You have to feel for The History Channel. There's that big HISTORY splashed right across its name and that snazzy logo there in the corner. It's thrown them off stride the past few years. Everybody else got to jump on the Lowest Common Denominator bandwagon. Where The Learning Channel could decide all you really wanted to learn about was room makeovers, and Discovery could aid you in discovering the joys of building custom bikes and yelling, The History Channel was just sorta stuck. I suppose somewhere along the line there was a big bi-coastal video conference where someone suggested they could do what The Nashville Network did, become an Acronym Network while nobody was looking and run a continual Bond movie marathon while they negotiated with Spike Lee to use his name, but then someone else must have realized they'd be the THC network in the interim, and that probably killed the deal.
Not to worry though. The programming geniuses were up to the task, and "history" now includes fortnightly weekend marathons on the history of the search for Noah's Arc since the last marathon, or the history of sharks biting people's limbs off on camera. Last night after Jeopardy! I was casting about for some reason not to finish the yard chores before it got too dark, and what should pop up but Countdown to Armageddon, a two-hour special about how file footage of natural disasters can be repackaged with a few interviews to fill out two hours and, hopefully, pander to the all-important moral values crowd which didn't realize The O.C. was on. I love the way these things work, but it does make me nostalgic for In Search Of, that show Leonard Nemoy hosted which began with the disclaimer disavowing any responsibility for accuracy. I guess you could still get sued in those days for selling turds as Tootsie Rolls.
It was already half over, so I taped the first half on the replay. If you're gonna take the time to learn the signs of the coming Apocalypse you don't really want to start in the middle, and miss half the fun.
"Asteroids! Global warming! Terrorist attacks! Are these simply disasters that could end our very existence?" we begin. "Or are these threats terrifying prophecies from the Bible that are at last coming true?" That is, should I be scared shitless over melting ice caps and the disappearing ozone layer, or should I be worrying about the really important stuff? We start off wandering in a haze the show will be careful to maintain for the next two hours. Though we will touch upon the subject we will not be examining what most objective Biblical scholars know to be the truth: that John was writing about the Roman Empire and his "prophecies", largely a rewriting of Daniel, Zachariah, and Malachi, proved to be, well, a dud. "Many believe such and such," will excuse us ignoring the provenance of the book or the Bible in general--hey, our obligation is discharged if we throw in a little opposition, right? It is a controversy. Besides, Tim LaHaye sure has sold a lot of books.
LaHaye and John Hagee, who has mined the same territory in his books, are the principle spokesmen for the Apocalypse Industry. If you don't know Hagee, he's the spitting image of David Huddleston as the other Jeffrey Lebowski, minus the wheelchair. The man is a powerful preacher, and it's difficult to figure how he's been outsold by the bland-as-dishwater LaHaye and his Rotary Club persona. LaHaye fudges, like any good corporate monolith aware that a wrong word might hurt stock prices; Hagee plunges straight ahead, damn the inconsistencies.
As for the rest, there's the usual sense that the experts--that is, actual geologists, epidemiologists, non-fanatical theologians--were either not quite aware of the subject of the show or had a difficult time sticking to their agreement to tapdance around any direct confrontation. The one theologian who says, essentially, "Bullshit," is onscreen about as long as it takes to say it.
I know this is the ratings pandering of a cable network rather than someone taking dictation from the religious radicals, but is this what they really want? Doesn't LaHaye have enough money by now to finance a few more Kirk Cameron movies and be done with it? Can I have World War II back now? I paid for it.