Column - What's the 'history' on the History Channel?
By: Dennis Dalman, Alexandria Echo Press
Whatever happened to the History Channel?
What do ice-road truckers, bayou tormenters of “monster fish” and pawn-shop wheelers-dealers have to do with history?
Well, you tell me.
The History Channel ought to be called the “Yahoo Channel.” It’s turned into programs of hard-scrabble people doing desperate jobs. I have trouble believing in any of it. As soon as a camera is aimed at anyone, the drama and unreality begins instantly, and people begin to act out what they think the camera wants — that is, a narrative of goofy behavior and phony suspense.
“Oh, my goodness, will that monster fish swallow that angler’s arm?!”
These people, basking in their 15 minutes of fame, become instant actors. They overdo it to the max. They feel compelled to create drama and trauma in their workaday world. They have been, in a word, corrupted.
And before you accuse me of being white-collar elitist, let me tell you, I’ve been there, done that: walking on bad feet three miles to a post high-school job at a fridge-freezer factory right after high-school graduation; shoveling pig poop and baling hay at my uncle’s farm; washing dishes at umpteen restaurants, endlessly painting walls and homes and farm buildings, working in a hellishly hot bakery; slicing up dead chickens in a poultry plant; polishing lenses in optical companies. And in better times, pan-handling, between those deathly jobs, while hitch-hiking happily, hippily way out West. The monotony of all those jobs nearly killed my spirit. But not once did I consider my sufferings “history.”
I paid my dues. And paying my dues has nothing to do with history, except maybe that wages — go figure — were very low way back when, as they still are for so many blue-collar workers — a disgusting “historical” trend, a stinking fact.
Why do the executives behind the History Channel think that blue-collar jobs are history? I do not care to watch tree-chopping axe men or hunters of “swamp monsters” or ice-road truckers in below-zero landscapes that remind me all too much of winter in central Minnesota.
And I do not want to know the squabbles of pawn-shop wheelers-and-dealers. I deeply respect blue-collar workers, but not when they turn into actors, corrupted by cameras and promises of payola.
That hoked-up “reality” does not belong on the History Channel. Not at all. It’s nothing but weary ordinariness cooked up for nonsense suspense. Will the boat sink in that storm?! Will that truck skid off the icy road into the precipice?! Will that “monster” fish bite that fool’s arm off? Duh! Of course not.
Fake suspense; cheap trash TV. History? Hardly.
I pay just about $40 a month for my cable-TV access. One big reason I subscribed, about 10 years ago, is because of the History Channel.
There were so many interesting shows on it about — to name some examples — the Bible as History, the Viking Invasions, Medieval Europe, Colonial America, the History of Sex. Ancient Babylonia, and so much more.
It’s a shame the History Channel, like so many other channels, has gone to the dogs. Who is not sick to death of hearing TV ad jingles, repeated to the puke-point per hour, such as “Link up and go now…”
We are paying for that crap.
We cable subscribers are being cheated. What these new-fangled cable-TV CEOs discovered is that “Reality TV,” which is utterly unreal, is so much cheaper than well-researched, brilliant explorations of the past, the present and the future. So much for history and the History Channel.
Some sage once said, “TV is stupid people doing stupid things.”
That’s true; it’s turning ever truer.
The cable companies milk us like cash cows and stupidly, we continue to give.
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Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.