Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What’s become of The History Channel?

February 6, 2008


It's sad to see a cable channel lose its way. The History Channel was always so dependable. After a hard day, Tony Soprano could take refuge in a quart of ice cream and watch a documentary about Rommel and the Afrika Corps. OK, some people ridiculed it as "The Hitler Channel," a place where World War II seemed to go on forever, playing on an endless loop.

Perhaps I'm showing my age, but I've reached a point where I prefer predictable to flaky. And lately, The History Channel has gone off the deep end. Programmers have beaten "The Da Vinci Code" to death. I never heard of a "Codex" before I read that far-fetched drugstore page-turner. Now they're everywhere. Speculative mountebanks spouting apocalypse theories have been given endless airtime. When did The History Channel become the end-of-the-world channel?

Truth be told, the network's two-hour special "Life After People" was pretty well done and, more to the point, it did very well for History. It was the most-watched program on cable during the final week of January, with more than 5 million viewers. But here's a quibble: It had nothing to do with history.

With historical scholarship having gone the way of apocalyptic speculation, it hardly surprises me that the network launches "UFO Hunters" (9 p.m., History), a weekly series dedicated to searching for evidence related to legendary sightings.

"UFO Hunters" unfolds much like "Ghost Hunters" on Sci Fi but without the fun and colorful characters. It's basically a bunch of guys with fancy gear and quasiacademic credentials who use a lot of pseudoscientific jargon to justify a TV snipe hunt. Bill Birnes, publisher of something called "UFO Magazine," rattles around rather nervously. He has all of the scholarly gravitas of Dan Aykroyd in "Ghostbusters."

As someone who enjoys and respects history, I found the show depressing. As someone who reviews television, I found the show boring. It actually put me to sleep, something those musty old reels about Stalingrad and Tarawa never did.

¢ Real history unfolds on "African-American Lives 2" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings). Professor Louis Gates hears family stories from a variety of notable people, including poet Maya Angelou, actor Don Cheadle, radio host Tom Joyner and comic Chris Rock, and then traces their family trees and their genetic histories back beyond the slave years and back to Africa.

This is an inspiring and eye-opening series and an invitation to viewers of every race and background to discover the stories and the echoes of history in their own family's roots.

¢ Isn't it odd that Mark L. Walberg hosts both "The Moment of Truth" (8 p.m., Fox) and "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS? One is boring, dumb and sleazy, and the other is informative, smart and fun. It does not reflect well on "Roadshow."

Tonight's other highlights

¢ The good, the bad and the ugly appear on "American Idol" (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ A doormat and a brat make a trade on "Wife Swap" (7 p.m., ABC).

¢ A glance back at past competitions on "America's Next Top Model" (7 p.m., CW). I'm the last person to know or care, but have any of the winners of this show ever become "top" models?

¢ Goren goes undercover in a mental ward on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (8 p.m., NBC).

¢ "Mythbusters" (8 p.m., Discovery) test-drives James Bond gadgets.

¢ A vehicle involved in a hit-and-run homicide is loaded with cash on "Law & Order" (9 p.m., NBC).

¢ Designers must rely on lady wrestlers for inspiration on "Project Runway" (9 p.m., Bravo).


daddax98 10 years, 3 months ago

also "How Do They Do It?" also on the discovery channel

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years, 3 months ago

I couldn't agree with this article much more! I used to really like the History Channel's programming, but the recent trends noted in this article are very sad. My favorite was "Mail Call", since both my father and I were military veterans, and the Gunny made the information he presented very interesting and funny. But Gunny Ermy seems to have marched off to more lucrative fields now. The UFO crap, the doomsday programming, and the similar ilk, however, has made this yet another of the 400 channels I do not much care for anymore.

curious2 10 years, 3 months ago

I have to agree as well, I used to like programs such as Modern Marvels, my significant other is a disabled vet who stays home and too often (daily) watches this end of the world crap and when I get home its all talk about guns and bunkers and are we prepared, it gets old after a while. Although, it is somewhat comforting to know that he is ready to protect our family. Reruns reruns reruns! Cable here in lawrence is too expensive to see the same old stuff over and over! -A momma

curious2 10 years, 3 months ago

Oh yeah, besides, there is sooooo much history to cover, instead of speculations about how we will all meet our demise.

conservativepunker 10 years, 3 months ago

They have a new President and CEO. Both VERY anti-military, and anti-traditional American values. That's why Mail Call was cancelled. I got this info from a WWII re-enactor that was often used in recreating scenarios for their programming in the past.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years, 3 months ago

I remember "Industry on Parade"!! It was one of my favorite shows on TV in the 1950's. I have often wondered why that show has not been resurrected, either as originally broadcast or in modern fomat. I truly enjoyed it, although today it would be very dated. Steam locomotives went the way of the dinosaur in the early 1950's and 60's. It is a shame Mail Call was cancelled. The anti-military prejudice today is awful. I wonder what these wonks that support that agenda would say when Osama Bin Towelhead's operatives appeared in his bedroom brandishing assault weapons??

mark9999 10 years, 3 months ago

These UFO related programs are relevant in understanding technological advancements and global politics of the 20th century.

mark9999 10 years, 3 months ago

The technological advancements and global politics between leading nations over the last 70 years can be appreciated more fully by examining pertinent UFO/USO sightings.

Where and when did these UFO/USO sightings take place? Who reported them? Which countries are researching them? Which leaders encouraged research into UFO/USO sightings? How do UFO/USO sightings relate to the Cold War? What is the relationship between nuclear power and UFO/USO sightings?

daddax98 10 years, 3 months ago

"I remember "Industry on Parade"!! It was one of my favorite shows on TV in the 1950's. I have often wondered why that show has not been resurrected, either as originally broadcast or in modern fomat"

Actually there is a show like this: "How it's made" on the discovery channel

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