Tuesday, May 4, 2010

History Channel: The New King of Geek TV?

In the vast lexicon of misnamed cable networks, History Channel is pretty solidly in the middle of the pack; it's not quite as weird as The Nashville Network becoming Spike TV, but on the other hand, their programming has increasingly little to do with history. Indeed, most of their shows fall into a somewhat nebulous realm perhaps best termed Geek Reality, as shows like MonsterQuest, UFO Hunters and Clash of the Gods combine SyFy content with a thin veneer of PBS respectability.

Personally, though I do occasionally watch some of the network's tamer offerings (ice Road Truckers, for instance), this irritates the bejeezus out of me as I would really enjoy having a channel that actually shows, you know... history stuff. I like history. I like watching well made documentaries and dramatizations of history. It would be cool if something called History Channel actually showed that sort of content.

Instead, though, it appears that History Channel has decided to pretty much abandon all pretense of history in its ongoing attempt to stake its claim as the preeminent television hub for geeks, nerds and comic book fans like you and me. That's because for this upcoming season, they've given the go-ahead for several more new reality shows, including a series called Superhumans hosted by Stan Lee himself.

Yup. Basically Stan and his co-host, who is apparently as close to a real-world Mr. Fantastic as they could find, will be highlighting real people with genetic mutations or other odd physical attributes that allow them to do oddball, superhuman things. That's not the only comic book premise being embraced by History Channel: Justice League of America writer Brad Meltzer will also be hosting his own new show, this one about cryptology and symbology. And they're also queuing up shows called Vigilante Inspector, Chasing Mummies and Swamp People, all of which sound like rejected Charlton titles.

Here's an excerpt from the TV Squad story about the new History Channel direction (and I encourage everyone to read the whole thing):

"A wise man named Peter Parker once said, "with great power comes great responsibility." And in today's world, perhaps no power is greater than than the ability to shape culture through the omnipotent medium of television. Now History Channel has embraced their responsibility to use this power for good by enlisting Peter Parker's creator himself: Stan Lee.

Yes, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Stan Lee, creator of such legendary comic book characters as Spider-man, Hulk, X-Men and the Fantastic Four, will be getting his own History Channel series. Titled 'Superhumans,' the series will "find people who have remarkable abilities because of being genetically different" and will feature Lee as co-shot alongside the world's most flexible man, Daniel Browning Smith.

This isn't Lee's first foray into the dangerous world of television, of course; in addition to high profile guest stints on shows like 'The Simpsons' and 'The Big Bang Theory,' Lee previously hosted his own superhero reality adventure, 'Who Wants to be a Superhero?', which ran for two seasons on Sci-Fi."

For my money, I wish Stan Lee all the best, though I'm not likely to watch this particular series. I do think, though, that with the ever widening superhero influence on pop culture, there is a market for these sorts of geek-themed shows. Indeed, I think someone would do well to launch a new network, maybe called Superhero TV, which could show superhero movies, TV shows (like Hulk, Flash, Human Target, Wonder Woman, etc) and the dozens of excellent superhero cartoons from the past fifty years of television. This could all be mixed together with new content like reality shows following creators and fans and even some news magazine style current event shows or comic book documentaries such as Jonathan Ross's In Search of Steve Ditko.

Now that would be a cool channel. There's one thing it wouldn't be, though: the History Channel. Here's hoping the rise of geek chic doesn't leave us history nerds out in the cold.

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