Things That Tick Me Off: The History Channel

150px-History_Channel_logo.svgAs a history nut, one of the most annoying contradictions in life is the fact that the History Channel continues to use history in its title after abandoning such programming in a mindless rush for ratings. Just as you rarely hear music on MTV, you rarely see history on the History Channel.

I used to watch virtually nothing but the History Channel. It then yielded to executives who saw the history as an artificial restraint and began to add such shows as “Monster Quest”, “Ice Road Truckers, and “Life After People“. If I had greater faith in a place of eternal damnation, I would not be so ticked off. However, it is possible that these executives might not face eternal damnation with such punishment as being forced to watch Ax Men over and over again.

The insipid and insulting programming on this once jewel of television is due entirely to its executive at A&E. A&E Television Networks president and CEO Abbe Raven has now been named to run a new company being formed by Disney-ABC TV, Hearst Corporation and NBC Universal. It will merge to form an even greater number of channels and is expected to accelerate rather than reverse the destruction of the History Channel. While most of us would assume that it would lead Raven to assume a new identity, she has received awards for helping create such abominations as Dog the Bounty Hunter, Growing Up Gotti and Intervention.

If one expects quality historical programming on the History Channel, Abbe Raven has said “Never More.” In her honor, I give you a paraphrased poem of Poe who is the only poet dark enough to capture the demise of the once beloved History Channel:


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered The History Channel weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious shows of history lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my cable door.
`’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my cable door –
Only this, and nothing more.’

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Channel –
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named History Channel –
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my cable door –
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my cable door; –
This it is, and nothing more,’

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,’ said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was surfing, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my cable door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you’ – here I opened wide the tele; –
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Ratings War”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Ratings War”
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,’ said I, `surely that is something at my cable dish;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this history explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this history explore; –
‘Tis the wind and nothing more!’

Open here I flung the clicker, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Abbe Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made she; not a minute stopped or stayed she;
But, with mien of lady, perched above my cable door –
Perched upon a cable box just above cable door –
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony CEO beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,’ I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore –
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s television shore!’
Will we have real history from days of lore
Quoth Abbe Raven, `Nevermore.’

That really ticks me off.

For the Raven story, click here and here.

56 thoughts on “Things That Tick Me Off: The History Channel

  1. Seconded.

    History International is marginally better but they still have a smattering of junk programming. Even the residual “history” programming is suspect.

    One day I wanted to listen to a documentary on William Wallace on THC while I picked up around the house. After about the third time they insisted on calling Wallace “Braveheart”, I started throwing things at the TV.

  2. BIL:

    That is precisely why I added a protective wire screen in front of my tv. I learned that from some country music bars with live entertainment. I simply went through too many television sets.

  3. Thirded

    and don’t forget the “Comedy Channel”, what a misnomer that is

    I miss the old History Channel as well

    anyone ever play “History IQ” on THC, that was a good history trivia game

  4. For a while there THC stood for “The Hitler Channel” since almost all the shows were of WWII. You’d think given the long history of mankind and of the earth itself they’d never run out of subject matter. It’s a shame but what do you expect from the same folks who bring you “Dog the Bounty Hunter”. YUCK!!!

  5. Ha, I wrote pretty much the same blog a couple of weeks ago. Same thing goes for the Discovery Channel, which is either crab fishing or shark week. Like the fair and balanced channel, these days channels seem to be named after the very thing you’re guaranteed not to get.

  6. Prof. Turley,
    I wish you wouldn’t hold back your feelings and tell us what you really think of the History Channel! However, I would recommend that you keep your day job and let the poetry stay in the capable hands of Poe and his ilk.

  7. Wikipedia offers this guide to future viewing on History, formerly, The History Channel: “History is continuing the apocalyptic trend mentioned above with a highly interpretive new series, The Nostradamus Effect, which premiered on September 9, 2009 and involves a supposed ‘Third Antichrist’ and a ‘Da Vinci Armageddon’.”

  8. Couldn’t agree more; can Comcast still charge me for a History Channel with no history? Plus Discovery Health watch is almost ENTIRELY about obscenely obese people. Right across the ‘dial’ (an an anachronism, that!) it’s vulgarity, voyeurism, and other degradations.

  9. You all complain now, but when the Nazi Sharks from Outer Space invade, you’ll be glad of all the advance knowledge you have of them.

  10. This from the article: “A&E Television Networks president and CEO Abbe Raven has now been named to run a new company being formed by Disney-ABC TV, Hearst Corporation and NBC Universal. It will merge to form an even greater number of channels and is expected to accelerate rather than reverse the destruction of the History Channel.”

    and this from the poem “…Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before
    But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Ratings War”
    This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Ratings War”
    Merely this and nothing more.”

    tells you everything you need to know about what is wrong with cable TV; consolidation and commercial sponsorship. Those on this blawg old enough to be BC (before cable) probably remember when the unveiling of cable came with the promise of ‘no commercials’ which was a lie from day one.

    The re-work of the poem was pretty good IMO but Rfflaw’s advice raises the question, in the long run would the world be better off with more good satire/comedy or law? The law and the rights conferred thereby are fungible but the memory of an early John Belushi or Chevy Chase or Chris Rock etc. (which still make me laugh) can’t be diminished by the evil Xenu or his minions, the Nazi Sharks from Outer Space. I suggest the Professor spend more time on his comedy; once the Constitution is destroyed in it’s entirety he may need a fall-back career. (Insert ‘tongue-in-cheek’ emoticon here)

  11. Fourthed.

    History to the revisionist is the way they would like it to be, impairing the rest of us who would like history to be the way it really was.

  12. Euripedes
    We have nothing to fear. Those sharks from outer space will be driving trucks on ice roads picking up trees from the Ax men in Alaska where its tougher.

  13. Believe it or not, once upon a time A&E actually presented Arts programming, Back in the late 80s one could watch opera and classical music programming. I may still have a few old VHS tapes from that era. Then or course, they went pop and for a little while Bravo produced some quality product. Laughable now.
    Screw ’em. I can find DVDs and Blu Ray nowadays.

  14. I liked the poem, too. It was clever; but, I still hope you keep your day job so that I can keep seeing you on TV.

    It is truly amazing how you can have so many stations and still nothing worth watching. That’s why I have a DVD collection.

  15. FINALLY!


    Now I know why I was angry about seeing shows about Big Foot and other Monsters on something called “The History Channel”

  16. I could not agree with you more than the History Channel being a sell out. Kinds reminds me of General Electric when Jack Welch was at the helm. Hell at that time it could have Enron, who would have been able to tell the difference.

    I am now accustomed to the ID Channel. That is some good stuff.

  17. I blogged about this two years ago. How anyone can sit and watch some trucker driving on ice for an hour, and not lose consciousness is a mystery to me. Then there’s that man who does the “dirty jobs.” Whoever produces that revolting program seems to have a fascination with “poo,” and how about the man who actually spends his time wading into all that doody? What? He couldn’t get a job at the Pizza Hut? Then we have the brides who throw temper tantrums, as well as that god-awful program of snoops who follow people around with their video cameras, filming people cheating on their spouses, then confronting them on television.

    The only program I’ve watched on one of those channels in years, is “Cash Cab.” Can’t remember which channel it’s on, but at least it calls for some minor exercise of the brain.

    And, by the way Pardon Me, in the past 20 years or so, I’ve read online, and seen speculation on TV, that the antichrist is or was, Saddam Hussein, Bob Dole, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. I understand that he/it has now morphed into Barack Obama.

  18. This is one of those “don’t get me started” issues. It bugs the hell out of me and per others comments at one time TLC, A&E and Bravo did have some really good content. Now everywhere we turn the dial we see homogenized garbage whose purpose is to dumb us all down. Have spent some time watching TV with my Grandson, his parents wisely limit it, and I’m appalled at what I see. He likes the Disney On Demand Channel. They have miraculously made Mickey Mouse cartoons more inane than they ever were and boy were they. Winnie the Pooh et. al have been translated into playing sidekicks to an obnoxious pre-teen girl. There is something called curious George that not only has no entertainment value, but seems more than vaguely racist in undertones.

    The common thread in this is of course Disney, which manages to leech the intelligence out of everything they do. Old Walt, that racist, Jew hater is long gone, but his policy of seeking the lowest brow remains intact.

    JT, I must admit that my wife and I watch Intervention regularly and find ourselves moved by the program, even though the manipulation is apparent and it would lead people to believe that the addiction recovery rate is far higher than the 20% we could reasonably hope for.

    It used to be that people who appreciate history could get it from PBS, but even that has been overwhelmed. I recently saw a series called the “Ascent of Money” by handsome, Harvard Economist Niall Ferguson and the man made the argument that Pinochet was actually good for Chile. When JFK’s FCC guy called TV a “vast wasteland,” he had little idea what a waste it could really be. I’m paranoid enough to believe that this isn’t simply the work of “market forces.”

  19. What you gain from no longer watching TV:

    4-5 hours a day for something else
    $60 bucks a month to spend on something else
    use less electricity

    Just give it up. It’s so worth it.

  20. Mike Rowe is the Dirty Jobs guy. I watch that sometimes, it keeps me grateful that I managed to escape really dirty work. It’s amazing how many really dirty jobs there are and that there’s someone to do them – Zenu bless them all this day. Some of the jobs are fascinating too; the episode on parchment making (a niche industry but still practiced by at least one company) from the actual slaughterhouse sheepshin to finished and beautiful parchment was very interesting. It’s an amazingly complicated process. Mike Rowe cleans up real nice too :-)

  21. At one point in the 90’s the comic strip “Tank McNamera” called The History Chanel and The Discovery Channel “The Testosterone Channel” for their constant programming of WWII and new high-tech weapons systems (mostly fighters of various vintages). That was bad enough, but the mindless drivel that’s on now is bringing the world of “Idiocracy” closer by the day.

    I also remember when AMC stood for “American Movie Classics”, and they programmed actual classic movies from the 30’s and 40’s without commercials (that’s where I discovered “Bringing Up Baby”). Now I don’t think there’s anything on that’s older than the 70’s, and they have as many commercials as any other channel.

  22. This is what you get for expecting anything benevolent from your corporate masters. Get off the tube and onto the tubes (before they strangle that as well).

  23. Hey, Lottakatz, thanks for speaking up for the Dirty Jobs show! That show actually, IMNSHO, performs an extremely valuable function for modern technological society! Life is NOT an automated, clean, tidy thing!

    Myself, I raised 4-H sheep when I was a kid (50+ yrs ago), spent time including chores at my grandparents’ working hard-scrabble farm (OVER 50 yrs ago!), I have shoveled asphalt and checked storm drainages for a fascinating few years a while ago… and now I clean toilet bowls and gutters and laundry sinks; and catch spiders to dump outside the house; clean up possum scat out of corners of the yard and garden…

    WAY too many kids these days (including my own) have never had to do anything like those jobs that Mike finds, and it’s good for them to at least know they exist!

    (we’re recreational medievalists and loved the parchment episode too!)

  24. Chimene:

    “WAY too many kids these days (including my own) have never had to do anything like those jobs that Mike finds, and it’s good for them to at least know they exist!”

    Funny,I was thinking the same thing over the Labor Day Weekend,and it seems as if the youth of today will never expirience,what it feels like to come home after a “hard days work”I hope I’m wrong but that how it seems to be shaping up,WE are a service industry now.

  25. I have to agree that Dirty Jobs has merit. Every time I go to retail outlet staffed by semi-conscious teens more interested in texting and/or playing grab ass instead of doing their job, I used to think they should have the worst job I ever had to gain some perspective. Now I’ve had a couple of really bad jobs, but the guy who books the jobs for this show is either a masochist (if it’s Rowe) or a sadist. I now think the soft-headed youth of America they should have to watch Mike Rowe for a month or two. Then quit jabbering on their phones and get to damn work thankful they aren’t “mucking out” anything.

    And another important lesson to learn: the jobs may be dirty but they are almost always honest. Honest is more important than easy.

  26. my thought on jobs is that there are no bad jobs only bad men that do them. Making an honest buck and earning it is the true measure of a man no matter what his station in life.

    In my opinion the ditch digger that does a good job and makes his ditches square and straight and provides value for the money he is paid, is worth far more than any white collar professional that just half asses it and bitches that they only make 100k per year.

  27. You see, the problem is they just quit making history. There is no more history so the History Channel network is forced to run programs of ax trucking prioners questing for monsters while examining biblical myth from only the perspective of a believer.

    Yes, all of the history that could be so wonderfully examined, computer simulated and actor recreatted has disappeared…if it was ever there at all.

    But if you miss good historical analysis and are fortunate enough, you can miss it on the International History Channel as well. It seems as if there is not enough history left over in the rest of the world outside the United States to warrant any programming on that channel either. Of course, Locked Up Abroad is some what historical and international in perspective.

    and what did Springstein sing? 57 Channels and nothing on?

  28. Well to test JT’s hypothesis, I just watched History Channel International and saw a splendid documentary based on Jay Winick’s bestseller “April 1865,” which covered the most important 30 days in our Nation’s history. It seemed well written and narrated, and cogently dealt with Lincoln’s assassination, Boothe’s manhunt and death, Johnson’s surrender to Sherman, Lincoln’s cabinet,etc. All in all, not too shoddy, but it does pale to “Dirty Jobs.”

  29. I concur for the most part, but also dissent in part. I think Intervention is a wonderful program who people and loved ones struggling with addiction. The show is truly inspiring at times, and I believe it gives a lot of addicts and their families hope, and serves as a warning to those who may be slowly merging onto the road to addiction.

  30. Euripides, Roland, et al:
    That’s what I love about this blog. There’s an upside to everything! For me, the glass is more than half full. Still, I would feel quite foolish if I didn’t prepare for UFOs operated by sharks and ice truckers. At least it’s more imaginative than Dog and Intervention; I don’t know how people can gawk at those train wrecks. I prefer watching open heart surgery.

  31. i’m a little behind, i’ve been busy with school starting. But everyone really should check out “The First 48,” on A&E. It’s a well made show that really gives you an insight into criminal investigation.

  32. Maybe we should blame Frances Fukiyama (sp?) for declaring the End of History.

    My mate used to fall asleep back when the channel was still historical; he would have nightmares, and I think it was the documentaries on the Nazis. Now he watches the Military Channel, with more Nazis, and other awful things. We sleep separately, (for health reasons) so when I can, I quietly go in his room and turn off the TV. Then he wakes up, and puts it back on….the Military Channel. I give up.

  33. “The insipid and insulting programming on this once jewel of television is due entirely to its executive at A&E.”

    But if I recall correctly, it was A&E that created the History Channel, right?

    Also, even when they were showing history, there qas so much emphasis on WWII, it was sickening.

    Finally, the move away from “theme channels” unfortunately seems to be wide-spread. Cartoon Network, Sci-Fi (now Sy-Fy), TLC, all have abandoned/are abandoning their core programing.

  34. When I MUST watch TV (too ill to read or walk) I play a game, ‘Who owns which Channel?” I remember when Sy-Fy was owned by a French company, which is a good fit, because like Trufett’s movie shows, the French take UFO’s very seriously. But now it seems to be part of NBC’s conglomerate owned by GE. Like Sy-Fy showing reruns of Warehouse 13 on USA. I know tv programs, depending on their contracts can sell to other channels, but when it’s contemporaneous, it’s more entertaining to take a stab at who owns what and looking it up, rather than watching what’s on. I was a judge for a couple of years for the Int’l TV and Video Festival; they send you the videos, and you sit with other judges, who in my case were all friends, and get to see some really good stuff. Aaah, back when I had a real life. But this is good, too. I wouldn’t have time to check out websites and blogs, much less have time to create both, which I’m still working on.

  35. I do agree with you. Not all of the programs that don’t pertain to history are junk though. I believe history channel should buy another channel to broadcast these programs. Monster Quest is kind of silly, but not as bad as Ghost Hunters:p Most people in this country can’t name every president so they should get back to that type of history.

  36. I used to enjoy watching Jeff Corwin, he was an “animal” guy, who seemed more cerebral and less histrionic than the Crocodile Hunter(rest in peace). I have just noticed he has a new show on cable T.V., he is sampling haute cuisine from around the globe. I just saw him “inhaling” a plate of what appeared to be Helix aspersa or pomatia. I have a vast collection of terrestrial snails from around the world. I particularly enjoy the snails of the family Achatinidae, not to eat, but to marvel at and ultimately to possess the “shell”. The joys of being a “lay” conchologist”. I love the “giant african snails”, they demolish anything you put before them, they are ravenous eating machines and exceptionally destructive if dispersed into the community..

  37. Truth be told, I believe Mr. Corwin, “correction” Dr. Corwin has a Ph.D. in either Zoology or Environmental Studies, at least that is what I heard…

  38. Somewhere, I posted how I’d turn off the TV when my partner fell asleep to NAZIS, 24/7, on the History Channel, only to have him watch the military channel. We spoke about it this morning, and he informed me that his nickname at prep school was Chazz the Nazi Watcher 24/7.
    He also defended the History Channel. We just watched Che with Begnito del Toro playing Che. The second half was very disappointed. So he watched the full story on the History Channel last night, and said they covered everything.
    I found that to be true with that awful Tom Hanks movie, The DaVinci code. The program on the History Channel covered the story of that–myth? The story is possible. But I’d much rather see that then Tom Hanks running around in an attempt to thrill. Yea, the dolphns from outerspace, tin hat stuff, is all there. But once in a while you can still find a jem.

  39. I have noticed that the History Channel occasionally plays movies that are historically important due to the caliber of the film and its’ accurate depiction of an important event in U.S. history. I believe they recently aired the “Grapes of Wrath”, with Henry Fonda. This was a film and book that are first rate “classiscs’…

  40. gilly,

    I agree about Steinbeck, and even Henry Fonda. I read all of Steinbeck in high school, including the one about the unionizers that were communists? Can’t remember the name.

    My partner followed “Band of Brothers” which used to be on every Sunday, but no more, according to him.

    I’m reading PC World’s article about ditching cable altogether. We are thinking of doing that, as well as the phone. As long as we have an ISP with high speed, I can use Magic Jack, which I already have, and we can get a DVR attached to the computer to copy what we’d like to see. I always wait, the test of time often (but not always) tells you what quality shows are worth a glance. I don’t mind waiting; not a single new show these season seems worth the time. News, documentaries and sci-fi, and of course, C-span and PBS. Most of that is on-line.

    It’s also good for the purse. Everyone I know is hurting, even friends that are doctors and brokers.

  41. “I remember when Sy-Fy was owned by a French company”

    I quit watching that network when they cancelled Farscape, the best show on TV, because it was too expensive to make. Wrote them that I would never watch again and I haven’t.

  42. Mike and Scribadiva, I enjoy your responses. My favorite show of all time was “The Wild Wild West”. This was James Bond hits the frontier. I loved West and his whole arsenal of gadgets. He was also a “badass”, he manhandled the bad guys pretty good in that episodic outing. I thought Michael Dunn was brilliant as Dr. Loveless and his sinister mute henchman Voltaire, played by Richard Kiel, was outstanding. I just got the whole set, and let me say, it is pure joy to hunker down with 60’s television. There is something almost “innocent” and wholesome watching this kind of T.V. Makes me think of my childhood..

  43. Billy (excuse my previous typo) and Mike:

    When I was young, WWWest was my favorite show. The movie was a disappointment.

    I had to check first, but I loved Farscape, too. I just checked “New webisodes are being produced by SCI FI, and are expected to debut in 2009. A new comic book miniseries is due for release in November 2008 that will be in the continuity of both the series and the upcoming webisodes. But notice the spelling. Plans may have changed now that it’s Sy-Fy. I hope I’m not being presumptive, but here’s the link for the past episodes, and perhaps the key to the future?? If you find out, let me know.
    As always, a pleasure to visit. Sweet tides,

  44. Sribadiva, another of my favorite shows was called, “Kolchak-the Night Stalker”. This was a mid-70’s show that starred Darrin McGavin as a reporter from the ‘windy city’, who was always battling a “monster of the week”. This was ultimately what led to the demise of the show, which only lasted a season. It was a great show, but how do you sustain the credibility of a show that features vampires, werewolves and swamp monsters that rampage through chi-town, on a weekly basis, and not get a chuckle after awhile. I loved it, but it was doomed after one season. I always enjoyed “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”. One of Irwin Allens’ best!

  45. Billy,

    I’m on my way out the door to the doctor, but I’m glad I checked my mail–I LOVED that show! We must be the same age. If you go to my YouTube Channel, or just go to YouTube, check out the Dresden Files– another 1-season hit. It’s a little different, but it’s in Chicago, and Harry Dresden works with the police. Why they made him a ‘wizard’ I don’t know, but it’s got a sense of humor. For that matter, so does Angel: most of that is tongue-and-cheek.

    Okay, you outed me! So, I get no relief from grief from my partner, joking about some sci-fi I watch. So here’s something I find pleasure in (I don’t know why they call them “guilty pleasures; I don’t feel guilty, just a little ‘closeted’ about it.) Supernatural. By January, we want to get rid of the TV and phone, but I’ve got this habit! Let me not forget Millennium reruns on Chiller and a Japanese site.

    When I get home, I’m emailing my therapist, and telling her I came “clean.” She’ll be so proud! Other than that, I really have nothing to hide, so thank you Billy.

    since I’ve had some trouble with the channel, it may be easier to search Dresden Files, Lionsgate. It was on Sci-Fi about 2 years ago. Gotta go, and Thank you, again. (Will we get suspended for talking about sci-fi in class? I don’t know all the rules yet, besides the big one. ciao

  46. It’s hard not to think that Abbe Raven is without a agenda.(Think Rupert Murdock). It probably reflex’s her political/religious views. The station breeds mostly crap. Too bad, it has/had a lot of potential.

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