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Reality Check: Kirk Pinho Tells How to Consider Sunday's Detroit Documentary on TV


June 30, 2018, 2:45 PM Crain's Detroit Business


A drone view from Sunday's 9 p.m. cable TV documentary narrated by J.K. Simmons.

Local journalist Kirk Pinho stops shy of booing "Detroit: Comeback City," and not just because he's well-mannered.

"It's pretty darn honest about the city's history," he writes at Crain's Detroit Business after seeing the History channel special to be shown at 9 p.m. Sunday. "It doesn't sugarcoat much of anything with regard to Detroit's past." (A promotional trailer is below.)


Another quadcopter scene from the documentary.

Just don't expect a neutral perspective, Pinho suggests:

Keep in mind who paid for at least a portion of the hour-long film about the city: Ford Motor Co. . . .

A veneer is slapped on Detroit's future as a hub of mobility and autonomous vehicle technology, with Ford squarely in the center of it and nary a mention of any of its competitors.

And Ford's signature acquisition, the train station towering over Corktown where all this futuristic work is to take place, is the filmmakers' lens through which to examine Detroit's rise and fall (and fledgling rebound).

Pinho describes the film -- narrated by actor J.K. Simmons, a Grosse Pointe native -- as "hagiographic and boosterish about the Dearborn-based automaker's purchase of the vacant Michigan Central Station last month. . . . It's a case-study in native advertising for the automaker."

The filmmakers sure make it seem as though Detroit, and Ford in particular, will be the epicenter of [autonomous vehicle developments]. . . .

When watching "Comeback City" on Sunday, remember there are gobs of unknowns left in this.

Keep that front and center of your mind if you tune in.

In contrast, The Detroit News quotes historian Gregory Sumner at the University of Detroit Mercy, a source for the documentary, who says: "It was not a Ford infomercial. It really pulled no punches."

After its premiere, "Detroit: Comeback City" will be available on demand through cable providers and via the History channel website or mobile app. Here's a two-minute tease:

Read more:  Crain's Detroit Business


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