How much history does The History Channel show?

Thanks to dire warnings from the weather prognosticators (who were probably giddy from watching Nemo advance on the East Coast) we battened down the hatches and settled in for a home-bound day or two.  It’s a snowy Sunday here in Minnesota, but not as bad as predictions indicated. Still, it was  a good afternoon to stay in, hang out with each other and watch some TV. (Maybe we were just  warming up for the really good stuff that will come later this evening: Downton Abby and The Walking Dead.) We surfed around, looking for an interesting historical or scientific show. Nothing we found appealed. One thing led to another, and we ended up doing a survey of the programs being broadcast on several of our old favorite channels – Science, TLC and History.

bob's television dream by Robert

bob’s television dream by Robert Couse-Baker


I crafted a quick document in which I could categorize and count the hours of all the programming in a one-week period. The Ogre assumed his hunting position on the sofa, armed with the remote. Here’s what we discovered before disappointment and disgust ended our research:

NOTE: Program names are followed by the number of hours shown in the course of the week, including repeats.

The History Channel lineup – 3p FEB 10 through 2:59p FEB 17

Pseudo-Science-based shows:

  • America Unearthed

TOTAL = 2 hours

Real-Science-based shows:

  • Fire in the Sky = 2
  • Comets: Prophets of Doom = 2
  • How the Earth was Made = 1
  • Mega Disasters = 1
  • The Universe = 4

TOTAL = 10 hours

Technology-based shows:

  • Modern Marvels

TOTAL = 13 hours

History-based shows:

  • Tuskegee Airmen = 1
  • The Real West = 1
  • Civil War Journal = 1
  • Save Our History = 1
  • Lost Magic Decoded = 2
  • Stories from the Road = 4
  • America’s Book of Secrets = 1
  • Secret Access = 3
  • Beltway Unbuckled = 2
  • It’s Good to be President = 1

TOTAL = 17 hours

Late-night infomercials:  
TOTAL = 20 hours

Reality-style shows:

  • Pawn Stars = 26
  • Axe men = 4
  • American Pickers = 26
  • Top Gear = 4
  • Swamp People = 38
  • Big Rig Bounty Hunters = 2
  • Sold = 3
  • American Restoration = 5
  • Only in America (with Larry the Cable Guy) = 2

TOTAL = 106 hours

Yes. The History Channel dedicated more of its programming schedule to BOTH Pawn Stars and American Pickers than it did to all the shows that could be considered historically significant and accurate combined.  And that pales in comparison to the THIRTY-EIGHT hours it devoted to Swamp People. One entire day – from the end of one night’s infomercials to the beginning of the next night’s set – is going to be given over to a marathon  of a show about people who hunt alligators in the  Atchafalaya River Basin swamp in Louisiana.

Just let that set on your heart for a minute.

History 2 – home to my beloved Ancient Aliens – fares surprisingly better. Let’s have a look:

logo History-2-logo-2011

The H2 Channel lineup – 3p FEB 10 through 2:59p FEB 17

Reality-style shows:

  • Chasing Mummies (We are basing this categorization on the show’s description, because we haven’t actually watched an episode.)

Total = 6

Late-night infomercials:
Total = 17 hours

Technology-based shows:

  • Modern Marvels

Total = 18 hours

Real-Science-based shows:

  • Predator X = 2
  • Mega Disasters = 6
  • How the Earth Was Made = 2
  • The Universe  = 8
  • Comets: Prophets of Doom = 4
  • Underwater Universe = 2
  • Siberian Apocalypse = 1

Total = 25 hours

Pseudo-Science-based shows:

  • Ancient Aliens  = 18
  • America Unearthed = 16
  • Conspiracy = 4 (Really more pseudo-history, but still.)
  • MonsterQuest  = 4

Total = 42 hours

History-based shows:

  • Barbarians 2 = 8
  • Breaking Vegas = 4
  • Planet Egypt  = 8
  • The Real Robinhood = 4
  • Who Really Discovered America = 4
  • Pirate Island = 4
  • Strange Rituals = 4
  • Last Stand of the 300 = 4
  • Cities of the Underworld  = 2
  • Battles BC = 4
  • Third Reich:  = 4
  • Mankind: Story of All of Us = 4
  • Mankind Decoded  = 2
  • Shootout  = 2
  • Blood Diamonds = 2
  • Kennedy Assassination = 2
  • 10 Things You Don’t know About  = 1

Total = 63 hours

Much better.

logo_tlcThe Learning Channel’s schedule was a staggering 100% realty shows. Including Honey Boo Boo. (With that, I will take my broken heart and move on to better news.)


We were pleasantly surprised to see the The Science Channel is still home to almost entirely science-y shows, though many could be categorized as more techy. The exceptions are: Survivorman, Oddities and An Idiot Abroad. Sadly, we’ve seen most of the episodes of most of the science shows. We have some hope, however, for Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking, which is new to the channel.


As an extra-special bonus, our research revealed that NEXT Sunday, the 17th, The Science Channel will be marathoning Firefly, starting at 8a. It’s may not be science, but it IS great science fiction – I can live with that.



15 Comments on “How much history does The History Channel show?”

  1. Hunter Shea says:

    It’s kind of like how MTV no longer shows music videos. These channels need to make money and they’ll morph into whatever will pull more eyeballs onto the screen.

  2. ali says:

    TLC isn’t The Learning Channel anymore .It’s just TLC the letters don’t mean anything. They changed from being “The Learning Channel” to just TLC around 2000. Kind of like how The Nashville Network went to The National Network and then TNN and finally Spike as they programming changed.

    It would probably be nice if TLC changed their name but they aren’t about learning anymore.

    • You’re right of course. I watch exactly one show on TLC these days – What Not to Wear. (What can I say, I’ve got a hidden pocket of girly, I guess.) I’ve noticed that they use the tagline: “Real life, unscripted.” It’s clear they are committed to the path.

  3. Oh I relate! My favorite channels! I wondered what would fill the gap left by 2012 doomsday programming. Now I know. More Pawn Stars and swamp stuff… Sigh…

  4. I went through a phase where I watched The History Channel quite a bit. I was also watching The Learning Channel and the ID Network. I think they’ve all got a pretty good mix of programming, even if they aren’t all true to their names.

    Enjoy your snow!

    • I suppose I shouldn’t watch much more TV than I already do anyway, but I miss seeing actual biographies on Bio, for example. I used to love ID – when they were doing all the shows on serial killers. I found the background (pre-killing) history of the monsters interesting. Had the same kind of fascination with City Confidential, which was mostly about the setup and environment against which the crime was committed.

      Now it’s all spouse-kills-spouse. The only interesting part of that is that it’s apparently a much more common crime than I thought – at least based on the never-ending stream of cases that they show.

  5. Its amazing, the info you gathered. TLC???? what the hell can I learn from Honey boo-boo??? H – I actually like watching American Pickers and quite often there is a lot of history in the items they find in the back of some old gentleman’s farm in the deep south – so I can see the correlation there (even with Pawn Stars), but Swamp People, 38 hours???

    • I don’t mind the two you mention so much, at least they are about the objects MORE than the people who are selling or buying them. The profile shows – like Honey Boo Boo and Swamp People – just make me feel icky. Like I’ve gone to a freak show to watch a geek bite the head off a live chicken.

      • well, that might be more interesting – the thing is, you don’t give the geek & thew chicken a half hour show – he bites the head off and the curtain closes, end of show, now move to the next tent with the Amazing Gorilla Woman, lol.

  6. scoobyclue says:

    Firefly is my favorite show ever. And usually the Science channel runs it with a scientist that explains some sciencey stuff about it. I think the travel Channel has some cool stuff Monumental Mysteries and Mysteries at the Museum. I love Don Wildman so smart and DREAMY

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