on American Heroes Channel
Pros: Choice of topics; straight-forward presentation
Cons: Seems dry when compared to most similar programs
Premiering on British television in 2013 and picked up for broadcast on the (ahem) American Heroes Channel in the years since, documentary series Forbidden History follows the adventures and investigations of journalist Jamie Theakston as he tries to unravel various stories and facts that have been omitted from the history books. The typical, hour-long episode of Forbidden History features the usual assortment of reenactments, interviews, historical accounts, artistic renderings and photographs to present a comprehensive portrait of the topics being examined. Once a basic framework has been established, the program shifts to cover Theakston as he travels to various locations in search of clues and hard evidence. A second season of the program on AHC channel began in late May with an episode dealing with the Oracles of the Dead which existed in the ancient Greek and Roman empires. After Theakston travels to the Baia Archaeological Park and Grotto of the Sibyl near Naples, Italy and the more well-known Oracle of Delphi, the show attempts to discern whether or not these mythical sites offered an honest enlightening experience or were more a smoke and mirrors display designed to relieve attendees of their money.
The synopsis of this program should sound very familiar to viewers of America Unearthed or even Destination Unknown, but Forbidden History seems somewhat more generalized, covering more far-reaching topics and is actually formatted more like a standard documentary rather than a stylized – and more obviously entertainment-oriented – reality show. Additionally, while America Unearthed host Scott Wolter and Destination Unknown’s Josh Gates are presented as dashing, semi-heroic figures that are clearly the focal points of their respective shows, Theakston seems somewhat more timid and doesn’t quite come across as the main character of Forbidden History. It’s true that the investigations covered in the show do revolve around him, but Theakston actually falls by the wayside when it comes time for the program to draw conclusions on its topics. This approach ultimately ensures that Forbidden History seems level-headed and fairly credible, at least partially because it doesn’t linger on the same sorts of obvious conspiracy theories that Wolter seems to get off on.
The meat and potatoes format of Forbidden History does have a bit of a downside however: this show seems quite dry compared to other vaguely similar programs, a of sorts compared to other programs’ would-be . Theakston doesn’t remotely have the charisma of, say, a Josh Gates, and his “just the facts, ma’am” attitude means that it’s really no wonder that the show doesn’t entirely focus just on his rather humorless exploits. I’ve also got to say that the assemblage of interview subjects featured in this program is somewhat sketchy: regardless of the subject of any individual episode, the same crew of folks (including conspiracy nut and History Channel regular Alan Butler) throw in their two cents, giving the program a some alarming similarities to the increasingly suspect docu-fiction that is Ancient Aliens. I should point out that to its credit, Forbidden History makes every attempt to distinguish between actual, provable fact and outright speculation, thus it seems substantially more honest in its conclusions than proposed by the Ancient Aliens crew.
Generally speaking, Forbidden History is put together nicely, with camerawork that places a viewer in the midst of the action and editing that keeps things moving. Subtle music cues are applied to create mood when appropriate, and the third-party narration has a tendency to offer a viewer questions and cues that promote more serious thought about the topics. Easily the best thing about this program is the range of genuinely fascinating subjects that have been covered. Episodes of this program have dealt with Nikola Tesla, the Nazi UFO project, lost treasures of Petra, Templar conspiracies, the bloodline of Christ and the mystery of the Holy Grail, the existence of giants, and even the Vatican’s cover-up of the Fatima prophecies – Forbidden History certainly covers the bases and offers up a bit of everything. Considering that many similar programs stick to a fairly predictable batch of possible topics, the undeniably eclectic scope of this show is refreshing.
Amazing how this show manages to tie in with various others on History Channel and beyond…
To be completely honest, Forbidden History isn’t the greatest thing on television these days, but it’s not the worst that’s out there either. This program offers a viewer exactly what would be expected from a documentary series and nothing more, but it covers some intriguing subjects and keeps things focused on actual facts. That alone is noteworthy in an era when speculative programming and outright fabrications run rampant across the television dial. Those interested in esoteric information will probably find this show worthwhile, but those used to more flashy productions may find it dull. I’d give it a moderate recommendation.
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