Just a quick note…

…as I’m currently at work, but the good citizens at Reddit brought this article to my attention:

…and more accurately, the actual blog post in question (Bad Archaeology)

I just wanted to get my two cents out into the interwebs in case there was any doubt/confusion/shenaniganry, etc.

I am indeed an archaeologist and I do in fact work for the company that makes Ancient Aliens. I worked on season 2 and a bit of season 3. (For the curious: s2ep4 and s2 ep8. Episode 8 had the highest ratings of the season [haaay]). This job will always mean something to me because it quite literally rescued me from financial (and general life) ruin after two long periods of unemployment. The people here are lovely and while the actual process of making the show is hilarious, maddening, stressful and occasionally downright ridiculous, it’s a good job and it could be a whole lot worse. Is it a proper job in academia? Lord no. I never really fit in there anyway and even though I’d like to get a Ph.D. someday, I don’t think my place will even be fully in the academic community. I’m not exactly a paper-writing person but I do love conventions and seeing what everyone has been up to over the past year and what exciting new discoveries people are making. (Bonus: free snacks!) I love learning and being around people who are just as excited about 1,000+ yr old stuff as I am. I love being out in the field and getting down and dirty in a trench somewhere, even if it makes my tendonitis go ballistic. There is nothing more exciting than troweling on your merry way and then finding something that’s not a rock.

I’ve been lamenting the state of historically-themed television for many years now and have definitely yelled at many a History program before angrily changing the channel but the unfortunate reality is that, well, people want sensationalism and escapism even if it’s in the form of someone else’s reality. The world is a pretty tough place right now and the last thing most people want when they turn on the TV is something that requires them to pay attention and devote more of their already taxed and frazzled mind, so they turn to the more mindless programs to attempt to take their mind off of the usual woes of the modern human. That’s why reality programming is so popular. It allows people to live someone else’s reality and forget about their own for 30 minutes or an hour. Obviously, the farther removed it is from their life experience the better (Swamps! Celebrities doing things! People living in remote/ridiculous places! Cakes!) so those shows get the viewers and the networks choose and create shows accordingly. Unfortunately, this means those of us who actually like to learn things get the short end of the viewership straw. If I want to turn on the TV and learn about something other than creating a sugar sculpture in an hour I’m SOL until the next showing of ‘Wonders of the Universe’ (Hands down the best show on TV right now. There is no debate.) History International is usually pretty good about having non-alien shows, but if you’re like me and no longer get any of the fancy extra HD channels it’s back to square one. I’d love for something like Time Team America to actually take hold in the US and get people as excited here as they are in the UK about history. Granted, it’s a bit easier to get excited if there are Roman ruins in your back garden, but we’ll work with what we’ve got. We’ve got about 300 years of history in our little baby of a country and most of it’s on the East Coast. What we also have is a whole population of people who want to learn about everyone else’s history and those people watch TV! So until we can elbow our way back into network priorities, I guess we’ll just keep pirating BBC documentaries and scribbling down ideas for what will hopefully be amazing shows someday. I’ll keep helping make silly shows for History and maybe someday I can help make a difference.

TL;DR I don’t even know what this post has turned into, but yeah. There you have it. I’ve got to get back to work 😛

2 thoughts on “Just a quick note…

  1. Working for a television company must be an absolute headache!
    I’ve done work for two programmes, as a ‘performer’/’local expert’. TV Production companies are very demanding and expect the archaeologist to be constantly at their beck and call. It’s their job, they work to ridiculously short deadlines with too few resources, but they don’t seem to recognise that people who work in the ‘real world’ have their own jobs to do. I ended up getting really quite cross with one of the teams I worked with (although the programme came out well in the end).
    What depresses me about programmes such as Ancient Aliens is that a little bit of basic fact checking (even using Wikipedia!) would quickly show the researchers that they have a non-starter. Yet they run with the programme anyway, because they know it will be popular. This was the point of my post: television has enormous authority in modern society but TV executives seem not to care that this authority must bring responsibility to be honest in its wake. Giving a dissenting voice thirty seconds isn’t honest!

    • Oi! I’m one of those researchers! 😛

      But in all honesty, we do research. We research our collective asses off to try and get at least *some* proper facts into the show so it’s not just craziness and UFOs. We also try to have lots of different voices on the show but inevitably schedules don’t work out or people just refuse to take part in the show so we work with what/who we can. There’s also the matter of the show changing quite a bit throughout the course of production which tends to result in stories getting changed around and having to retool the entire thing to fit the wishes of the network and/or to make it a better and more succinct hour of television.

      We the researchers are well aware of just how silly every single episode is and how there really is nothing to go on except open-ended questions and spooky effects, but it’s our job to make it work (to quote the great Tim Gunn). I really wish there was a way to explain the frustration of having to provide a visual element for a ‘sacred text’ from a culture that didn’t necessarily do the whole writing thing and that probably didn’t even exist in the first place! It’s a headache for sure. Unfortunately, that’s what we get paid to do and in the end the network has the final say so we do what we have to do to get it done. We’re actually a rather intelligent bunch of people who just happen to be working on a crazy show. /talesfromthetrenches

      Sorry about your less-than-stellar experiences with production people :\ Everyone in this industry is a walking ball of stress and that tends to negatively influence things…often. Things in the production office aren’t much better but I’m learning that’s just the way these things go. During the worst times I do find myself longing for the safe bubble of academia or to be out surveying or digging somewhere…but then I remember I still don’t have a Ph.D. and this is pretty steady work with some good people in an uncertain economy so I stick it out.

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