It is always disappointing to me that no matter how fascinating the subject, the history channel always manages to present it in the dullest manner possible.
Planet Egypt, a four-part series about the very beginnings of Ancient Egypt- a period of that country’s history that, until very recently, almost nothing was known about. It should be so interesting, the forging of the culture and creation of the language, etc. Instead, it is simply a chronicling of four of the most influential rulers of that time.
The most useful tool is the map of Egypt, which gives the viewer a great idea of where temples are in relation to the other places along the Nile. The camera work, using the computer generated map, is very good. You get swooping views of the Nile as you move from place to place. Unfortunately, by the third installment, this technique feels overused and uninteresting. Another very interesting tool used is the computer generated reconstruction of some of the towering statues of the gods. In one shot, you will see a team of archeologists working on the pieces of a statue. Then the camera will shift and you will see the computer image of what that statue looked like in its original, full form.
Of course, they use the cheesiest of cheesy tools for storytelling- dramatic re-enactment. Whoever came up with that idea should be punished severely. As we all learned from watching the “Drunk History” segments on YouTube, there is nothing more mock-able than people pretending to behave like their historical counterparts- especially using the silent-movie acting techniques such as dramatic facial expressions and over-dramatic movements. Let’s come up with another method, shall we? This one is old and leaves the viewer either laughing or cold.
In addition, the stodgy, curmudgeony historians they get to talk about the subjects are beyond dull. In most of these segments, a Wilford Brimley lookalike with only a portion of the charisma (if that’s even possible), lectures on at you about how groundbreaking each of the concepts that are being covered really are. This is the best programming about history out there? Maybe toss a couple more dollars into the human part of the budget and a couple less into the computer element. Or, change method entirely, hire someone with a wonderful speaking voice to do voiceover and ONLY use computers to demonstrate the concepts. It’s gotta be one or the other, because neither can work together very efficiently. History is interesting, it just needs to be handled in the correct manner.