20 March 2008 by Published in: General musings 6 comments

This will follow up on my post of last week, where I complained about The History Channel. The following appeared on MSNBC today. It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who feels the same way about this particular issue.

NEW YORK – The History Channel is now history.

Make that History. The cable network quietly dropped “the” and “channel” from its name recently, claiming History for itself.

“Our brand is, in the media landscape, synonymous with the genre of history so I don’t think it’s presumptuous of us to call ourselves History,” said Nancy Dubuc, the network’s executive vice president.

That’s how many viewers already refer to it, she said. “Channel” is a drag on efforts to establish the brand in other media, like on the Internet. There were no licensing issues involved in the switch, she said.

The network has even changed its “H” logo to make it look bolder, less ancient.

Once dubbed “The Hitler Channel” for all of its World War II documentaries, History has switched to a more “immersive” style that tries to show rather than tell, she said. Adventure-seeking is in. Sitting in an armchair telling war stories is out.

History is following the model of Discovery, whose popular “Deadliest Catch” series about Alaskan crab fishermen is one of the most influential shows on cable. History, owned by the A&E Television Networks, has its own “Ice Road Truckers” about drivers on frozen lakes in Canada and just started “Ax Men” about loggers.

The series “MonsterQuest” may sound like a video game; it’s about searches for mythic creatures.

“It’s not exactly history, is it?” said Sean Wilentz, award-winning history professor at Princeton University.

“Anybody who thinks that there’s only one place to go for history is badly mistaken,” Wilentz said. “Why are they doing that? I don’t know. Especially at a time they are moving away from history? I don’t get it.”

Although the attention-getting “Life After People” special dramatized a world after the human race had been wiped out — prehistory, in other words — Dubuc said she’s concentrating on building signature series that people will return to each week.

Despite his bewilderment at the change, Wilentz and another prominent historian said they appreciated any efforts to get more people interested in the topic.

“Truth is that I love history so much and if the changed name brings more people to watch more history it’s all to the good,” said Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Gordon Wood, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian at Brown University, doesn’t watch the network much.

“I must confess, I’m still back in the reading-of-books stage,” he said

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

It may be interesting, but it’s NOT history.

Scridb filter


  1. Thu 20th Mar 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I’m sorry to see this, but I’m really not surprised. It seems that the channel has been headed in this direction for some time (most especially most recently, considering the shows of late). As far as Doris Kearns Goodwin’s statement, “it’s all to the good,” well… frankly… “hogwash!” It’s a sell-out, plain and simple and we are left to the struggle of weeding through the muck to differentiate between what is and what is not history.

  2. Phil LeDuc
    Fri 21st Mar 2008 at 1:51 am

    Huzzah for Gordon Wood! All the more reason he’s one of my favorite historians.

  3. Fri 21st Mar 2008 at 8:49 am

    The least they could do is have the Axmen go clear off a stand of trees in order to restore a historic wood line…. That might be a good project for Shiloh. Still the problem is the profit model. The corporation doesn’t feel raw history sells in their venue. Until someone shows the numbers indicating more viewers will stay on channel to hear David McCullough talk about American History, than will watch some Jethro chop a tree, then “History” will be un-history with regard to format in order to preclude becoming history!

  4. Valerie Protopapas
    Fri 21st Mar 2008 at 5:22 pm

    I don’t understand the need for leaving the topic of true history. There is so much that people really want to know about many different things. For instance, they could do a series on things like assassinations. The Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations still bring folks to the TV to see well produced documentaries and though much of the material has already been aired, it hasn’t been aired in a cogent matter. Sometimes its about the number of assassins (in Kennedy’s case) or who was involved in the conspiracy (in Lincoln’s case). If some intelligent person really put together a series of programs not only on these two very well known assassinations, but about other less well known acts that changed history (the Archduke and his wife assassinated in Serbia that brought about WWI etc.), I don’t think that the channel would lack viewers.

    And how about a factual and objective study of slavery down through the ages (that could go right on till today). Even our own nation’s history in that matter is badly understood as the book by three Hartford (Connecticut) Courant journalists reveals (Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged and Profited from Slavery by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang and Jenifer Frank). There might be a lot less ill will and anger if at least the WHOLE story – including the involvement of the Africans themselves – came to light.

    No, I believe that this “channel” is missing a great opportunity to enlighten people about the past especially in areas that are more myth and legend than fact and truth. And that’s too bad.

  5. Mike Nugent
    Fri 21st Mar 2008 at 7:42 pm

    I was wondering if anyone got a response from the emails many of us sent to “History” about the lack of real “history” in their programming?

    I haven’t gotten any kind of reply and am guessing that my (our) opinions don’t make a bit of difference unless we can pony up and buy some advertising time on “Ax Men” or “Monster Quest”.

  6. Sat 31st May 2008 at 5:57 pm

    When my wife and I first got cable from Comcast, I thought I would be watching this channel the most. But, after the umpteenth show on WWII that was either pro-Soviet or grossly angled towards politically correct documentaries about evil SS and pure and innocent partisans I ceased watching any of its programs. Hearing about some of these programs now just convinces me that “history” was just a curious angle taken to sell programming.

    I suppose there is the history that fills my library and that which is deemed suitable for public viewing conspumtion.

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