PBS launches 'Super Skyscrapers' series with 'One World Trade' episode

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PBS' "Super Skyscrapers" series premiere episode, "One World trade Center," airing at 10 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Blink Films UK

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DOCUMENTARY "Super Skyscrapers"

WHEN|WHERE Four-week series launches with "One World Trade Center" Wednesday night at 10 on WNET/13

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Afraid of heights? Maybe you'd better DVR this hour for fast-forwarding purposes. The view can be vertigo-inducing from as close to 1,776 feet high as you're likely to get near the tip of the tallest structure in lower Manhattan. Or, for that matter, America.

"Super Skyscrapers" starts with what the PBS audience is most interested in: this physical retort to terror rising on the main site attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, when both towers of the '70s-era World Trade Center came crumbling down. Succeeding episodes will go inside London's new "cheese grater" (Leadenhall Building), China's Shanghai Tower and Manhattan's One57 "billionaire building." But none touches the hearts of viewers like tonight's project, into which 26,000 local workers have also poured their expertise and sweat along with 150,000 yards of concrete pumped a quarter-mile into the sky.

"It will be built to survive anything," we're told, as One World Trade has already been assaulted during construction by a 5.9 magnitude earthquake and superstorm Sandy's 125-million-gallon water dump.

MY SAY Tonight's hour delivers its own assault of numbers -- 14,000 panels of blast-proof glass, 16,000-psi-tested concrete, 408-foot spire, 2,000-feet-per-minute elevators -- backed by building footage, with explanatory graphics and computer animation. "One World Trade Center" seems itself determined to survive as the ultimate documentation of the seven-year construction project's final exterior phases.

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There's drama to this documentary, too, amplified by tense orchestral strings and narrator Corey Johnson, when curtain-wall glass fitters work the edge of the 84th floor as winds sway the structure "like a mast on a sailing ship." Concrete races the clock to get from Red Hook to the site and 1,280 feet up a single six-inch pipe before its 90-minute deadline to dry, forming a core that "is essentially the world's tallest bunker." Ironworkers work beams at astonishing heights. As does the camera: acrophobes, beware.

BOTTOM LINE Go inside the design. The details. The drama. And the dream: Building it back is the best revenge.

GRADE A-

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