Probably my favorite cable channel is the History Channel. I love the cheesy re-enactments coupled with interviews of excitable geeks fueled by passion for the study of diseases, war, pestilence, religion and even aliens which all seem to intertwined with the common historical bands that is manifest in us all. The stories told on the history channel rival any tele-novella. Complete with suspenseful music, dramatic pantomime to rival any found on a Parisian street corner, this docu-dramas are riveting even though you know how the story ends.
The History Channel: Mixing Marketing and Memories
A product of A&E Netoworks, The History Channel debuted in 1995 as one of those occupiers of the grave yard of cable television. Little known and even less watched, the History Channel, or simply History as its now known, was the domain of geeks, odd ducks and conspiracy theorists, a place where the invalidated went for vindication and entertainment. Often criticized for its tendency toward drama rather than facts, The History Channel seemed to have a fascination with all things American and bloody including World War II, Hitler and marauding bands of barbarians. It certainly wasn’t part of mainstream media. But over the years this channel destined to be fill the dustbin of history has quietly carved out a faithful audience of people like me who fashion themselves smart enough to know that television rots your brain but television about history can’t be all that bad. Ripping off PBS, THC began selling its docu-dramas and then added a full fledged commercial enterprise. At their store along with free shipping you can get everything from miniature Lincoln memorial statues to the Empire State building made out of Legos, to t-shirts and DVD’s from your favorite THC shows. There’s nothing like a little capitalism to make history come alive.
The History Channel Makes the Past Reality
In addition to tapping into the American’s need to consume, THC has successfully used the reality TV craze to crank out some fascinating television. I love Pawn Stars, a show about a Las Vegas pawn shop operated by three-generations of the same family at the same time. The family dynamics of the Harrisons – grandfather, father and son – are just as riveting as the historic items people bring in to make a quick buck. Then there is Ice Truckers. What this show about truckers who cross the Canadian tundra has to do with history I have no idea, but I never miss an episode.
The History Channel To Focus On His Story
There are those who say even The History Channel is partisan – that it bow downs to a progressive, liberal version of history – and yes, it does seem to beat the European history drum to death (it’s like hey people there were other people living before and after the Roman and British Empires get a clue) but I find their docu-dramas entertaining and I always learn something. (Even if I have to check my local library to see if what I learned on THC is even true. 🙂 ) The History Channel could benefit from some more diverse history. I mean really with all that’s going on in Haiti you’d think they’d find it prime time to delve into Caribbean and Latin American history which is so tied to our own American history. But like those enlightened historians on the Texas School Board THC seems to see history through only one lens.
Even so, a person can learn a lot even from what’s not there. Like today I learned why so many Jews ended up in Poland during the 15th century. It had to do with the spread of the plague. Persecuted by German Christians as harbingers of the plague, Jews were forced out of German and into neighboring Poland where they were given refuge by a Polish noble in love with a Jewish woman.
So if you’re bored on a Sunday afternoon click on over to The History Channel, it will be anything but the boring wrist-slitting agony of your high school history class.