National Geographic’s History TV Specials: Stop Wasting My Time!

We have come to expect shows on [once-]reputable networks such as Monsterquest and Finding Bigfoot to never actually find anything, nor bear any relevancy to the channel they represent and embarrass to the world, but one might expect something a little bit different from an institute like National Geographic. I was just going through my DVR tonight to watch a few specials that I taped over the last few months, the first being Finding the Lost Da Vinci from early March, and the second from last week, Search for the Head of John the Baptist. Though they both had an interesting premise and quest, once again we are let down as we are all too often, with the delusions of grandeur we see in the advertisements, then the caliber of the program bearing slightly more fruit than the Blair Witch Project.

Not wanting to mix in my disappointment for shows not being able to find Bigfoot or the Chupacabra or aliens or the monster hiding inside the network CEO’s closet, I shall leave them alone for a change, and move on to something much more respectable, such as one of the most important figures to the Christian religion, John the Baptist, and of course, one of the greatest Renaissance men and all-around brilliant minds to ever walk the earth, Leonardo da Vinci. I suppose it is my fault, and the fault of all us suckers who continually watch these programs and hope to be impressed. Stupid me did not consider the possibility that if the most important severed head in the history of severed heads were actually found, it would have been on the news, not appearing in a choppy hour-long mish-mosh more than a year after it was initially filmed. Did I mention how stupid of me yet?

Let’s talk about this special on St. John first, a program that was titled Search for the Head of John the Baptist. Notice how I bolded the first words of the title, because that is what I was expecting the show to actually be about—how very simple and intriguing. However, and this is no joke (I swear on his head), the program did not devote more than ten seconds to it, except to say that a church in France claims to have it, but will not allow any tests to be done, so we will never know. While that situation is par for the course, why in the hell would they name the program that? Go watch it for yourself when it gets replayed ad nauseam: they literally spend the first twenty minutes talking about some bones found in a box buried in Bulgaria (that might be his; get used to that word) and some back-story on the preaching and baptizing career of St. John. Then they take about ten seconds to show you the supposed head in France, encased in a nice glass box that makes it look like an action figure, then move along to some tests on these other bones, where, what-do-ya-know, they come back inconclusive in the end. The shining quote of the episode? To paraphrase, “We can’t prove that they belong to St. John, but we are very sure that they might be!”

Very sure that they might be?

How can anyone make this stuff up? Of course they are not going to be proven—they knew that when they began filming the episode, and began advertising it like they actually found something. I would have been angry at this quip, but I was still perturbed from there not being any information on the severed head. The show was built up like they were actually going to be looking for it, like maybe there was a skull found in a box, not parts of a jaw, arm, and hand. In fact, the official description that pops up when you search for the show reads as follows: “An archaeological dig on a remote island in the Black Sea uncovers what could be the bones of John the Baptist, the man who baptized Christ.” Nope, still nothing about the cabeza. This is like the Easter Egg hunt from hell.

Good riddance, talk about false advertising! I cannot even find any good aspects of the show in the back-story, which is something I still use to rate shows that prove nothing. “Did I learn anything from this show?” I always ask myself. Well, aside from learning that I will never watch anything on National Geographic again, aside from Taboo, it is safe to say that they confused me rather than enthralled me. Rather than devote time to facts, they mused endlessly on speculation that Jesus and John actually hated each other. News to me, and even if it is true, what does it have to do with the bones? Then they went off on these brutally stretched tangents on how the authors of the bible conspired to reduce the historic role of John, that he was nothing special, and relegate him to nothing more than a stage-hand in the grand production of Christianity. My, that must have been difficult for them, considering the gospels all appear to be written hundreds of years apart from one another—maybe they used time-travel to carry out the deed; oh shoot, I just gave the History Channel an idea for a show. By dwelling on this conspiracy and mixing it in with their miserable excuses for facts, they failed horribly in their attempt to produce a documentary by trying instead for a form of Indiana Jones Meets the Da Vinci Code. Oh, and speaking of Leo (no, not DiCaprio—deep breath, ladies), let’s move on to this other gem below.

Finding the Lost Da Vinci aired in March, and was built up rather amazingly: an Italian scholar trying to find a Da Vinci fresco hidden on an interior wall inside a museum that was painted over hundreds of years ago on a different outer wall. The task was highly complicated, as they had to drill through a priceless picture that is supposedly covering the original work, without damaging either one, with the hopes of sending a fiber-optic camera inside the tiny hole to see what lies behind the wall. Of course, Murphy’s Law was in effect during the shoot, as everything that could have went wrong did in fact go wrong. People protested the drilling, the project was threatened, the Italian media vilified the workers, and finally, the government got involved and shut it down, you guessed it, before they could find anything!

Yes, dear friends, yet another wasted hour. I truly felt bad for the team because what happened to them was not their fault, but I can still be angry at the network for airing it and giving off the sensation that they were actually close to finding something. Instead, we have a little bit of drilling and a little bit of back-story sandwiched between close-up shots of the team sitting around all melancholy and depressingly complaining into the camera how they cannot believe this is happening to them. Cry me a river, go ahead, it’s okay. I feel your pain…well, pain from sitting through that and left feeling nothing but insulted. Yep, you guys fooled me again!

One Comment Add yours

  1. R B Clark says:

    Good points. I guess I get suckered for some of these same programs and come up disappointed. Even Nat Geo and the history people tempt us with salacious headlines. Marketing rules everywhere!

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