8 Reasons the History Channel is Going Downhill

by Abigail Pfeiffer on June 1, 2010

History Channel TV Executive

I have always loved watching the history channel since it started in 1995.  They always played good programs about WWII (granted they seemed to have had a love affair with this particular war) and in general most of their programming was truly interesting to a history buff.  I’ve noticed lately, though, that the History Channel has jumped on this reality show bandwagon.

What really sent me over the edge was their programming this past Memorial Day Weekend.  Sunday was good….they had an “America Story of Us” marathon, which was good, although that series is a bit too heavy on the manifest destiny for my taste.  So I figured that Monday being Memorial Day and all, that they would have some interesting military history shows on.  And they don’t have to be new programming either, just some reruns of past military history shows would have sufficed.  What did the brilliant minds at the History Channel decide to play this Memorial Day? We were treated to a Pawn Stars marathon….thanks a lot History Channel! I was inspired to write the 8 ways that the History Channel has went downhill because of this.

  1. Pawn Stars: As mentioned above the viewers of the History Channel were treated to this marathon on Memorial Day.  I’m so happy for these people and their successful pawn shop but I personally will not waste 30 minutes of my life on this show.
  2. Ice Road Truckers: Wow….whoever pitched this show to the powers that be at the History Channel has super incredible powers of persuasion. I still have no idea what this has to do with history, so if anyone out there knows please enlighten me.
  3. Food Tech: I guess this could be considered history related if an individual is fascinated with the history of the hot dog. This show seems better suited for the Food Network.
  4. Sliced: This is a show about a guy with a large chainsaw that cuts stuff open. Seriously. I’m not making that up.
  5. Madhouse: I also have no idea what this show about racing has to do with history.
  6. 2012 and Nostradamus: I understand how Nostradamus fits into the History Channel, what with him living hundreds of years ago.  But the History channel is just feeding into hysteria about 2012 with their programming that is examining the supposed end of the world in 2012.
  7. Ax Men: Two things are wrong with this show. One, it has nothing to do with history (are we noticing a trend here?). Second, let’s just promote the deforestation of the Earth by giving these rednecks their own show.
  8. Apocalypse Man: See above bullet point about 2012 and Nostradamus. Also, this show has a disclaimer that says: “The events you are about to see have not yet happened.” I’m no rocket scientist but wouldn’t that be the one stipulation of having a show on the History Channel. This is a show about a survival expert who shows the viewer(s) how to survive Armageddon.

My conclusion is that the people who are in charge of the programming at the History channel have no background in history, are panicky about the future of the world after 2012, are huge fans of racing, and enjoy hanging out at pawn shops.  If you are looking for good history programming then check out the Military Channel, because there is hardly anything good on at the History Channel anymore.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Art Whitney July 1, 2010 at 6:29 am

Ha ha ha ha LMAO….Great article and I couldn’t agree more. The history channel used to pay the series “The 10,000 day War” a history of the Vietnam war. I was a devout follower but have not seen any more in about a year now. To bad was a great channel while it lasted.

T.J. Pinta August 3, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Nice article that articulates my thought exactly about the History Channel. They have moved deeper into “Reality” programming than historical events. I spent 32 years in Law Enforcement and one of my assignments was as the Pawn Detective for my agency. Pawn Stars is such a clown show it is not even a reality show. More like a cartoon . I hope the History Channel wakes up and does what it was originally designed to do.

Abigail Pfeiffer August 3, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I think that they have jumped on this reality show bandwagon because for some reason our society loves these reality shows. Also, I think that they are probably much cheaper to produce than having to pay researchers to write the programs and get panelists to come on the show to discuss it. But, then again, I’m no tv executive so who knows what’s running through their minds.

Andrew Liptak August 31, 2010 at 7:06 am

These channels do this for the money. The reality TV stuff, no matter how ridiculous it is, is really profitable for them. The SyFy channel has done similar things, (such as including wrestling in their programming) not because of the Science fiction element, but because they found something that would pay – that sort of money goes to strengthen the network, and that helps their parent company with their overall brand. Keep in mind, things like Discovery and History are businesses. They have their own shareholders to keep happy, and unfortunately, that means that the channel puts on a certain selection of programming.

Abigail Pfeiffer August 31, 2010 at 7:19 am

Andrew, that’s pretty much what I figured, as money seems to factor into everything. It’s a shame though, because I used to really enjoy their programming. I guess we will have to wait until the reality TV fad blows over to get some real programming back.

Andrew Liptak September 1, 2010 at 5:11 am

I wouldn’t hold your breath – reality TV (A misnomer if ever there was one) is here to stay. It’s cheap, gets huge numbers of people who do enjoy it (Strange) and thus rakes in a lot of money from advertisers. When I had TV, they had some interesting programs and documentaries that I would occassionally watch.

Greg in Fla March 10, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Just found your writing as I was searching online for “history channel going downhill”. Even though it is nine months since your post, it is still sad but true today. I have to agree with the replies about the reality shows, as most of them are pathetic.

I wouldn’t mind watching the reality shows, if they were interesting. And it get so tiring to see the shows of the inevitable doom and destruction. And of course, all of the UFO, Bigfoot, and other strange and unproven tales, that are promoted as fact.

However, one good thing, it is making more money for me. I usually write web content for money in the evenings, and now there is no reason to watch TV, so I am writing more and getting bigger checks. Thanks History Channel. :)

Larry March 31, 2011 at 9:50 am

I couldn’t agree more. They have gone the way of MTV. Use to be my favorite station.

Abigail Pfeiffer April 3, 2011 at 8:01 am

Just the other day I was flipping channels and I saw the History Channel advertising a new show called……wait for it…..Swamp People!!!! It’s not even the history of swamps or anything like that. It’s about people who hunt alligators in the swamp. I’d say only about 10 percent of their programming is actually history related. It’s getting worse and worse.

Andrew Stockette May 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I definately agree, with everything this article says but, i will admit this, sometimes Pawn Stars can be sorta interesting to watch sometimes

brian May 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm

its idiots that watch this junk that are to blame. the only reason they make these shows is because people watch them. it all started with deadliest catch and everything past that has been a copycat show. science and discovery are just as bad and it cracks me up how similar the programming of those three channels are.

Guy September 13, 2011 at 7:18 am

I can’t stand the History Channel anymore. Haven’t watched it in years. They used to have great shows with ‘Dogfights,’ ‘Battle 360,’ and ‘Battlefield Detectives.’ But they did jump on the Reality bandwagon and it hurt their loyal fanbase.

I’ve often wondered why some channel (perhaps HBO or Showtime) doesn’t do a show on Military History a la ‘Band of Brothers’ or ‘The Pacific.’ And it wouldn’t have to necessarily be about WWII or only the American point-of-view. Have one show centered around the French at Waterloo, and then do another on the Japanese view at the Battle of Midway, the English at Bannockburn, the Egyptians at Megiddo, the Canadians at the Second Battle of Ypres, etc. It would change week-to-week, but would be a character driven work centered around a battle or campaign. I guess the fears of the network honchos would be that nobody would watch it and it would be too expensive to make, although I believe there would be a market for this type of show, although most Americans only want to watch stuff with Americans in it. They could work that all out though. At the very least it would give some historians jobs!

Jere Komada September 13, 2011 at 8:27 pm

I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

onefeather July 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm

The History channel has become nothing more than a cheap,stupid reality show, but then again they do not care as it is all about ratings and money just like the rest of t.v. shows. Just goes to show the mentality of Most people.

Cynthia Southern January 8, 2013 at 9:43 pm

I too was a loyal follower of the History Channel. I don’t have it in my cheap cable package but will buy episodes of shows that strike my interest on Amazon instant video. Most recently I purchased ‘Engineering Evil,’ their most recent Holocaust documentary.

That has been the only thing that has even appeared to resemble History listed in the History Specials for sale on Amazon.com I am a lifetime subscriber to the magazine. The articles in there are all historically related and are much better than the tv show.

I did enjoy the Life After People series but it was pure speculation about what would happen to the world if people disappeared from the earth. It wasn’t History.

I too love the Discovery channel and loved Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. It was educational and eye opening. It was cancelled after eight seasons and now all Discovery airs is reality tv too. American Chopper has turned into a drama and soap opera reality tv show only with burly men in it. Perhaps the same people who are in charge of the programming at the Discovery Channel are at the History Channel too.

Bertrand Dugas March 15, 2013 at 6:34 am

I couldn’t agree more with the 8 reasons you listed…I don’t know who’s in charge of there content towards ice truckers and pawn stars, but they used to be good, relevant and educational…Ultimately their direction is a proof of their incompetence because they surely are alienating an important segment of their viewers.. There is probably some kind of history when you see a man desperate for cash, who pawns an old riffle, or a ancient steak knife, or a chamber pot.. . However, there are so many documentaries that they could do about the daily life of ordinary people, not just kings and queens, centuries before or in the antiquity…
Bertrand, Québec city

Jake April 6, 2013 at 3:10 pm

I am a HUGE history buff. I read avidly about all kinds of history and used to love watching the history channel for all the knowledge it gave me. I couldn’t agree more with the message of this article and hope that the History channel will get back to really teaching people about the past.

Abigail Pfeiffer April 7, 2013 at 9:23 am

Lately they have had a few good programs. I really like the show Vikings, and I did like the series “Ultimate Guide to the Presidents.” But still way too many crappy reality shows!

anymous guy May 27, 2013 at 1:41 am

Well people, after a little research I found it. The person responsible for the untimely death of one of the best and most educational channels on television.

Nancy Dubuc

She is now president of A&E networks (history channel’s paren’t company). But before that starting in 2007 she was president of the History channel. It was by her hand that the History channel’s first reality show, Ice Road Truckers, was created as a spin off of a Modern Marvels episode, and then she just rolled with the gravy train as the ratings skyrocketed. Pawn Stars was next, and now it’s everything you see today. Counting Cars, Ax Men, all that garbage that somehow passes on the History brand. I like to think sometimes that maybe, just maybe, somewhere in that office is the lone history buff. The unsung hero who fights tooth and nail every day to preserve what smigin of anything historical still aired, the only reason we even still see Modern Marvels today. This one guy sits at his cubicle in the middle of the grey office abyss and thinks to himself about how much of a travesty it all is, but he’s powerless to change it. I wish there was something we could do to help that poor man, if there is such a man.

But anyhow, if there is one to blame, it is Nancy Dubuc, Abbe Raven (president of A&E at the time), and the millions of males ages 18-47 who supposedly enjoy this crap.

Sand May 28, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Once again, today (like I do often hoping that my luck might have changed) I flipped through the History Channel, Discovery and Nat Geo. Nope, they are still showing all the crappy, cheap, stupid shows they have shown in the last couple of years. I decided to go online and see if there were more dissapointed Ex-History Channel lovers out there. I now see I am not alone. But WHY DOTHEY KEEP DOING THAT!!, well, I guess we shouldn’t ask why, we all know why (RATINGS). I feel better now knowing that I am not the only one who wishes that the big people in those channels who have decided that making more money is waaay more important than staying true to their original values, (giving us quality, relevant history) came to their senses and give us our History Channel back…

Brian Gray June 6, 2013 at 10:09 am

I realized that you published this post a couple of years ago, but they did the same thing this year.

Memorial Day – Pawn Stars Marathon all day.
Anniversary of D-Day – Pawn Stars Marathon all day.

Now I understand that there is the second History Channel, H2, and they do play a lot more programming related to history that I enjoy, but when your primary “History” channel focuses more on Pawn Stars, AxMen, UFO Hunters, etc, and you totally ignore these major milestones in history on their anniversaries, it becomes nearly offensive.

And don’t even get me started on The “Learning” Channel regarding Honey-Boo-Boo/Toddlers and Tiaras.

Pamela C. Coles July 2, 2013 at 1:36 pm

I love history . I used to find interesting programs on the History Channel like The Barbarians and The Goths … but that was some time ago … They’ve been played to death in reruns.There seems to be a preponderance of pseudoscientific garbage showing these days . Historical aliens , Swamp people, candy making? Really??? Teenaged boys are not the only audience . Vikings was fun …. But I’m not interested in the Bible except as history . I think that PBS is the only network that still has integrity ! The History Channel has squandered a great opportunity to really add something enlightening to the viewing public , it has instead chosen to play to the lowest common audience .

Navjot July 12, 2013 at 6:54 am

i m dying to see documentaries related to History, but they are showing bullshit like pawn stars. They should start more series like Mankind or Apoclypse ( Second Worldwar)…..

TED SMITH July 21, 2013 at 11:22 am

I WAS WONDERING IF ANYONE OTHER THAN ME NOTICED THE DOWNFALL OF THE DISCOVERY(ALL OF THEM,EVEN OPRA W).ALSO THEY ARE DROPPING CHANNELS LEFT AND RIGHT MY OPTIONS ARE GETTING LESS AND LESS.THE BIG DISH USERS ARE JUST LEFT OUT.I WILL NOT WATCH THE STUPID REALITY SHOWS,THEY ARE STUPID AND OFFENCEIVE.I SUPPOSE I’LL HAVE TO GO BACK TO BROADCAST FTA PROGRAMMING.

USAF Military Retiree July 25, 2013 at 7:19 am

When you have nothing quality on TV to choose from, people will watch whatever is presented. It costs the networks very little to produce reality shows starring ordinary people who are not professional actors. It’s not that people really enjoy watching idiots wrestling alligators or junk collectors, they just don’t have a choice. However, if those types of shows are truly appreciated by some people, then put them on the Discovery Channel, which would be more appropriate than the History Channel. Put only history shows on History Channel and if your unwilling to produce history topics then what’s the point? Take History Channel off the air. It’s false advertising to continue using the History name only because there is a high number of dedicated History viewers still tuning in hoping to see History shows but instead are shown something else. Shameful.

Vincent Vezza August 2, 2013 at 4:35 pm

It is not just the History Channel. Cable TV programs serve up pablum and propaganda. Easy solution, cancel cable. It is liberating.

Christopher Foley September 15, 2013 at 6:43 am

You peoole are kidding me right? Do you have any clue at all on how a tv station generates money and is able to continue to air quality shows??? RATINGS AND AVERTISING $$$$$. I guess not many of the 40 pkus comments here bothered ti look at the tv ratings in the last 2-3 years. That “dumb” show Pawn Starsbthat you have apparently forgot are a HUGE part if history, thosr were concidered banks in the ilden days and thats how Americans got many for there items and were able to live, there werent amex, VISA or any charge accounts back then Pawn broking is where it all started. As far as that racing showmotor racing is still today and back in the first days of motorised vehicles huge all over the US. That IS US hisyory. Id rather watch a memorial days full of up to date chows that are a huge part of our history than a bunchbof 75 year old black and whites that have been seen about 300 times and are so old they cant be digitally upgraded so we can at least here whats going on. Even the military channel doesnt show that 1915 stuff on a reg basis anymore. They show great prohrams about new tech items that our armed forces use, certain shows about SEAL TEAMS, GREEN BARRETS, Rescue missions that we are running all the time all iver the world, how the CIA runs and things theve used in the past as tools to get spy information. Im not a huge reality show fan, but some of them are very interesting and fun to watch. Give some of them a chance you might learn much more than you think your not learning because the progtams aremt blacj and white and.fulmed in the 40s!!! Remember, you complainet are a very small minority as far as the everyday fan goes, That Pawn Stars show, its been the #1 rated cable television show for 3 years running, thays why they run those 22 hour prigram blocks when most people are out having a oicnic or a bbq, not sitting in the coach waiting for old black and whites that went iut 40 years ago!!!!!
PS; THERES A NEW SHOW CALLED “THE COUNT” THATS A SPIN OFF OF pawn Stars that will be rated one of the best new shows on cable within the first year it out, but im sure you wont see the history connectiin there either, and that will be your koss because tgis guy does incredible work restorying old vars and trucks as well as.motorcycles from years past amd he has knolledge than anyone ive ever seen as far as history and the automobile goes. But, sad thing is you probably wont understand that either. Your losr, get rid of cable or direcTV and go back to the spin antenia youlll enhiy it better instead if up to date items that most peoole enjoy watching and learning about!!!!

Abigail Pfeiffer October 14, 2013 at 6:39 am

Thanks for your opinion Christopher. Clearly, you are the demographic they are catering to. The rest of us, who want intelligent, intellectual tv programming, are forced to look elsewhere. And yes, I am aware it’s ratings and advertising….because everything should be about money and not quality, apparently. It’s also about the dumbing down of America and their fascination with “reality” tv.

Bill Meadows October 18, 2013 at 4:08 pm

And don’t get me started on Larry the Cable Guy!

John Smythe November 2, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Well said Abigail. The demographic all of this trash TV is aimed at are the same people that find others misery entertaining (Jerry Springer type shows), will all pull out a phone to take video\a picture of a person being beaten in broad daylight instead of helping and probably enjoy “reality” shows because it requires no thought or time investment. They have 500 friends via “social” networking, but don’t know how to have a conversation or a discussion with someone in person and don’t have the time to educated them self but will stand inline for a day just to have the latest phone \ gadget. I could go on, but I will use the time to expand my mind ( and not with any new found Honey Boo Boo wisdom) :):)

Monika November 3, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Dear Abigail,
Your article continues to resonate with such truth and integrity, even 3 years after you originally penned it. I am a documentary filmmaker and visual researcher, who creates new works from repurposed archival materials. Your article addresses the heart of the matter- these networks are failing to invest in quality programming, research, intellect, and project development. The chiefs in charge are making decisions based on business models and have fallen “off course” from the original mission and vision of the networks. Thank you again for this important piece.
-monika

Adam Storey January 10, 2014 at 8:08 am

I appreciate your blog post, as the History Channel definitely has gone the way of many other stations – more “reality” and less content that relates to the channel name. However, I also appreciate the show Pawn Stars for their analysis of historical items brought into the store – it’s kind of like Antiques Roadshow on crack. I am not a fan of much reality TV, but there are occasional gems that you can find some merit in.

I just disagree with crucifying the History Channel without crucifying every other content-specific network, because they are all guilty. MTV rarely plays music videos (the same can be said for CMT and VH1). How A&E can consider “Duck Dynasty” either Art or Entertainment is beside me. The list could go on and on. I am on the side of Vincent Vezza, who commented earlier in this thread – cancel cable. And then, pick up a book :)

Mitch January 20, 2014 at 11:30 pm

Fact is, Chris, you are part of the problem not part of the solution. Since most television viewers fall into the “dull-normal” category of imbecile, that is why garbage like pawn stars and counting cars have such high ratings, as you earlier alluded to.

Sarah August 18, 2014 at 9:44 pm

The history Channel is not about history and should be renamed. It would be one of my favorite channels if it would, indeed stick to History.

Sarah August 18, 2014 at 9:46 pm

The history Channel is not about history and should be renamed. It would be one of my favorite channels if it would, indeed, stick to History.

bud September 1, 2014 at 5:25 pm

The Pawn Channel used to be the Hitler Channel. I dont get how a bunch of homos sitting around The Counts garage is historic. Oh and the DRAMA, there going to be here in 1 day and its not finished, OMG WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO!!!!! When are Chum and Big Hog going to get married??? Ever look-up the crap that the Pawn Idiots buy from the customers on Ebay?? They should buy from Ebay and save themselves a LOTof money. The HC will run 16 – 26 episodes in a row on a regular basis, WTF!!!! Keep trying to prove what a man you are Big Hog, your twink following loves it! To Christopher Foley, u obiesleey hve a lott of knolledge abut thee telibision indurstree,. im imppressedd, gonna finishe restorying mi old var. adgust mi antenia an go onn a oicnic.

Retro jordans October 2, 2014 at 12:07 am

Such a good post. Congratulations and each of the ideaql to you and Melznie we’llsee you “on the other side.”

JAMES November 3, 2014 at 12:58 pm

When will the History Channel admit that CANADA played a very big part in both the ww1 and ww2?

mrmomoto November 8, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Excellent article. Dubuc is indeed the culprit here. She flat out admits that she’s not in the business of educating but entertaining. Still, the irony of calling what amounts to a pseudohistory channel the “History” channel keeps me from even considering watching the dreck they shovel. And I won’t allow my children to watch it either: I consider revisionist history porn – cheap, degrading and pandering to a perverse lowest common denominator.

Even more ironically, Dubuc appears to be on the board of directors of a national history museum. We live in weird and contradictory times.

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Bea July 31, 2015 at 3:29 pm

This is the kind of smut that even rolls into the school systems. How do we wonder now why our children cannot tell you anything about the history of our great nation or great inventions and the important people behind them? All I can say is it is now the middle of 2015 and the trashiest shows on TV are still there influencing our young if we don’t watch what they are exposed to. Please as a courtesy to all around te world, change the name it is dishonest and nothing more than a complete joke at this point. I use to love this channel but when you live by te sword you die by the the sword. Shame on you period for keeping up the charade. Has anyone any decency in TV these daays? Just one? Didn’t think so the media controls the news, reality TV is now what our kids are hoping to follow. Act like an idiot or a redneck and you get paid for it. The dumber you appear with no manners or self respect the higher the ratings? It is so appalling I can’t even begin to understand how people can watch these shows and especially let their children. It is so disgusting I had to give it up. There is still some good reading if they don’t throw all that away as some have already began replacing some historical books with smut like this and at least are giving the books away in some places. History is being slowly rewritten by alien idiots and people of the new generation that believe we actually came from aliens…..still laughing at these so called scholars. Looking forward to seeing the explanation for the way we treat Native American Indians. In a few years even that will be alien…ated……a real waste of history.

Mic September 3, 2015 at 11:36 pm

The History Channel has definitely gone downhill. I enjoyed all the old school documentaries and special series given the time of year BASED ON HISTORICAL FACTS. Not all these BS ‘current historical’ farces…ice road truckers, axe men, pawn stars… Give me a break-and then they show the crap all day long. I suppose we’ve just lost touch with our history and no one cares; it’s a damn shame. I don’t exactly look forward to watching BS programming about rednecks driving freight over frozen lakes or cutting down trees that have been around long we than their bloodline has been in the U.S. I guess forget the stories of our founding fathers and primary source documentaries on our country’s most significant conflicts, assassinated presidents, biographies of important historical figures…guess all that is no longer important. Ratings! That must be what is important??? That’s pretty messed up.

john h March 12, 2016 at 1:49 pm

Just stumnled om history for the first time since i watched it in 2000- 2006. That channel has been vandalised with its current scheduling.

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