Like a Sound Machine, but Really Really Interesting
This is a great show. It is amazing what fascinating little nuggets of history they dig up. Some of the stories are so compelling I am continually amazed that they aren’t more well known. Some of them would make great films. I will very often research the stories on my own to get more information. Usually, the portrayals are fairly accurate, although they do emphasize certain aspects and play down (or ignore) others for dramatic purposes.
I usually DVR the show and watch it in bed, preparing to go to sleep. As fascinating as it is, conversely, it has a somnolent affect on me, and I usually have to re watch 2 or even 3 times to get through all of the stories. I think it is partly due to the reliable and unchanging rhythm of the show. They start out each entry the same way: First, they introduce the city the museum is in, some of the other museum holdings, then describing the physicality of the artifact in question. Then they tell the story that the artifact represents (sometimes the link is pretty tenuous) with silent actors pantomiming the narration.
The narration itself has its own certain conceits: then never use one word when three will do, and adjectives abound. They never use a simple word, when a fancy one exists. (It’s never a book, It’s an “ancient tome” . People don’t die, they “succumb to injuries”). Another little conceit is the rhetorical question and the use of puns. For example, In the story of the Double Eagle balloon crossing of the Atlantic: “Will their “lofty” ambitions be fulfilled? Will the balloon rise to the occasion? Will a slave that worked as a seamstress trying to get confederate plans to the Union be able to “thread the needle” and sneak past guards? How did a brassiere “boost” a young mother’s bank account?” I love it. It’s amusing.
Don Wildman, the host, is superb. He has a great tone, and conveys a sense of urgency, when called for, without getting all worked up. And he always has this kind of amused inflection. Plus he is very easy on the eyes.
Another thing that is part of the predictable comfortable rhythm is timing and flow. When they finish one story, they immediately start the next one, saving the commercial break until a crucial cliffhanger. After the commercial break, they briefly recap the story and proceed. This is good for fast forwarding through the commercials, or if you doze off during the story, you can get up to speed without having to rewind. I swear, it’s the same pattern over and over. It’s like waves crashing on a beach. Two other shows that are just as good are Mysteries of the Monument and Mysteries of the Castle**9 stars out of 10**
December 16, 2016