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Culture Digest 

TV | History Problems

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The History Channel hasn't been about "history" for a long while. The once official channel of World War II actually had a period in the mid-aughts when it focused oddly on the future, really the only off-limits topic for an outfit called the History Channel.

In an age when duck-hunting homophobes and stage-mom obesity experiments rake in blockbuster ratings, History hardly broke the mold in moving away from their roots in favor of personality-driven reality programming.

But now they appear to created a new genre of pseudoscience-driven programming that we'll call "prospective history."

A recent crop of shows swap a "we'll show you what happened in the past" approach for a no-holds-barred "wouldn't it be crazy if [insert wild assumption thus far unsupported by science] in the past?" line of thinking.

First was Ancient Aliens, which made some convincing arguments about ancient civilizations interacting with otherworldly beings in its first two seasons before producers got too drunk on "what if?" juice and began lazily chalking up any historical mystery to aliens.

The channel is heavily promoting The Curse of Oak Island (9 pm Tuesdays), which begins with an intriguing premise: two wealthy brothers set out for Nova Scotia to dig up an alleged treasure sought after for 200 years. If you stick around, it's followed by Search for Lost Giants, about a different pair of brothers scouring the U.S. for the remains of enormous humans they claim are buried all over the place.

Oak Island was at first watchable, mostly due to its well-documented past, but the new season has seen the primary crew welcome wild-eyed "researchers" — like a pair of guys who are "100 percent certain" that the treasure at Oak Island is connected to King Solomon's Temple. You can almost hear the show going off the rails. As for the giant-searching brothers? There's no evidence there ever were any rails.

It would be amazing if these sets of brothers find their respective treasures. The more likely outcome? More "what if?"-powered reality programming. Next on History: Pie in the Sky: Is the Moon Really Made of Cheese?

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