Friday, January 14, 2011

Decoded Disappoints

I've dipped in several times now to see what Brad Meltzer's Decoded was all about. I have to say that I've been underwhelmed. Despite those august countenances lined up on the screen like the Super Friends of history, I find the whole show biased toward History Channel sensationalism. Far too many of the (few) episodes have been about Masonic / Illuminati conspiracies, which have about as much veracity as a long-winded narrative from Pinocchio.

I did, however, enjoy their look into D. B. Cooper, the famed parachuting money-snatcher. However, I doubt they brought much original information to light. I've not studied the case extensively, but I suspect much of what they presented as evidence they uncovered for themselves has actually been written about before. The team's one original contribution to the investigation consisted of lifting up an attic floor board. Ground-breaking. But the case for the man upon whom they (and doubtlessly other investigators) are pinning the crime is plausible.

I officially checked out during their End-of-Days, Apocalypse 2012 episode. It was puerile, rehashed, and sensational. I can tell you the very moment I turned the channel... After much discussion about Hopi prophecies involving some blue star raining down to destroy the world, the team talks to an astronomer who confirms that an unusual blue star was recently discovered. 

However, it is only unusual because of how old it is. Not for being a blue star, which the astronomer flat-out states are common. That doesn't stop Melzer from stating in his frequent asides that now we know these blue stars exist.

Well, yeah.

The astronomer just said they were common. Furthermore, our learned astronomer adds that this particular blue star was flung free of the galaxy, likely when it encountered some singularity within. It is now traveling outward from the galaxy.

The whole episode continued on this path: rehashing staid facts to add dramatic flourish. It didn't help that one could easily make a strong case for the emergence of a new drinking game where everybody has to toss one back whenever the woman gasps, oh-my-Gods, or otherwise "clutches the pearls".

In all, it's a show with a fascinating premise that fell flat on its lazy face. Little original research goes into their investigations; rather, they talk to individuals who have researched it all before and often written about it. In that sense, they succeed. They bring obscure knowledge to light.

A good example is that some believe the statue of liberty represents Lucifer--but not the Judeo-Christian Satan. She represents, they say, the goddess Venus and the "star", which also goes by the name Lucifer (Latin for "Light Bringer" or "Illuminator" for those who want to make an Illuminati connection). That misnomer is worthy of its own post. Instead, here's a link to a Wikipedia article about Lucifer.  However, you have to be pretty conspiracy-minded to see it that way. It makes more sense that she is who she is: Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom.

Perhaps I shouldn't judge too harsly. Many good shows get off to rocky starts, but if they don't find their way soon.... Oh, who am I kidding? This is the History Channel, or as I'm calling it "The Reading Man's Spike".


Autumnforest said...

I did finally sit through an episode. It's amazing that I manage to sit through any shows nowadays, but I was distracted by a subject I was intrigued by-whether John Wilkes Boothe had survived. They made a great case for it but then they hit a road block, sat down and chewed over what they had learned and went no further. I was rather disappointed that they even led us down a path that in editing they knew they couldn't pursue. I felt sort of like I got a lot of pleasant foreplay but no climax. I'm kind of unfulfilled about that.

RKlinger85 said...

Thank you for putting into words exactly what's been bothering me about this show. I really like the History Channel in general, but nothing bugs me more than when I'm scanning through the guide and it's all "apocalypse"/"2012" programming all day long, capped off by a new "Apocalypse 2012" episode of Decoded. Give me a break. How ridiculously sensational can an episode be? My husband and I are history geeks, but I really appreciate it when a show does the footwork of presenting factual information that doesn't lead to a conclusion meant to scare the crap out of viewers.
I was also really let down by their John Wilkes Boothe episode. They've basically made a reality show where everything and anything is plausible at the end of the episode. It's feasible that he died in the barn, but unlikely. It's possible Boothe went to India, but it's also possible that he went and lived in the back woods of Tennessee under an assumed name. It's also plausible that his mummy toured with a freak show. Really? By their logic, it's possible that John Wilkes Boothe married a wizard who cast an anti-aging spell on him, and he's my next door neighbor. Sigh.
The two episodes I really really liked though, were the D.B. Cooper episode and the Culper ring. If they outlined every one of their future episodes in the same way, they'd be golden.

Cullan Hudson said...

They will need to seriously up their game for me to keep watching them. I liked the D. B. Cooper one and the one about Bohemian Grove, but I missed the Booth episode. I should have caught that, especially since their is another Booth legend that has him dying in Enid Oklahoma in 1903. LOL! It's actually a sorta famous scenario, so I'm surprised they didn't broach that angle.