This morning, on my daily run down the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, I noticed a new billboard a few blocks east of the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. As I ran by, I thought to myself...is the History Channel going to take a stab at history? Yes indeed...move over Pawn Stars and Swamp People, the History Channel is gearing up to air an all-new series: The Men Who Built America. According to the History Channel website, this series will chronicle the lives of a handful of industrial tycoons - John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan - as they rise from obscurity to their positions as the world's most powerful and influential men, "building" America into a post Civil War superpower as they go along...and affecting every single person in the world as they do it.
I have made no secret about my disappointment with the directions the History Channel has gone over the years. I have attempted to engage them in a programming discussion via Twitter to no avail, and I have written an unanswered call to action right HERE on Cosmic America. I guess their programming developer(s) do not really care what this historian thinks. Fair enough - lots of people don't care what I think.
I am very interested how they handle this one. They have a real opportunity - in prime time - to develop the complexities of the men and the era through the experiences of some of those who stood at the top of the industrial mountain. I am hoping they do not travel down the easy and all-too-familiar road to hagiography. Captains of industry were heroes of enterprise to be sure and greatly admired by many. But they were humans, capable of errors in judgment and possessing tragic flaws. We'll see how the history unfolds when the series airs But hey - if this show doesn't work out they could always try out a few other ideas. Dear History Channel, if you please, may I offer a trio of suggestions:
or better still...
or if you really want to hit home...
I know, I know. I am having fun at the poor History Channel's expense before I have even seen their program. But you have to admit, they make it pretty easy. And historically speaking (yes, pun intended) their attempts on real history have been pretty weak in the past. But in the spirit of hope, I will not really pass judgement on this show until I have had a chance to sit down and see what they come up with. Then of course, the gloves come off.