Last year, Tom Brokaw followed Highway 50 - a 3,073-mile-long road that begins in Ocean City, Md., and ends in Sacramento, Calif. - to track the hopes, stories and challenges of regular people. Mayors, leaders - like the head of the D.C. public school system - and community activists who are trying to arrest or reverse urban blight are debriefed as well.
There are stops at a veterans' hospital in Missouri, where grievously wounded soldiers are recuperating, and another hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., where the health care system works with almost unimaginable efficiency. The road comes to an end in the Golden State, where the problems are as deep and stubborn as everywhere else.
In an interview, the former NBC anchor says Americans "want an acknowledgment that this [the recession] didn't happen overnight, and that we have to make some fundamental changes and need to work together to get those changes in place. I encountered very little of the ideological food fight you see in the media.
"That doesn't mean it's not playing out - it is - but on Main Street, rural areas, even big urban ones, people desperately are trying to find solutions to these problems."
I'm one of Brokaw's biggest fans, so you probably won't get an entirely unbiased reaction here, but as always, he - as befits a former anchor - is a calm, thoughtful, presence in a world of troubles.
Yet the problem with "American Character," simply, is that there's not enough here - of the highway, or the people who live along it. This has the makings of a limited series, not just one fast hour.