The History, Reality Show, UFO, Monster, and Conspiracy Channel

One of the questions people ask me when they find out what sort of thing I do for a living is whether I watch the History Channel.  They’re usually a little surprised when I tell them that I don’t watch it much at all.  Part of it’s due to the fact that I just don’t watch as much TV as I used to, but another part of it’s due to the fact that the network itself has changed. 

In fact, I found it extremely ironic that the network dropped the “channel” from its name last March and changed its handle to “History.”  Sticking to the “channel” part would have been more appropriate.  So many of the more heavily-publicized shows have nothing to do with the study of things that happened in the past.  Instead, they’re about trivial things that are currently happening, things that aren’t happening, or things that may never happen.

Of course, every network wants more viewers, and apparently the change in approach is working.  And History isn’t the only network that leaves itself quite a bit of wiggle room in its programming.  (One thing you won’t be doing while watching the Learning Channel is learning, unless you want to learn about catering and interior design.) 

Still, history can claim a good deal more public interest than most academic disciplines.  Commercial history books routinely make the bestseller lists, and thousands of people patronize historical sites.  You’d think there would be enough public interest in history to keep the network supplied with viewers.  And when History does generate its own original, history-oriented programming, it’s quality stuff.  They clearly know how to do it well; they just don’t do it often.

I’m not saying that History has some kind of public obligation to show educational, history-driven programing to the exclusion of everything else.  They’re in the entertainment business.  In that business you respond to what people want, and what we seem to want more than history is the same sort of thing we can get elsewhere.


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9 responses to “The History, Reality Show, UFO, Monster, and Conspiracy Channel

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  5. I guess people want those kind of conspiracy, UFO, disaster shows because there are certainly a plethora of them on the History Channel. I don’t watch the History Channel very often either, although I occasionally do enjoy some of the programs depending on what it is.

  6. Michael Lynch

    Yeah, some of their non-history shows can be entertaining. It just seems odd that they’d start running them in the first place, what with all the historical topics out there.


  7. And to think, I remember a time when my friends and I all referred to this channel as the “Hitler Channel.” There was a period of time when they showed so many programs on World War II that the moniker was appropriate. I’m with you on a number of points. I certainly don’t watch as much TV as I used to and when I do it is usually a sporting event (I am a huge sports fan anyway). I am also pretty bewildered by what content is shown on History these days. I find History International to be more interesting, entertaining, and educational (most of the time).

  8. Michael Lynch

    You’re right; for some reason History International seems to be much more focused in terms of their programming. That’s based on what I’ve seen of it, anyway. I don’t get HI here, but I watch it when I’m in a hotel where I can get it, and it’s always the sort of thing you wish they ran on History.


  9. sauer kraut

    A bit off-topic, but what do you think of the NPS transferring Gettysburg Superintendent John Latschar to an in-house desk job after thousands of pornographic images were found on his work computer?

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