HISTORY Is Making History

From “The History Channel” to simply “History”, the television channel that brings history back from the past is trying new ideas to conjure up the dead. Two new shows: Join or Die with Craig Ferguson and Night Class may be setting a new precedent for the 21 year old channel.

In Join or Die, former late night host Craig Ferguson hones his comedic chops with conversations relating to historical takes. From history’s “Worst Medical Advice” to “Biggest Frenemies”, Ferguson and his guests — from Jimmy Kimmel to Courtney Cox — discuss six worthy historical instances where the said topic of the show fits. In “Biggest Frenemies”, the panel mulls over whether Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are more “frenemies” than Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

It sounds silly — and it is. But Ferguson is funny and entertaining. The show is like any other silly, historical discussion you and your friends have had over dinner or in the car. The show features blurbs of historic fact, just to make sure you have learned something by the episode’s end. There is heart and care to historic topics. It is not for the biggest history buffs, as it leaves a lot on table to be discussed.

It is a step in a new direction for HISTORY. Sure, it is not the first talk show show on cable, but it is this channel’s first attempt at a new breed of shows for them. After years of being mocked for Swamp People, Ancient Aliens, Cajun Pawn Stars, Ax Men — shows that where the reality show takes over actual shows about history — HISTORY is making an attempt to go back to its historical roots of showing, well, history.

Follow a new take on the talk show with Night Class and HISTORY is really treading new waters.

Night Class is a scripted comedy series — I know!! — that explores history’s unexplored moments and people. The show features segments like “Great Minds…” and “The Crossroads in History”. Those moments include: Adolf Hitler’s art school interview and Columbus’ landing in the New World. In the show’s first episode — “Great Minds with Dan Harmon” — a confused Ludwig Beethoven (played by Jack Black) has a conversation with Mr. Harmon.

The show takes some double takes — mostly, “This is on HISTORY!?” To my surprise, the show is funny and fresh. Night Class feels like a Funny or Die skit, which, sometimes, are a little juvenile-ish. Even on Comedy Central, shows like Drunk History and Another Period use history for the base of telling funny stories. I am a tad weary for Night Class, solely because those Comedy Central shows grew tiresome. Watching cameos of famous people dressed up as historical figures become mundane to watch.

For HISTORY, their gamble is noted. They want a breath of fresh air in its programming and still need history as the driving point for its shows. In the case of Ferguson’s show, he has a loyal following. Bringing him on for a new spin on the talk show was a brilliant choice. For Night Class, we shall see if the history and comedy mix will sustain a high, interesting level.

Both air on Thursday nights on HISTORY.

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