Friday, May 20

We'll Be Back To The End Of The World Right After These Messages

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.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I remember when it was The All-Hitler Channel. All Hitler, all the time. But at least it was actual history.

Anonymous said...

I watched that last night, and I actually got the sense that they were leaning more against the idea of Armeggedon, if it is a real thing, not actually having any real signs that it was coming soon. Oh, sure, they threw in the scare words, and interviewed some loons, but the show seemed to me to be putting more emphasis on the fact that things aren't really that much different than ever, and that John of Patmos was writing about the Roman Empire. That was just my opinion.

EG said...


You haven't seen pandering yet!

Look what's in store:


Hosted by pro wrestling and feature film star Bill Goldberg, AUTOMANIAC puts you in the driver's seat of the coolest, hottest, fastest and most unusual vehicles ever to hit the road.

Premires 6/1/2005 10 PM/9 Central

(mark your calendar)

James Briggs Stratton "Doghouse" Riley said...

Yosef, I think if you wanted to watch for that you would have gotten it, particularly in the last half hour, though there, too, it was treated as controversial--they read off a statistic about the rise in the number of people being affected by natural disasters, without mentioning that part of the reason is there's so many more people, and they're living closer together and in more dangerous locations. But that's just another means of having it both ways, doncha think? If the show was really about the pace of natural disasters and political threats you could lay out the arguments in the first fifteen minutes instead of some gobbledygook about Mayan calendars and Hindu theology (their expert was slightly off on that, btw) and the same slo-mo shot of the horse and the hooded rider. One guy, one time, at the end of the show says, "We should consume less." Before that you've heard "It's all over, nothing you can do now but get right with Jesus and save your own ass," about fifty times.

davenoon said...

LaHaye and Hagee are Big Time, indeed -- but I'd also recommend the looping hilarity to be found on Jack Van Impe's website. He's also an Old Master and can be found regularly on the Trinity Network. My wife and I can't afford the full cable spectrum, so we're stuck with the "Jesus to C-Span" option that gives us few opportunities to wander outside the realm of network and low-rent cable programming. On the plus side, because we don't get cable news, I have no idea what the "runaway bride" looks like.

Anonymous said...

True. And I do see your point. I guess a lot of my own knowledge and bias of the subject probably influenced my view of what they were saying. And I do remember thinking that for a lot of the things, they would just mention something and not delve into it - for example, the increase in population and where people are living, btu also the fact that we didn't previously have records for every earthquake, volcanic eruption, or things like that. When you add those facts to the speed on information these days, to the "untrained" eye, it can seem like there's a lot more of these events happening. You know, they mentioned once that there are no more earthquakes now than ever before, but that was where they stopped with it. So I see your point.

One thing you do have to give them though, is they didn't come close to wavering on global warming. They were adamant that Global Warming is a fact. I was really expecting them to say something like "Although not proven, some people think that the world's temperature is increasing."

I guess I would have liked to have seen them get into things a little more thoroughly, but for them to do that properly probably would have taken 4-6 hours of the show, and I wouldn't watch anything that long. So I felt they did alright with what they had.

Anonymous said...

"the THC network"


Now, that might be worth watching.

Anonymous said...

Well, hell.
I think I assumed that last month was, I dunno, Gullibility Month or something, on various channels. Animal Planet put into heavy rotation Animal X (a show which threatens to answer the vitally important question of exactly who the world's gayest cryptozoologist is); National Geographic spent less time on snakes and tigers and stuff and a serious amount of time on "The Moon Landing Is Fake But The Moon Itself Is A Spaceship", "JFK Is Still Alive Really", "Bigfoot Stole My Shoes", and similar crap; and the Discovery Channel proper offered us a comprehensive seminar on "The Bermuda Triangle Does Too Exist", along with a lovely program I would describe as "Kinky Aliens Watch You Sleep Naked".
But now you tell me they're all still doing it? And they've pre-empted WWII as well?
Truly, the Age of Enlightenment has come to a close.
I don't actually blame Tim LaHaye, but I'm willing to paint him up with coconut oil and drop him in a volcano to see if it will appease the angry spirits. Though we'd better get rid of the Jenkins guy, too, before we end up with a "Left Behind Coloring Book".

Hokie said...

Dunno, I think I'd rather have this than more World War II. Before the History Channel might as well have been called the WWII Channel, etc.

But some non-WWII non-fundie stupidity history would be nice.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite History Channel shows is the one that highlights the "worst" jobs of various time periods. It's really quite entertaining and informative.

I, too, remember when the Discovery Channel actually had items of interest. They had the most awesome, witty website back then, too. I rarely watch it any more.

As for the Armageddon thing, my son (14) and I watched it together. I kept explaining why the various "Revelations" claims were hokum. It was really exhausting, but I consider it my parental duty to make sure he understands the historical perspective of the Bible.

My sister-in-law gave us the "Left Behind" book several years ago when it first was popular. She was saying how "powerful" it was. I had to remind her that it was fiction and based on post-millenialism, which is a relatively new belief and is considered a heresy in my church. She had no idea what I was talking about...(sigh)