This came as no great shock to me, but our producer, Jonathan Wilson, just got off the phone with a production vice president at the History Channel, and the conversation went something like this:
Wilson: “So when are you going to make ‘Courage’ part of your lineup?”
‘History:’ “Well, we don’t really do drama. We have an hour a week, and we have to be really careful about it.”
‘History:’ “Yes, we don’t license anyone else’s stuff. Okay?’
Now, I’m a big believer that any private company should be able to produce and provide just about anything it wants. If, for example, you want to call yourself the ‘History Channel’ and then produce reality shows about people hunting for alligators in 2011, that’s fine. If you want to follow a couple of logging teams around the backwoods of Alaska and measure which team brought in more board feet, I suppose you are acting as a kind of video historian. And someday, when school children of the 22nd century try to decipher our country’s story, they will naturally want to know how to maneuver an 18 wheeler across the frozen north.
It wouldn’t even bother me if they recruited 10 of the country’s top academic historians and found a dishy dance partner for them, just to see if David Hackett Fischer of Brandeis can do the mambo better than Clayborn Carson of Stanford.
In the broadest sense of the term, history can be the story of just about anything at any time in any place, so if I wanted to chronicle the history of two competing massage parlors in North Hollywood, I could do that, and I could even call it a part of the ‘History’ Channel lineup. I could even have one of the production assistants pass on gossip from the other massage parlor, and create a little false drama to spice things up a bit. That could be the history of how a production team effects the history of massage parlors, which would also be ‘history’ after a fashion. Come to think of it, why isn’t Man Vs. Food on the History Channel? It meets all the criteria.
I’m pretty flexible about it. If the ‘history’ channel wants to be ‘careful’ about their programming, that’s their right, after all, because they have to find an audience and if a backrub reality show will get people interested in, um, history, well that’s fine by me.
But it also explains, at least in part, why I’m in this business. Someone has to dedicate at least a little time to the part of our history that predates Chaz Bono.