Monday, 17 January 2011

The History Channel

I remember fondly the innocent days of the mid-late 90s before my family got Sky TV and my daily viewing consisted of 'cooncil telly' fare such as Budgie the Little Helicopter, Scotsport, Bullseye, the Hurricanes, Gladiators and (Take the) High Road- quite a mix, I think you'll agree. (now, I look back and wonder why I wanted Sky so much at all!).

But want it I did... for Monday Night Football, the wrestling, Keenan and Kel and The Simpsons mainly. However, I also wanted it for the History Channel. As a teenage geek, I remember watching a documentary about Hitler at my friend's house, probably after Ultimate Warrior v Hulk Hogan or Raw is War or something equally sad and I think it must have been the first time I had learned anything substantial about him...Hitler that is, not Hulk Hogan. I always included that channel in my 'aww, how amazing would it be to get Sky in?' talks with my brother.

Anyway, after many months and years of desperate pleading, we got Sky in...probably because my Mum discovered the Sky package contained QVC or something...until I flopped at my Standard Grade exams as a result of watching too much fitba, apparently. Anyway, it was back to terrestrial tv for a while as punishment and to ensure I did better next time; I grew up and realised exams are actually more important than the Last Word with Andy Gray on a Sunday night.

But back to the point of this post which aye, the History Channel. The reality of it is quite disappointing I think and should be re-named the Nazi channel due to it's devotion to all things Nazi: Nazis in Colour, Nazis in Black and White, Hitler's Maw, Hitler's Granny. Give us a break and put something else on!

In fairness, there are other programmes which don't contain 'Nazi' in the title but these also tend to be about the Second World War. I can't remember the last really good programme I watched on the History channel....I watched BBC's A History of Scotland with Neil Oliver last year on and there was a great programme on STV about Scottish International Brigaders in the Spanish Civil War based on a book called 'Homage to Caledonia' by Daniel Gray. Can the History Channel not cast the net a bit wider and put programmes like that on?

I realise the programmes have to appeal to the general public and so war features prominently in the schedule but why does it always have to be the Nazis and the Second World War? It seems like the History Channel is putting on the same programmes I watched as a teenage geek back in the 90s. Surely there is more to history than 1939-45?

So, what else do we want to see historians?


  1. I noticed this when I started watching Yesterday - thinking it would help improve my history knowledge but no - almost all 2nd world war stuff. I also really liked History of Scotland and have also ended up getting into geology type stuff with Men of Rock and Birth of Britain (which was just on tonight). Shame some of these 'specialised' channels can't be as varied sometimes.

  2. I think it's relatively cheap telly for these channels as they just seem to be churning out a whole lot of newsreel footage with an added voiceover. I find WW2 history interesting but this stuff is very same-old, same-old and there's a danger of turning people off. History of Scotland was great, regardless of the stooshie about Neil Oliver presenting it (apparantly he's not qualified but hey, who knew?) He was enthusiastic and engaging. I would like to see more history progs on telly, but stop with the loud intrusive "dramatic" music that seems to be a ubiquitous prerequisite of any documentary/factual programme these days please! It should be interesting enough without!

  3. Kristy- yes, it might actually be Yesterday with all the WW2 programmes now that I think about it! After that big rant as well!

    Mairi- Neil Oliver is tremendous on History of Scotland!! I just found this article criticising him. From the Daily Mail though!

    "THE battle happened well over 1,000 years ago. No one knows quite where in Britain the two sides slugged it out, how long it went on or what the body count was. But Neil Oliver is telling the story with the breathless excitement of a TV reporter who has just watched the action from a news-copter hovering a few feet overhead.

    'It was the mother of all bloodbaths,' he gasps. 'It was carnage on both sides.' Gosh. And who won? 'Athelstan won, he held the field, but it was such a bloodbath that both the victor and the defeated were so badly wounded they just kind of withdrew from one another. There was a peace born of exhaustion and horror.' And when exactly did this rumpus took place? For the first time Scottish history's man on the spot looks hesitant. He plumps for 937, then adds quickly: 'Please check that.'

    He was spot on. But the pause was telling. For therein lies the root of the controversy surrounding the amiable man with the mane who presents one of BBC Scotland's most ambitious TV series in years, A History of Scotland.

    Oliver, 41, is a qualified archaeologist who knows more than most about his nation's history. But he is not a historian in the academic sense. The little-known Battle of Brunanburh lay in the outer reaches of his sphere of historical knowledge until a few months ago when he found out about it for the TV programme.

    Why, ask the academic elite, can we not have a real historian presenting such a weighty undertaking as a ten-hour chronicle of the nation's last 2,000 years? Who is this long-haired former tabloid reporter who presumes to educate a nation about its past? In Oliver's own eyes - and, perhaps, the eyes of many outside the academic establishment - the answer is simple: he is the right man for the job."

    I would say he was ideal for the programme. History is a dramatic subject and evokes strong feelings and emotions in people- he manages to do this through, as you say, being enthusiastic and engaging.

  4. My mother-in-law had the opposite problem. She claimed that every year she did from the Romans to the Victorians but never got to the First World War that her dad fought in! She found this very frustrating.

    As for the Neil Oliver controversy...are you suggesting that the Daily Mail is grumpy, opinionated and wrong? The Daily Mail? Are you sure? It seems very out of character!

    And on a slightly more serious note, the best academics don't always make the best teachers (or presenters for that matter).