History (TV channel)

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“At the end of the day we're not an education resource. We’re an entertainment brand.”

A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

History (originally The History Channel) is a cable television channel that once prided itself on the breadth of our world's history, but has since drifted in the murky waters of reality programming and New Age claptrap. While it — just barely — airs a few educational shows that might teach you something, its flagship programs are primarily those that focus on alien conspiracies, ice road trucking, and white trash freakshows.

It is sometimes nicknamed the "Pseudohistory" Channel by viewers who are disappointed with its scholarly standards, the "Hysteria Channel" by those who are pissed off by the scaremongering end-of-the-world shows, and the "Hitler Channel" by those who were fed up with its once-extensive programming covering World War II (though they probably regret saying that now — at least that was actual history).

Programming[edit]

All Hitler, all the time[edit]

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For those without comedic tastes, the so-called experts at Wikipedia have an article about History (TV channel).

In its early years, the channel earned the unfortunate nickname of the "Hitler Channel", due to its need to fill the schedule with content related to World War II. A viewer of History in the 1990s and 2000s could be led to believe that nothing of note happened in recorded history outside of World War II and Ancient Egypt. And those were the HC's better days.

Trucking and antiquing[edit]

Military programming soon migrated to History's sister channel, the Military History Channel, leaving the channel to fill their programming gaps with shows about musty old junk like Pawn Stars and American Pickers, plus utterly non-historical content such as Ice Road Truckers, Ax Men, Appalachian Outlaws, and Life After People.

Ancient Aliens[edit]

"I'm not saying it was aliens... but c'mon man, it was aliens!"

One of History's classic intellectual achievements is Ancient Aliens, a program that focuses on alien conspiracies and prophecies. To quote a typical talking head featured on the show, discussing of all things, the 2012 apocalypse, "you would think that had to come from extraterrestrials" (sure, but only for very small values of "think"). Every segment has the announcer saying "could it be that... this is evidence of ancient aliens... maybe!" Near the end of one show, Michael Shermer gets a few moments to call it all rubbish.

The Bible[edit]

In 2013, the History Channel featured a 10-part series called The Bible, covering watered-down wholesome, family-friendly versions of events from — you guessed it — the Bible. The series was launched on March 3, 2013 and concluded on March 3, 2013 — which, by no coincidence, was Easter Sunday. The series was met with controversy when Glenn Beck pointed out how the actor who played the Devil in the series resembled Obama; this triggered a firestorm on the Internet. Obama later tore the History Channel and Beck's friends a new one at the 2013 White House Correspondents' Dinner.[1]

Vikings[edit]

Around the same time as the aforementioned Bible series, History also aired its first scripted drama, Vikings, based on the semi-historical Viking raider Ragnar Lothbrok. This might actually be a good sign, although historical accuracy is pretty much a lost cause when your source material involves a cow with madness-inducing moos, and your only other source is two lines in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Worth watching?[edit]

Perhaps at one time yes, the "History" Channel might have had some intellectual merit. However these days it has quite clearly fallen into a New Age nonsense trap, its shows having long been replaced with the above nonsense and generally boring and/or non-history related content, effectively selling its educational value for short-term ratings and sensationalism. This seems to be a general theme among similar channels (TLC, the Discovery Channel, Nat Geo, etc.) these days. Never before has there been a more powerful argument for American public broadcasting. To be fair, much of the older educational programs still receive reruns and appearing On Demand. But as for newer content, the only thing played that is new content is much of the above horror.

At least Animal Planet continues to have a shred of dignity: it still airs animal-related content, at least for the time being. Not to worry though, they have pretty much pushed even that aside for barely/non-animal related content as well. (We might view the 2012 mockumentary Mermaids: The Body Found as a satirical quip at the rampant pseudoscience in the sister channels or as a mockery of the audience's gullibility in an elaborate echo of H. L. Mencken's The Rise of the Bathtub, but it also might be a sign that reality has simply lost its appeal among the viewing public.)

Currently there are only a couple shows (that is, shows still making new episodes) airing that have anything to do with history, Pawn Stars, Modern Marvels and American Pickers. Pawn Stars and American Pickers both involve finding or being brought items that loosely have historical significance. Modern Marvels is the last thread of purely educational content the entire channel offers, spending each episode on a specific topic and teaching you about how it's made, the history of it and what it does. Episodes vary from airplanes to packaging.

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. We live in a weird age.