“Educational” programming strays from original intent

Hello History Channel, Discovery Channel, and Animal Planet. Yes it’s me, your faithful viewer who emailed you when I was seven years old and asked where I could donate proceeds from my Save the Rainforests/Save the Oceans/Save the World art project charities.

Discover Channel

See, I contacted you because I thought you guys cared about educating the public about nature, about science, about history, and about animals. But now, as I advance past my years as minor, I feel betrayed by your networks. Because apparently, when Steven Irwin died, you all threw in the towel and started hiring Alaskan fishermen to run your prospective networks.

As I write this piece, I have your websites open on my computer. The first shows advertised are Swamp People, Moonshiners, and Treehouse Masters respectively. Now, unless I’m missing the point, I’m pretty sure that Swamp People are not particularly significant in history, Moonshiners haven’t “discovered” anything that isn’t already considered illegal, and Treehouse Masters do not employ animals to help them build their arboreal forts. You have very specific names for your channels–– names that conjure educational connotations. The only thing I’ve learned from these shows are 1) ‘dem gators will eat ye-eh. 2) y’alls don’t build y’alls still near dat road unlest y’alls want ‘dem coppers shown’ up 3) Pete Nelson loves his sweater vests.

Don’t try to refute this by saying, “Pawn Stars analyzes historical artifacts in a real world setting.” We both know that the focus of Pawn Stars is not further educating the populace but the entertainment in the show lies in Chumlee and “Big Hoss” going through sensitivity training. I don’t know who your target audience is for these shows but I have a feeling that they’re not interested in learning the intricacies of the Boer Wars, which is fine. Plenty of stations don’t provide educational entertainment—but they don’t lie to themselves and their audience by calling themselves the “History Channel.”

Plenty of stations don’t provide educational entertainment—but they don’t lie to themselves and their audience by calling themselves the “History Channel.””

— Jack Youngblut

It doesn’t have to be this way. Remember when Peter Weller did that Engineering an Empire documentary and everybody was stunned that the actor that played Robocop is also a part time professor of Roman and Renaissance Art at Syracuse University? Or when Jeff Corwin and Steven Irwin wrangled exotic reptiles and educated us on the proper way to handle a cobra? Remember when the Mythbusters busted actual science myths instead of cosplaying Han Solo and Princess Leia? Remember when the History Channel had a documentary every week on Nazi Germany instead of that bizarre Ancient Alien Theory? These days the only place I can view Historical or Nature docs is on PBS or BBC. You have forced us to outsource our educational programming.

If you guys only want to live up to your titles only a seasonal basis fine. But don’t confuse those poor folks who line up for Pawn Stars memorabilia by claiming to produce intelligent, informed and interesting content that enlightens the populace to the issues of today and yesterday. Be honest and cop to the fact that you’ve sold out for reality TV instead of portraying the reality of deforestation, anti-semitism and irresponsible education.