are a generation of many second acts. We will probably redefine retirement. More businesses are started by people over 50 than under 50. (That is interesting.) We have taken narcissism to new heights but are giving back to society more than our predecessors. Think Bill Gates.

Truth is, we're no more interesting than any other generation. There are just more of us, which carries obvious implications. But the assumption underpinning this show is that we're endlessly fascinating. We're not. Think of the generation that lived through the Civil War.

The peg here appears to be that a boomer turns 60 every eight seconds. But then the country has been long aware that we are the demographic pig in the American python, and to be best of my understanding, people before us had been turning 60 for quite some time. Worse, the show cannot resist the cliche of playing "When I'm Sixty-Four."

We know we'll place huge burdens on our children to maintain Social Security and, unless something is done, overwhelm our broken health- care system. Yet we get nothing thoughtful about how to solve these crises.

Trailed by a film crew for a documentary, Gore Vidal once said, deadpan, "The untelevised life is not worth living." Not in this case.

Sam Allis can be reached at