Whatever happened to history on TV? Now it’s all about pawn stars and totty

Once upon a time history programmes on TV used to be about – well, history. Now they’re another excuse to wheel out celebs in low-cost formats (former Capital DJ Johnny Vaughan in Mud Men on the UK’s History Channel) or the same American-owned channel’s Pawn Stars, stories about a bunch of US ne’er do wells who’ve gone into the pawnbroking business.

What this has to do with history (apart from ratings) is anyone’s guess. The History Channel now says ‘history’s made every day.’ Wrong – these pawn stars won’t leave any kind of mark behind, apart from a few forgotten programme listings.

Now the UK’s Channel 4 is under fire for changing the line-up of its venerable Time Team archaeology series by bringing in former super-size (ie busty) model Mary-Ann Ochota (she appeared in some Special K ads) as co-presenter with the far less lovely Tony Robinson.

Now Mary also has a degree in old stuff from Cambridge so she’s hardly an airhead.

But you can’t help thinking that looks have something to do with her new job.

Hairy old professor Mike Aston (pictured), who’s been on the show since the year dot, obviously thinks this is a case of dumbing down because he’s quit.

TV commissioning these days employs some of the brightest young people around. So how come they take such shit decisions?

After all, these are the kind of people who sit around in restaurants fulminating at the tabloid press and rejoicing over the death of the News of the World. As do most of us, to a degree.

But they’re importing the same kind of tabloid agenda into TV, including history programmes for God’s sake.

What’s next? Katie Price on the fall of the Roman Empire?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.