I want to set the record straight here, I like Brad Meltzer as a writer very much. Being introduced to the man through his comic book run on Green Arrow, shortly after Kevin Smith’s revamping of the title, I was keenly interested in the very person that had revitalized my passion for comics back in 2002. Fast forward ten years later and we have the second season of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded that is very much a mixed bag from the History Channel. Brad Meltzer hosts with a team three experts, Scott Rolle, a trial lawyer, Christine McKinley, a mechanical engineer and Buddy Levy, an English professor. Together, with Meltzer’s help, the three go off to investigate various mysteries and conspiracies, by speaking to experts and authorities in order to come to some sort of conclusion.
First and foremost, what’s great about Decoded is the subjects they find to cover per episode. Whether its the mysterious death of Harry Houdini or the Spear of Destiny, the topics are ripe with enough intrigue and iconography that it merits watching it through. The other thing that helps is that each of the three investigators are from three different fields. While one might think that this as people not being qualified in the material, what each of them bring to the table is perspective. Granted some of this stuff could be true and other portions not so much, but with the distinctions that Scott, Christine and Buddy each offer to Decoded is the ability to obtain and process the material with eyes that make it so the conspiracies and mysteries that lie within, could very well be just a different way of looking materials that are right in front of you.
When Decoded isn’t appealing with its topics, the show becomes a pretty poor exercise in bad scripted television. Full of cheesy music cues and bizarre reaction shots from the hosts, Decoded exposes its warts in its execution of the wonderful topics at hand. Even Meltzer himself, delivering jokes with a dead pan face that fall flat as cardboard, can’t save the show from being as engaging as its material. I don’t necessarily blame Meltzer or his team of investigators, but the producer’s of the show that spoon feed to the lowest common denominator. Decoded isn’t a bad show, its just marred by silly production techniques that try to make it much more appealing to a broader audience. While I applaud Brad and his team for showcasing some perks of history and focusing on conspiracies, the show is passable TV, instead of engaging TV, as it very well could be.
The four disc set from A+E Entertainment contains all of the 13 episodes of Decoded and is available now on DVD.