Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You leave me no choice

A recent South Park episode entitled A History Channel Thanksgiving proved funny and sad all at the same time.  To summarize, the characters in South Park decide that rather than read books about Thanksgiving they'd watch the History Channel instead.  After waiting through Swap People, Hairy Bikers and Ice Road Truckers (I seriously could not have made those up), a show comes on about how the Pilgrims were really aliens from another planet, as were the Native Americans.  I nearly peed myself laughing.  And of course the episode goes on to get dumber and less funny - but as I stopped laughing I realized - this is it.  I'm not the only person who thinks HC programming is crap.  They get a lot of criticism, but stand staunchly behind rednecks and hillbillies as part of their network's programming objectives.  I've long since stopped pausing on HC to see what's on - but if it's part of their master plan, then someone must enjoy that crap.  That South Park episode was the first hint that anyone other than history enthusiasts despise their programming - that the idiocy can be recognized by mainstream viewers.

And so it begins - if this seems stupid to everyone, then you. leave. me. no. choice.

History - formerly known as the History Channel - has fallen into the profit-fad that is reality TV, and in the worst of ways.  Other than the idea that it has deviated dramatically from showcasing some sort of history that people would find entertaining and enlightening - it's following the dangerous game of chasing ratings at the cost of its overall image and perception.  Trying to market to a popular audience, they've forgotten what they set out to do alltogether.

One thing is sure - it's hard to argue their ratings returns, at least with the network leadership.  Reaching reported record highs in several consecutive years, the network has begun using such honorifics as "the King of reality TV" referencing the producers of those successful shows.  It will be interesting to see what happens when the bubble bursts, there, and how many lost devotees will return.

There is a singular shining light in all of this - public broadcasting.  In an executive session panel last July, PBS President Paula Kerger stepped up to the plate to say she loves - LOVES what History is doing. 
“If the rest of the media continues on its current trajectory, PBS and our stations will be the only enterprise whose sole purpose is to provide content of consequence both nationally and locally to all Americans.” she said.  Read the full story, here.

(Maniacal laugh)  Yes, History, keep on truckin.  Do, go on!

Because PBS still has some decent documentaries - including a recent one on the War of 1812 that wasn't half bad for trying to condense the whole affair into an hour.  Aside from that there are some pretty awesome series, like The Woodwright's Shop, A Taste of History, American ExperienceHistory Detectives, NOVA and much more.

And the best part?  You can watch entire episodes online - FREE!  Could it be that our aged bastion of cultural television is back?   You bet it is.  Rock on, PBS, and kick some History butt!


1 comment:

Henry Rice said...

Just as MTV no longer shows music videos, History no longer shows history shows. Pretty sad! Good blog.