September 29, 2004

I Wanna Work for the History Channel

No, really, I do. Hublet and I regularly TiVo all their little History Channel Home Movies about The Alamo, the War of 1812, and the Revolution, and find them to be a good "fill in the blanks" exercise for us about stuff we either learned and forgot or were never exposed to. They also tend to inspire us to buy lots of history books, which could be part of an eeeville capitalist conspiracy, but whatever. Books Good!

These home movies also contain a preponderance of reenactors and "living history" folks, which adds to the verisimilitude in some ways--having a cheap source of folks in period appropriate clothing to act out the events being described is a good thing--but which also adds to the cheese factor. And adds to it in a big, big way, because a lot of the reenactors--bless them--have some distinctly Modern American features that they cannot shed: namely, Modern American Girth. Which, okay, I know there were portly folk in the 19th century, but not this many. Woah.

It is difficult to retain a willing suspension of disbelief when you hear about the poorly fed and clothed American militia and the camera pans down the lines of militia men standing at attention, the buttons on their coats straining to contain them. Frankly, if Washington's troops had looked like that, they could have stopped the British merely by sitting on them.

Last night Hublet and I were watching the War of 1812, which thus far has been nothing but illuminating. We declared war on England and attacked Canada! Why? Apparently it seemed like a good idea at the time; oh, and by the way, the fact that we didn't have a real army at the time we declared war? No problem! Since I am completely ignorant about this war, I am immensely entertained by the documentary and cannot wait to see how it all turns out. I mean, obviously something happened to make the British go home, but I doubt it had much to do with American military prowess--don't spoil the ending for me, as I am all excitement!

My only quibble is with the guy they got to portray Madison, who is continually described as a tiny, tiny little man: 5' 4", 100 lbs. This actor's JOWLS are 5'4" and 100 lbs., and he has the unenviable job of portraying "brilliant intellect" without speaking, so what you get is a lot of superimposed images of jowl boy with a furrowed brow or a hand to his forehead in a "thoughtful pose." James Madison has never been funnier, although I doubt that was the intent of the documentary, and so I am giggling my way through American humiliation, carnage and war crimes, which is so very, very wrong.

But still, I heart my History Channel Home Movies, $2 production values and everything. And may I just say that the current White House looks much better than the one they burned. Or maybe the old one just had a bad computer rendering...

Posted by Big Arm Woman at September 29, 2004 09:28 AM

Have you seen that "Decisive Battles" show hosted by an Arthur Kent look-a-like without the creepy hands thing and uses the Rome: Total War game engine to show battle movements? At first, I was put off by using the game engine, but it eventually grew on me. Plus, it's better than the usual "4 guys in a dusty room" battle scenes the History Channel is known for.

Posted by: fad at September 29, 2004 09:45 AM

Yeah! I love those cheesy battle sims--I spend all of my time watching the "random" patterns repeat themselves when the troops move, and I love the cavalry charges into the Roman lines...

I'm a total History Channel geekoid.

Posted by: BAW at September 29, 2004 10:13 AM

Sigh. ONLY you and Hublet! I wish I were a fly on the wall.

Posted by: Belle at September 29, 2004 06:46 PM

Well, just off the top of my head (since I have forgotten all about the causes and the whyfors and wheretos of the Battle of 1812, except for that White House burning-down thing) I guess we attacked Canada because a) it was part of the British Empire, and b) it was a lot closer to us than England. I imagine having no army we didn't really have much of a navy at the time either.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at September 29, 2004 09:07 PM

Andrea -

Yeah, and by the time we attacked the reason we went to war--illegal impressment by the British of American citizens--was no longer an issue. The whole thing is like a Monty Python sketch, except with lots of murder.

And we had, like, 1 boat in our Navy. I mean, even if the reasons were valid--the hell, man! You have no army! And they keep talking about how brilliant Madison was...

Posted by: BAW at September 29, 2004 09:46 PM

Decisive Battles -- oh yeah. Tivo, which sees deeper into Himself's heart than I myself can, picked up a thousand episodes over the weekend. Normally that would be fine, but in doing so it wiped out Robot Rivalry, Scrapheap Challenge, and all the things we *both* like to watch, so that any time we're both in front of the set, he looks at me hopefully and says, "Decisive Battles?"

Posted by: meg at September 30, 2004 02:02 AM