Tuned In

Unwanted Programming Advice: Making Up History

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This is the first, and possibly last, installment of Unwanted Programming Advice, in which Tuned In attempts to tell TV networks what they should be putting on the air.

This morning, in reviewing the series finale of Jericho, I joked that the show should be revived on the History Channel. But was it a joke, really? Practically speaking, History Channel might not be able to afford the show’s price tag. But content-wise, is the series any less appropriate a match for the channel’s “mission” than, say, Ice Road Truckers?

My bold proposal for History Channel’s future follows the jump…

History Channel is free to ignore my advice, of course, since it’s doing perfectly well airing ahistorical extreme-reality shows like Truckers and Ax Men. But if not Jericho, there’s a case to be made that History is one cable Channel perfectly poised to start branching out into original-drama production. Think about it: nowadays, every cable channel and its brother is getting into scripted TV—AMC, Starz—if not for reasons of straight-out profit, then to raise the channel’s profile and expand its audience.

And what genre is ripe for History Channel to exploit? Answer: counterfactual history. There’s abundant sci-fi on TV and pay cable has done a lot of historical fiction lately (Rome, Deadwood, The Tudors), but I’m scratching my head to think of when, if ever, a network has made a series in the counterfactual genre, in which the writer imagines what would have happened if [the South won the Civil War, the Nazis won WWII, etc]. The novel Fatherland—that the Nazis-won-WWII one—was made into a miniseries, and the 1988 miniseries Amerika imagined a U.S. conquered by the Soviet Union.

But there are endless counterfactuals that you could turn into a compelling drama series. What if there was a revolution in the U.S. during the Great Depression? What if America had lost the American Revolution? What if Charles Martel had lost the Battle of Tours, if Constantine had not converted to Christianity, if—well, someone who’s actually knowledgeable about history could come up with better premises than this, but you get the point.

Am I crazy? Any historical premises you’d like to see made into a TV series? And should The Weather Channnel get to work on Twister: The Series?