History Channel tackles “America The Story of Us”

I’m an unabashed history nerd.  I love history, and I’ll admit I’ve had a real chip on my shoulder for the History Channel for the past two years, since they stopped doing history and started running shows like “MonsterQuest”, “UFO Hunters” and “Ice Road Truckers”.  No offense to those shows, I’m sure they’ve got their audiences, but they most certainly are not history, and neither is most of the other content that’s filling the schedule at History.

Its easy to understand why they’ve gone the route they have.  Surely there is a finite market for shows on the Battle of Antietam, or the cumulative affect of the protestant reformation, and yes, even with Dan Brown’s books, we have pretty much exhausted the tales of the Templars.

So it was with an wary eye that I sat down to watch last nights “Amerca The Story of Us”  series.

One first glance, I noticed they played fast and loose.  They mentioned Plymouth, they mentioned Jamestown, then they jumped forward to the decade just prior to the Revolutionary War, which would be akin to jumping forward in history from the First World War until now.  After all, nothing much to see there.

Then I had issue with the obvious high level view.  They had Paul Revere completing his ride to Lexington and Concord, while any self-respecting Bostonian can tell you it was indeed Samuel Prescott that completed the ride, with Paul Revere detained by the British in Lincoln.

It continues that way, jumping from Concord to the Capture of New York.  Southerners will delight in getting nary a mention until Yorktown.

Still, the note at the end of the show wraps it all up nicely.  They will be providing copies to every school in the country.  As such, the show probably hits it’s mark.  A high level summary that may, in it’s fast paced vignettes manage to make in roads into the minds of our youth.

The first episode replays Wed. night and it is my intention to make a special evening out of it in the Cahill house with my 10 and 12 year old daughters *(who will sign in unison the second they see the History Channel logo…).  I encourage you to consider the same.

This isn’t meant as a authoritative history of us, it is meant more as an entre to the history of us, and in that regard, it hits the mark.  We’ll see how my two tweenage critics like it Wed.  In fact, perhaps I’ll let them blog their thoughts here.
Aaron Barnhardt *(my go to tv critic) of The Kansas City Star (and TVBarn.com where I grab his stuff…) summed it up nicely:

What is surprising — not to say disorienting for anyone older than 30 — is how shamelessly History has aimed “America: The Story of Us” at Generation ADD.

But that’s for a reason. The channel’s PR department informs us that History “will for the first time offer a DVD of the entire 12-hour series to every single school and accredited college in America — free of charge.”

He’s spot on there.  It is indeed history for the Generation ADD.  But perhaps that’s just what we need right now.
Maybe this will help me drag the kids to the Pequot Museum this weekend.  😉

New Netcast: A History of the World in 100 Objects

I’ve been listening to this netcast for the past two days on the way to work, a major savior for me since the weather has made for epic commutes.  It comes from the folks at the BBC and the British Museum and it’s called “A History of the World in 100 Objects.”

From their “about” page:

At the heart of the project is the BBC Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 objects. 100 programmes, written and narrated by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, and focusing on 100 objects from the British Museum’s collection.

The programmes will travel through two million years from the earliest object in the collection to retell the history of humanity through the objects we have made. Each week will be tied to a particular theme, such as ‘after the ice age’ or ‘the beginning of science and literature’, and the programmes will broadcast in three blocks, in January, May and September.

Yup, I can hear my daughters sighing from here…it’s history.  The thing is, this is really different.  It’s not the story of how one group enslaved another, but more it’s a history of how we developed across the globe as people.  It’s told through the artifacts we left behind, and in those objects, they find the way to show us our own evolution.  A truly different look at the world, and all in installments of about 15 minutes each.

Whereas I’d usually throw a “if you like history…” disclaimer on a post like this, it’s really not necessary.  If you’re interested in people, or what’s made us who we are, this netcast is a winner for you.  It has excellent audio production quality, gets right to the point, and generally is something everyone should take the time to listen to.

You can download the netcast direct from iTunes or get it right off their site here.