Yes, I’m going for the low-hanging fruit here.
Dear History Channel,
What the hell? I’ve been without television for a little over a year now, and, granted, back then your content wasn’t particularly profound or thought-provoking, but you at least had some decent shows going on. One in particular I recall is the three-part miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. Here we have this awesome scripted drama about one of the most bitter family rivalries in United States history. It was dark and violent and, above all, engrossing, and I absolutely loved it. I would be first to admit that I’m not generally fond of westerns, usually opting something in the field of horror or science fiction, but I mean, wow, this was so well-done that I forgot that it was a western. Of course, I’m sure the show takes liberties with actual historical accounts of Hatfield-McCoy feud, but it still tries to have that historical detail that made the History Channel so great.
Then you had programs like Ancients Behaving Badly, a documentary-style series that tries to make historical figures interesting through the use of animation, forensic science, and psychological evaluations. Of course, I’m not against appealing to a larger audience to increase the viewership, and I think programs like Ancients Behaving Badly are a decent step in that direction without sacrificing too much quality historical content. It serves as a great intro to history. It’s like the Wikipedia of historical shows: you get an understanding of what’s going on and you then move onto other, more substantive content, similar to articles and sources that Wikipedia cites.
Then you have your new programs like Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning. Visiting family a couple weeks back, I turned to the History Channel to escape the doldrums and then I’m treated to a commercial for this new show. The reality television series details the descendants of the Hatfield and McCoy families attempting to reconcile their differences to make moonshine for profit.
In all honesty, I don’t know what else to really say about it other than, “what the hell?”
I turned a blind eye to Pawn Stars and American Pickers, these poorly executed blends of history and reality television, hoping that, while they garnered a fair following, they would eventually run out of content and we’d return to something a bit more educational. I was wrong. Even though there are some historical artifacts some of the time, much of what these shows hinge on are “getting a guy” to confirm the monetary value of grandpa’s deathbed violin and how much the person got swindled.
What happened to learning? Why are these things dominating television? Obviously, these things are making the channel money, as they continue to churn out episode after episode and program after program. As much as we want to blame the History Channel for giving us this sub-par content, we’re still the ones watching it.
If you really want to learn about history, I’d recommend not watching the History Channel.