(Bear in mind I was going to submit this last week only I didn't get around to it, i.e., didn't write anything other than the opening four paragraphs.)
How appropriate is it that I'm writing a blogumn about The History Channel "Jumping the Shark" right smack in the middle of "Shark Week"??
Okay, granted "Shark Week" is on another channel, but still.
What can I say about The History Channel that hasn't been said by me before? I love this channel...or should I say, I "loved" it.
The other day, I'm going through the "scrolly guide" as I call it, trying to find out what's on. It's a fairly simple task as there are less and less channels I seem to watch.
A typical night on the sofa for me goes as follows...
Computer on, various stages of dinner preparation, some wine or a Martini on the table next to me and both my television and TiVo remotes located and within reach.
Yep...check, check, and more check.
Now it's time for me to check what's on...and this is how I systematically do it:
Step 1: Channel 65 - TCM. Any old films I care to watch? No? Proceed to "Step 2".
Step 2: Channel 58 - The History Channel. Some interesting show or documentary on? Something besides gangbangers in jails or trucks on ice would be nice. Nope.
Step 3: Channel 51 - National Geographic Channel (I refuse to call it "NatGeo" - nope, that's almost as silly as changing "SciFi" to "Syfy"). Eh...saw everything already...twice.
Step 4: Channels 401 and up - aka "All the Movie Channels I Pay for and Only Watch 'Kate & Leopold'...93 Times as Everything Else on Sucks". Nope. I'm not going to watch "Thinner" for the eighth time and I can't watch "Busty Cops and the Jewel of De" because: 1) I have kids, and; 2) I think I already know the plotline. Noticing that "Spanking the Monkey" is on yet again, I snicker for the umpteenth time about it and keep on scrolling.
Step 5: Channel 140 - BBC America. Nothing on and I'm not too keen on watching "Top Gear" and "Doctor Who" isn't on until the series starts up again in the fall. I'd watch "Being Human" just for the eye candy factor of the vampire guy, but you see one episode and you've seen them all - at least for me, as I'd still only be staring at the vampire guy and not paying any attention to the show. Move on.
Step 6: Repeat Steps 1-5. Over and over and over again all night long.
So, the other day I notice a new show on The History Channel: "Chasing Mummies". First off, I LOVE Egyptology...if there's a documentary with a pyramid, Pharaoh, or mummy...oh yeah, I'm there.
And joy upon joy, the guy who's hosting is foremost Egyptologist, Dr. Zahi Hawass! Oh, this will be great! He did for Egyptology what Carl Sagan did for astronomy.
"It's about time they put something interesting on" I think to myself, and I actually gaze upward and away from the computer directly in front of me. I mean, c'mon, there's only so many times I can check my email in one day and I've way since surpassed that number.
Granted, only a true Egyptological connoisseur would probably know this guy - but I've seen him on numerous documentaries over the years and I happen to know this guy is brilliant. He didn't become world-renown for nothing and now he'll become a staple every single week in my very own living room! I am, honestly, in my glory.
I catch on to the premise of this show quite quickly and it seems hokey but, what the heck, it's MUMMIES! Basically, a camera crew tags along with Dr. Hawass and a couple of archeological students as he goes around showing them stuff and quizzing them about what they're seeing.
Now, I never studied Egyptology. I did, however, Google what credentials you have to be in order to be an Egyptologist as I was hoping I could still be one. But, it's really quite an undertaking and one should probably not start whilst in their mid-forties (okay, smarty pants, I know...but I Googled this a few years ago). You can check out the daunting mass of stuff you have to study here (I'll wait while you go read it): Egyptologist
Okay, I'll continue. So, after studying all the studies you have to learn and gathering all the expertise you have to possess when you come into (and onto) the field, you'd figure someone would at least have a small practical grasp on Egypt-like stuff -- or at least be able to pronounce a two-syllable word, right?
Someone who runs things over at The History Channel must have figured for "comedic affect" they should throw in a totally inept female student and for even more "comedic effect" the camera crew should also participate in the show and talk a lot ON camera. There's the camera director guy, an affable fellow by all outwardly appearances, but I was under the impression this show might be about a guy who holds a doctorate in Egyptology showing me interesting things on camera whilst the camera crew remains BEHIND camera.
So, what we have here is a very skilled Egyptologist, a bumbling airhead (think Suzanne Somers from "Three's Company") and a camera director and his crew getting in on the antics, kinda like "The Keystone Cops".
While this alone was quite enough for me to make the "WTF?" face, they decided a bit of Jerry Springer was what this show really needed.
And when I say "bit" I mean a "big dollop of".
Dr. Hawass, whom I have always respected before, either had been in the sun too long or he's been sniffing way too much mummy dust lately. This guy has taken "insane God complex" to the nth degree and added a bit of annoying on top of it. Oh, did I just say "bit" again? Sorry. See above statement.
He is yelling at the students, yelling at the camera guys, demeaning the students, demeaning the camera guys, yelling some more and then saying how much he knows and then demeans everyone some more. All the while he's doing this the cameras are rolling and we never really get to find out just how much he knows as he only spends about two minutes showing anything of interest.
One episode I saw had him yelling at the airhead student (sorry, not to demean her some more, but seriously, my cat knows more about Egypt than she does) because she couldn't hold her bladder on what turned out to be a much longer than "five-hour pyramid crawl-thru" to view five burial chambers. Not only was this girl terribly afraid of going further up, she did after all, have Dr. Hawass constantly yelling at her and reminding her of the plain fact that "every single expedition he'd been on...he never knew if he was GONNA DIE or not!" And if she wasn't going to risk her life that day she had no business choosing this field and she certainly wasn't going to be on any future "chamber of secrets" missions with him.
She had a mini-panic attack (understandably) and then she mysteriously (but predictably) showed up after the others crawled on further. Then, Dr. Hawass spent pretty much the next half hour chastising the poor girl for peeing her pants. "How dare you desecrate this sacred place!" he bellowed relentlessly at her. Then the camera director guy had his own panic attack and the next thing I knew - the credits were rolling.
Now I've never been on an archeological expedition, but if I'm going to go hang out in 120 degree heat in tiny little confines of burial chambers for five-plus hours I'd figure one would have to hydrate constantly. And when you hydrate constantly your kidneys do this thing...and then your bladder does this thing...and they don't exactly have public restrooms on "Burial Chamber #3" level, so I'd figure perhaps wearing a Depends-type undergarment would be of common, or at least practical, knowledge.
I tried watching a second episode the following week, but I had to turn it off. Dr. Hawass had them all sitting around in his hotel room or somewhere on big comfy chairs, which didn't seem remotely Egyptian to me, screaming at them some more in another of his previous episode-like egotistical rages.
Seriously, "History Channel" people, it's time to change the catch phrase from "History Made Every Day" to "History Made Unwatchable Every Day".
And, unfortunately, in my opinion, with this series debut, they officially "Jumped the Shark".
Very well-written critique. I have much the same problem with other offerings of theirs - too much drama and not enough history. My main interest, when I click onto such a channel, is learning, not 'entertainment' presented in such a way as to make me squirm in sympathetic discomfort.ReplyDelete
Yeah, the whole semi-reality genre is kind of getting insane. On the other hand, this is probably the first time the terms "Egyptology" and "Suzanne Somers" have been used in the same paragraph.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Sully. I, too, tune in to see something which will teach me something and something which will mesmerize me and make me go "Oh, wow, I had no idea..." Now my comments are more, "Geez, are you serious?? Everyone knows that - and can you please stop telling us silly things like without Edison we'd all be living in the dark. Ummmm...no we wouldn't.ReplyDelete
Chris - My problem with that sentence combining Somers with Egypt was that no one would know who she was. Thanks to "Nick at Nite" they probably do. But I'm glad I made a paragraph that was never constructed or uttered in mankind's history. :)ReplyDelete
Very well written! I watched it the other day and I was definitely entertained but yes he is pretty ridiculous.ReplyDelete
Chris' comment was hilarious.
Very nice Mariann, I can understand where you are coming from. Even tho I do not have cable, I would expect the history channel to have shows about history and not just be another reality show type thingReplyDelete
Thank you, Mr. Condescending. Glad someone knew what I was talking about with the guy as well...I swear he's gone bonkers and if he was like that before, those shows did a LOT of editing.ReplyDelete
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