When The History Channel launched in 1995, I thought I was in heaven. I remember seeing an advertisement for the channel some months before it first aired, and I about crapped my pants out of pure joy; an entire channel devoted solely to history? It sounded like a dream! And for a long time, it was. At any given time, you could flip that bad boy on and spend hours watching specials on WWII, the Civil War, and all sorts of historically relevant goodness. The network even launched History International, which focused more on world events. It was a great time to be a history fan, no doubt, with all of those gems tucked neatly into one amazing channel.
Then the reality TV boom hit, and just like that, the fabled joy of historical television went the way of the passenger pigeon. I was flipping channels this morning and happened to see a WWII documentary on- and I did a double take. The History Channel was actually showing history? Was my brain playing a trick on me? What’s the world coming to? The channel has gone the way of MTV (and seemingly every other channel, for that manner), and almost exclusively airs reality programming. It’s all day Appalachian Outlaws (you’ve gotta me be kidding me on that one), Mountain Men, Ax Men, Ice Road Truckers, Swamp People (c’mon now), Pawn Stars, and a slew of absolute junk that has zero to do with anybody’s history. It makes me wonder why the hell I don’t have a show…I couldn’t do any worse than The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man, right? Why even call it the History Channel, then?
I do think that it’s an absolute crime that kids today (and the majority of adults for that matter) know more about Snookie and the Housewives, Bieber, and the Kardashians than they do about the events that have shaped the climate of the world they live in. And a channel like the History Channel, the ultimate platform for promoting the genre, only showing shock value garbage like Cajun Pawn Stars, is pure blasphemy. It’s a testament to the consistent dumbing down of the American public at the hands of mainstream media. As long as folks keep watching Duck Dynasty, networks will keep putting that meal onto our plates. I’m not insulting anyone for their viewing tastes, mind you, but rather the lack of variety or intellectual fare available. As it stands, no channel really shows much of anything anymore- it’s pretty much a steady stream of reality TV; channels like the History Channel (or Discovery, A&E, and other channels that have abandoned any attempt at relevance) have the power to fill a great void, but manage to maintain a viewer base with shows created purely for the wow factor (Honey Boo Boo, anyone?). It says a lot when the American public knows more about who won American Idol than they do about who won the Civil War. That’s just my take on it.