altThe Dark Ages  (The History Channel, 2007, not rated)

Having worked for a number of months in New York City, Porter had the opportunity both to explore the History Channel on television and to observe throughout the city the advertising placards proclaiming, "The History Channel:  Where History Is Made Every Day."  If he were a vandalizing sort of person, New Yorkers would have soon seen a slight alteration in the slogan:

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With my expectations sufficiently lowered, I found The Dark Ages not to be too bad.  (Thanks, Netflix.)  It's not my favorite approach to a historical documentary—Ken Burns set a standard that is hard to beat.  The tone is unpleasantly sensationalistic, and the re-enactments almost painfully unprofessional.  But the facts are consistent with what little I know of the time period (as consistent as historians get, anyway), and without doubt the show packs an amazing amount of history into 94 minutes.

I believe history needs to be taught using many sources, and many approaches.  Not only does this help balance out the inevitable bias each historian brings to his work, but I'm sure I'm not the only person who needs to hear a fact at least three times before it sticks with me.  The Dark Ages is not a great show, but it works well in this context.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 7:01 am | Edit
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The sensationalism is what bothered me about the History Channel when we had it. That and the fact that I thought they showed way too many shows that I would not consider "history". ("Ice Road Truckers" and "UFO Hunters" to name but two).

What I found HC useful for was piquing interest in a topic. They also had some good shows about the American Presidents and the kids loved the shows in "10 Days that Changed America".

We don't get the History Channel any more, but I do occasionally get the DVDs from the library.

You are so right that "history needs to be taught using many sources".



Posted by dstb on Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 8:58 am