Monday, May 12, 2008

The Hysteria Channel

Has anyone watched the History Channel lately? I'm having a hard time finding much history in its programming. In fact, the History Channel has disintigrated in recent years into sensationlist, tabloid-grade tripe. Since its inception in 1995, the History channel has gone from showing seeminly non-stop WWII documentaries to a popular, ratings driven enterprise. Don't get me wrong. There are some good shows (Modern Marvels and and Dogfights are excellent), but most of the programming today is just silly.

For example, Ax Men and Ice Road Truckers are reality shows that document the on the job drama of timber workers and truckers. History? Yes, according to History Channel execs. Apparently, they couldn't ignore the ratings of shows like The Deadliest Catch over at the Discovery Channel (Why a show that chronicles the day to day lives of Alaskan crab fisherman is a mainstay of the Discovery Channel, I'll never know either).

A more curious trend has been the History Channel's strange, fatalistic obsession with end of the world scenarios, as evidenced by shows like Mega Disasters, Last Days on Earth, Life After People, and Comets: Prophets of Doom. It seems as though the only history the network is interested in is the end of history. It's depressing. At least there's programs like Gangland, Shockwave and Tougher in Alaska to enrich my understanding of human history.

Surely the same can be said for shows like the Lost Book of Nostradamus, Vampire Secrets, MonsterQuest, and UFO Hunters. Apparently, the History Channel needed to nail down that crucial black helicopter demographic, as well as fans of the X-Files.

Seriously, isn't the History Channel essentially endorsing the notion that history is boring and has no bearing on our lives if they feel the need to sensationalize it and substitute Bigfoot for the British Empire?


Tim Lewis said...

Yeah, all those shows should stay on Discovery Channel. I love History Channel when they are showing history programs. When they get into all that other junk it actually bores me. It doesn't matter though, since I don't get that channel. I do, however, get the Discovery Channel, but the only things I have watched on it recently are Mythbusters, Survivorman, and Dirty Jobs. Deadliest Catch is interesting for about five minutes, then it's just repetitive and boring. I're basically watching fishing.

Jason Campbell said...

A long, long time ago I actually had a desire to watch the History channel. Then my parents got it on their billion-channel satellite dish and I skimmed through the titles a few times and discovered exactly what you are talking about.

Since it's too expensive to provide intelligent shows about actual history that would be both fun to watch and highly informative, let's do the next best thing: take last year's tabloid repeatables and update a few scenes and then run them endlessly with louder and louder titles. That'll get 'em.


Anonymous said...

I really find this to be second to the fact that AMC played For a Few Dollars More. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that only hits one the the three letters in "AMC" and that's only because it's a movie. And when they run anything with Kate Hudson (excepting Almost Famous) it does not qualify for the "M" (I refuse to admit that these are movies) or the "C" and is merely American (aren't we proud). And while we're at it, why does AMC run their own series like Mad Men and Breaking Bad? These aren't movies, and they sure as hell aren't classics. What gives? Is it so hard to run actual American Movies that are somehow classic?

Maybe they should just change their name to America's Crappiest Movies. Remember Dennis Miller's bit from the 80's where he said that HBO stood for "Hey, Beastmaster's On!" Well AMC isn't even playing Beastmaster these days.

And don't get me started on Dirty Jobs, Tim. It is just shy of infuriating to me to see a guy who is a third-rate voice-over guy for commercials mugging at the camera while some poor sap does an honest day's living at a crappy job. This just feeds into America's increasing tendency to view blue collar jobs with disgust. Guess what, Discovery Channel? People have to actually do work in this country to make enough money to pay for crappy programming on cable and a lot of it is dirty work. That's why they have to pay people to do it - no one wants it as a hobby. Except for that Curly knock-off on Bizarre Foods. His is a dirty job and I think he'd do it for free if no one was willing to pay.


Stephanie Frieze said...

I was just getting ready to put up a post on the Tacoma News Tribune about this exact topic. I am so sad that both the History Channel and its parent company A&E seem to have lost their rudder. All of Memorial Weekend was devoted to "Monster Quest!" I couldn't believe with all the footage they have they couldn't have found something more appropriate for the holiday.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Yep, 10 out of 10...I think that all of you are correct..Where did all the Fear-mongering come from? Most of the History, Hitler, and Hysteria channel programing I find disstasteful, and mindless..unless you like the "what if syndrome."
Maybe a name change would be in order to "The Misery Channel" because we all can "what if it to death."

Anonymous said...

"I really find this to be second to the fact that AMC played For a Few Dollars More. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that only hits one the the three letters in "AMC" and that's only because it's a movie."

It's the second entry in what most fans of Westerns consider a classic trilogy. So it's only the "A" that it doesn't qualify for on account of being an Italian production.

norwayrc said...

oohh yes... i cant believe the amount of misinformation they broadcast propagating the 2012 Doomsday prediction myth

and what really annoys me is the way how they use the term "history"
Monsters, UFO , Vampires, Nostradamus is not HISTORY!!!