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From 'Salinger' to 'Mitt' and 'Chicagoland,' TV rediscovering documentaries

From 'Salinger' to 'Mitt' and 'Chicagoland,' TV rediscovering documentaries

Documentaries were supposed to be a dying genre -- and living proof that we were becoming dumber as a nation.

Reality TV is cheaper and easier to make. And who has time for lengthy, in-depth explorations of anything any more in the age of Twitter? Docs were dead, the conventional wisdom decreed, another victim of our rats-on-LSD attention spans.

But everywhere you look these days, it seems as if there's another documentary premiering. And some filmmakers believe that's the result of a change in audience attitudes toward the troubled state of American life today.

Last week on PBS, it was an "American Masters" biography of J.D. Salinger, and it drove the late...