Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Problem with History Television

I myself am personally a great fan of both the History Channel and the Discovery Channel, but here's the issue. While the programming of the Discovery Channel has managed to adapt with the times and keep a great line up of diverse and interesting programs, the History Channel, to put it bluntly, has not.

The Facts:

The History Channel is a channel which by its very name should mean that it is devoted to programs that are either documentary style or information nuggets about general times in history. It used to be that the station was called the 'Hitler Channel' because of the truly disproportianate numbers of shows regarding World War II back in the late 90s and early 2000s. Since then however, the programming has gone steadily down hill.

As a young boy I would avidly watch the channel (even though much of the content would go straight over my head) and try to learn as much as I could. The shows on the History Channel as well as tutoring provided by my favorite uncle, is what originally got me so fascinated in history. So back then it had to many World War II documentaries? So what? Even those were far better sights than what the channel is playing now!

Today we are stuck with an array of boring, and worse, useless shows! We have a decent show like Pawn Stars, which starts a cascade of ridiculous and outrageous spin offs which have almost no great historical content, and would have been laughed out of the board room were it not for the success of Pawn Stars! Pawn Stars itself only is successful as it has people scrounging their attics for any 'historical artifacts' to attempt to sell to make a buck! And speaking of scrounging attics we have such wonderful shows like Canadian and American Pickers! Two guys in a van who go around pawing at eccentric people's collections trying to sell in a niche market! What's worse is that they could have made a sitcom out of this! Like Pawn Stars or its many spin offs it is low on facts and instead relies on interesting nuggets to reel the audience in. I could deal with this if it was one or two shows that functioned like this, instead we have at least seven!

Then we have the lackluster television show Ancient Aliens. This is of course a tinfoil hat on head conspiracy theory/ whackadoodle show posing the question of whether aliens came to earth in order to help ancient civilizations build themselves up and design their ancient wonders. I could take this show seriously if they attempted to debunk these crack pots, but instead we are treated to half an hour of crazy pseudo-historians claiming aliens built the pyramids. I personally have a hard time believing these people aren't being paid to say these things. Sadly it appears they have brought out the nutter parade and these people are serious. I think the near blatant racism of saying that the ancient Americans or Egyptians couldn't possibly have built their structures without aliens is something that should have died out in the 1930s yet continues blatantly to this day.

Then we have shows like Swamp People and Full Metal Jousting. Neither show is bad in and of itself and each is quite interesting, but, the problem is for a program on the History Channel other than brief mentions to historical context each show does not portray any historical background nor expand on the rich and interesting history of either jousting or the culture of Louisianna gator hunting. As reality shows or sports shows, they are acceptable. As historical shows, they lack severely! Do a segment on the history of jousting, explain the evolution of the armor or even why they chose to ressurrect the sport! And with Swamp People, give us a better history of the families and Louisianna in general! Don't get me wrong, each show is great, but they lack content and context to be on the History Channel!

This is my problem, there are so many shows that lack context and an even poorer program line up which drives me mad whenever I try to watch the channel! So here, my humble readers, is how I would like to frame my solution.

My Solution:

Taking a look at the History Channel's more successful cousin the Discovery Channel we can see how they could improve. For instance there was a wonderful show aired for two seasons (despite the general disaster of the second season) called the Colony which was premised around survival after a flu pandemic. A decent show despite suffering from trying to imitate Survivor to often at times, it was still a good look at how that sort of TV series could be approached. For the History Channel simply try something like that, but set in any (literally ANY) time period in history! The possibilities are endless! You could set it in a mediveal village or frontier America! Each with its own unique historical ideas and challenges to be presented to participants and for the viewers enjoyment!

Another thing is to shows about less publicized wars. Sure we've all heard about the World Wars, the Korean war, Vietnam, the Civil War ect. So instead how about a series on the Hundred Years War or the Crimean War or even the Mexican Revolution? You could take any war in history and have it presented in a dramatic and compelling way! Make a miniseries about it even, like the upcoming Hatfields and McCoys (which I will be reviewing on this blog!).

Then of course we can do more specific shows about things like the American Revolution, the original Native American cultures and societies. Things that could become so much more interesting which can be used in a myriad of different ways to tie into both modern events, or try and predict future events. Perhaps shows like After Armageddon and Life After People can become more mainstream and promote a prepardness mindset for those who don't think about even things like a bad storm?

All in all there are so many positive changes that can be made to the History Channel's line up, and I sincerely hope that people running the show will see that.

1 comment:

  1. My biggest problem with the History Channel (and most channels in general) is that they waste too much air-time with reality TV shows (like Pawn Stars and its derivatives). Gimme some documentaries and/or historical studies, hell I'd be happy with the Hitler Channel returning haha.