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Archive for Thursday, September 1, 2011

History Channel misses mark with ‘Ancient Aliens’

September 1, 2011

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‘‘Nick News With Linda Ellerbee” (8 p.m., Nickelodeon) presents “What Happened? The Story of September 11.” As Ellerbee explains in the show’s opening moments, viewers young and old can expect a lot of “media noise” surrounding the 10th anniversary, so the show sets about explaining some basic facts for those too young to remember, or born since, the terror attacks.

Ellerbee has her work cut out for her. In the program’s opening minutes, earnest-looking youths describe the events and get all of their facts wrong.

It’s interesting to note that Ellerbee’s program, created to teach history, is being broadcast on a children’s entertainment network. Meanwhile, the History Channel dedicates its prime time tonight to three hours of “Ancient Aliens” (7 p.m.).

Airing programs about aliens and calling it “history” is beyond idiotic. It leads to the cheapening of the very idea of a common history, and it contributes to the problems Ellerbee faces when confronting a roomful of young people confused by rumor and disinformation.

Tonight’s broadcasts are not unique. The History Channel consistently trashes the idea of history. Alien shows belong on the Syfy channel. They’re not history. “Ice Road Truckers” is fine tough-guy programming. But it could be on any cable station. So could “Top Shot,” ‘‘American Pickers” and “Pawn Stars,” to name a few. They’re popular and entertaining. Just don’t call them history.

The History Channel is not the first to stray from its original mission. I’m old enough to remember when TLC stood for “The Learning Channel.” But the network’s programming changed, and so did its name.

It’s time the History Channel did the same. Call itself the H Network. Or the Stuff Older Guys Like Network. Anything but the History Channel.

Let’s not sit on the sidelines and complain. Let’s come up with a new name! Between now and the end of the month, I’m asking readers to submit ideas to this column at kevin.tvguy@gmail.com. Just send your suggestions with the subject line, “My new name for the History Channel.”

At the end of the month, I’ll dedicate a column to your submissions and send them to the History Channel brass for consideration. Get your friends involved! Talk to the history majors, history teachers and history buffs in your life! Let’s send the History Channel a message: You can’t trash our favorite subject and get away with it!

Tonight’s other highlights

• “Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero” (7 p.m., Discovery) concludes.

• Bioterrorists on “Burn Notice” (8 p.m., USA).

• “Walt: The Man Behind the Myth” (8 p.m., CNBC) profiles Walt Disney.

• On two episodes of “Rookie Blue” (ABC): random accidents (8 p.m.), faith (9 p.m.).

• An old friend needs Harvey’s help on “Suits” (9 p.m., USA).

• A niece visits on “Louie” (9:30 p.m., FX).

• A college “sport” gets serious in the documentary “Last Cup: Road to the World Series of Beer Pong” (10 p.m., Spike).

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