The Bottom Line
- Promotes interest in history
- Highlights lesser known aspects of history
- Presents human side of history
- Segments can gloss over some material
- History Detectives Launches 6th Season
- Entertaining Look at History
- Stories Make Us Think About History
Guide Review - The History Detectives on PBS
For those of us unafraid to be known as history geeks, one of the most entertaining shows on television is the History Detectives on PBS.
Each episode of the program contains three cases, which usually originate from members of the public who own a family heirloom they suspect could have some historical significance. One of the program’s researchers meets with the owner and then hits the road, or the library, to determine the real story behind the item.
The viewer always learns something about history they never realized before. And the research trail generally comes together into a reasonably compelling story.
The New Season
Episodes of the sixth season feature a number of segments focusing on the 1800s.
One case in the June 30, 2008 season premiere involves a mangled coin which was, according to a family legend, shot in mid-air by Annie Oakley. Series regular Elyse Luray, an auctioneer and appraiser, picks up the coin from its owner and heads to Wyoming. Surprisingly, the coin gives up a pretty good story.
Abraham Lincoln figures in a case from a later episode. A collector has discovered a Lincoln autograph on a book of sheet music. The story attached to the book, complete with a notary's seal, is that Mary Lincoln had given it to the family’s coachman.
Series host Wes Cowan investigates the Lincoln autograph, and his sleuthing leads him to a story more entertaining than anything the viewer might expect at the outset.
With three cases investigated in each hour-long show, it's true that some material must be glossed over, and some of the research may appear to be "telescoped" into tidy packages. Well, that's television.
Overall, it's hard to criticize a show that consistently makes historical research a lively and compelling adventure. For some of us, the History Detectives have the coolest jobs on TV.