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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'How the States Got Their Shapes: Season 1'

Dennis King Published: October 31, 2011

This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“How the States Got Their Shapes: Season 1”

Ever wonder why Oklahoma has a panhandle? Or why is Texas so darned big? Well, curious map lovers can luxuriate in the wealth of cartographical, topographical, geographical and sociological information contained in the documentary series “How the States Got Their Shapes: Season 1,” due out on DVD Tuesday.

This 10-episode series from The History Channel, hosted by journalist and former “Daily Show” correspondent Brian Unger, explores how America’s jig-jag borders evolved – and continue to evolve – in response to politics, culture clashes, religion, transportation, communication and the whims of Mother Nature.

Drawing on information from local folklorists and regional historians, the show offers colorful insights to some of the most perplexing questions about the jigsaw puzzle that is the United States map. Such as: How did the use of cell phones by the Amish help shape the Pennsylvania map? Or, how are flying fish threatening to redraw the Illinois borders? Or, how did the advent of air conditioning change the way America elects its presidents? Or, why does Missouri have a boot and why is California bent?

Some tasty tidbits of geo info revealed in the series:

- A majority of U.S. states – 29 of them – earned entry into the union during the 19th century. Only five states – Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii – achieved statehood in the 20th century.

- The federal government owns 30 percent of the landmass in Montana and an amazing 80 percent in Nevada, including the highly classified UFO-famed Area 51.

- While Alaska and Texas are two of today’s leading oil-producing states, the original oil boom started in the 1850s in Pennsylvania, site of the first well drilled in America for the sole purpose of oil exploration.

“How the States Got Their Shapes: Season 1” is rated PG and runs 420 minutes on four discs. It’s being released by A&E Entertainment.

- Dennis King