For years I hectored the local cable company with a simple question: When do we get the History Channel?

For years I hectored the local cable company with a simple question: When do we get the History Channel?

Well, they would hem and haw, we’re working on it, but it might require and an act of Congress, and you’ll probably have to place a deposit in gold bullion, but we’ll have it. Yes, soon. We value our customers’ wants and desires, so thank you. Yes, soon.


The great day finally arrived. I had a steady feed of experts breaking down the Brits’ narrow escape at Dunkirk and Lee’s desperation at Gettysburg.

And look at our little channel now. I read the other day that the History Channel has vaulted into one of the big five in cable, with the ratings that advertisers crave.

But a funny thing happened on the way to success. They stopped doing history.

I’ll grant you there’s only so much grainy, black-and-white World War II footage you can air, but that doesn’t mean you have to leap straight to “Pawn Stars” and “Swamp People.” These shows – including “Ice Road Truckers,” which got real old after one season – aren’t based on history. And “Ancient Aliens” or “Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide” aren’t even based on reality.

Sister station H2 is marginally better, airing history as time permits, but the selections are also larded up with hits such as “Seven Signs of the Apocalypse” and “Comets: Could a Collision with the Earth End All Life?” (Short answer: Yes, possibly sometime in the next 100 million years, so let’s not lose sleep over it, and we all know this by now and don’t need to revisit it every other night.)

Sometime in 2012, I fully expect to see “What Did Nostradamus Say About the Mayan Death Calendar?” The coming year should be awesome for History with the whole Mayan thing, a non-historical event that will not occur. But the ratings will be great.

Why should I be surprised? Headline News no longer goes by that name or does much news. The Weather Channel is more interested in extreme storms than telling me if it will rain tomorrow. And the food channels offer up contrived competitions instead of how to make a better meat loaf.

Maybe the cable guys hemmed and hawed for a reason. They know where these things tend to go. They didn’t want to strand another disappointed customer at Dunkirk.