While many of us can take a look at a map of the United States and name a state simply by recognizing its shape, very few can probably say why our 50 look the way they do.
Such is the basis for a new History Channel series called "How the States Got Their Shapes," based on a 2008 book of the same name by Mark Stein. Hosted by comedian Brian Unger, a regular on "The Daily Show" for three years, the 10-episode first season premieres tonight (May 4) with a look at how water shaped some of our states — in particular along the Georgia-Tennessee boundary.
Even though this region of the U.S. is blessed with some 50 inches of rain annually, it nonetheless is deep in the middle of a resource war — in large part due to the city of Atlanta's steady growth. At the center of the dispute is a claim by Georgia that its northern border was incorrectly surveyed some two centuries ago. Pro-water advocates argue that a portion of the Tennessee River should actually be inside Georgia's borders as part of the additional 51 square miles, but as Unger relates, Tennessee has turned a deaf ear to the issue.
Tonight's episode also covers how water shaped the border between Arizona and Nevada, as well as Maine and Canada.
Reviews thus far have been positive, with the L.A. Times calling the series a breezy watch, with "plenty of pretty pictures, taken all over this land, and enough fascinating facts for the viewer to feel he is not being merely entertained."
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