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. 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.

  2. “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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.”

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!)

  13. 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).

  14. 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.

  15. 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 🙂

  16. 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.

  17. 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.”

  18. 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.

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