Nazis vs. Monkeys: Tatara Talks About Television (Again)
Peter Tatara - February 7, 2007
Dear fans of Battlestar Galactica and House,
Please stop writing me, telling me I'm an ass, an idiot, and unfunny. I fully acknowledge and admit to being guilty of all three. Since originally writing that I wasn't a fan of Galactic and House, due to one's over-reliance on faux cinema verite camera work to create suspense and the other's lack of British accents, you'll all been deluging my inbox with literally tens of letters.
I get it. You're upset. But I stand by my words. I feel Galactica depends on tight focus, shaking cameras, and grainy film stock to invention the show's tension, and I every time Dr. House talks, I expect a British accent. None the less, I'm writing this to make peace with you. For, despite my problems with the two shows, I've learned to like them. Both.
My opinion of Galactica jumped immediately once it moved to Sundays, where its manufactured depression is exactly the appetizer I need to get me in the mood for Monday morning, and Dr. House, regardless of words or accent, speaks the intentional language of delicious, wry smart ass.
Additionally, despite finding 30 Rock utterly unwatchable at the start, I've started to warm up to it as the show's begun to come into its own. (I've also learned it's shot a few blocks away from my apartment.)
All this, though, is a warm up for a new gripe. It was last Saturday night. I decided to relax with some TV. There wasn't much on, so I flipped over to the History Channel. I expected to see a documentary about secret Wehrmacht submarines or moon rockets. No. What's on the History Channel? Planet of the Apes.
Planet of the Apes. Now, I was a history minor in college. I don't proclaim to be a master of the subject, can't say who was involved in Teapot Dome, and haven't a clue who was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court during the Coolidge administration; however, I can say with fair certainty that an epoch of domination by super intelligent monkeys was never, ever discussed in any of my courses.
The History Channel aired a documentary about evolution following the movie to try to bring the thing into a historical context -- I guess -- but that's pretty weak. I'm expecting, now, to see The Mummy on next weekend, followed by an airing of This Old Pyramid. Come on, History Channel, know your audience. We aren't tuning in to see movies containing a kernel of dubious history. No, we're tuning in to see Hitler documentaries containing a kernel of dubious history. I miss the nights of Secret Weapons of the Axis, The Samurai and the Swastika, and -- my personal favorite -- Killing Hitler. (If you've never seen Killing Hitler before, it's really good.)
I feel the need to explain myself here, as I above displayed what could be constructed as a borderline creepy Nazi fetish. It's nothing of the sort. Instead, my Uncle Bernie fought Hitler. He served as a First Sergeant in the US Army's Eighth Armored Division, and I have so many childhood memories of his stories of the war -- a mixture of truth and fiction that drew me breathlessly to him. He was a super hero to me. In my arch-idiocy, however, after reaching adolescence, I stopped listening to him, and it was only during my college days that I wanted to speak to him again about the cold dirt of Europe and feeling of an M1 Garand beneath his blistered hands. But this never came to be.
Uncle Bernie passed away on November 22, 2001.
And when I think about this even now, I well up, not with sadness but with rage, anger for my own complacency and failing. Watching the History Channel, though, takes me back to the time I was a kid listening to stories in Uncle Bernie's lap.
So, please, History Channel, go back to your tried and true formula of Nazi documentaries. And if you want to show movies, throw on U-571. You haven't aired that yet this month.