This week the History Channel took a major step in the right direction, backwards. The channel that in recent years has delved into reality shows like American Pickers, Swamp People, and Ice Road Truckers took back its rightful place as TV’s king of history. The much-awaited Hatfields and McCoys miniseries debuted this week and attracted almost 14 million viewers on Monday night, beating even America’s Got Talent.
The linked article above was written by Bill Carter of the New York Times and is worth a read for the amount of information it packs into only a few paragraphs. The most interesting tidbit might be this:
“By comparison, the finale this month of NBC’s singing competition hit, “The Voice,” attracted 10.5 million viewers. Most hit shows on cable are in the range of two million to four million viewers, though “The Walking Dead” on AMC reached what seemed then to be an impressive nine million for its finale in March.”
From the standpoint of this TV viewer and disillusioned History Channel fan, the success of Hatfields and McCoys goes deeper than the numbers. It harkens back to the programming the of the History Channel that used to be, the historic History Channel if you will (sorry, I couldn’t resist). In the place of one night events like the Sherman’s March documentary that’s rarely syndicated there are endless amounts of hillbillies on the History Channel. I’m a Pawn Stars guy, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit disappointed when I heard the show easily brought in 5 million viewers when the new season began. Not because I don’t love that doofus Chumlee, but because I didn’t want History Channel executives to keep burying my beloved documentaries about Ancient Rome in favor of MonsterQuest, which is a cool idea but they literally never find a monster.
Hatfields and McCoys seems to be a kind of middle ground between the America: The Story of Us History Channel and the Let’s-show-these-toothless-dudes-walk-around-a-trailer-park-for-an-hour History Channel. It’s the story of perhaps the most famous American feuding families who, coincidentally, are total hicks. Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton have lent some serious star power to the miniseries and while it may not be the story of how Henry VIII killed his wife, it’s something the channel has really needed.