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STUDIO: A&E Home Video
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 300 minutes
• Bonus Episode: “The Monuments”
A sensationalist series that examines the shadier side of various American institutions, from the FBI to Playboy.
Produced by the folks at the History Channel, narrated by Jonathan Adams, featuring historians Hugh Hefner and Kendra Wilkinson.
Fans of Dan Brown and National Treasure, rejoice! This History Channel infotainment series loosely examines several American institutions, presents a handful of facts about each, and then asks “…but what if?” It’s fun “pop history” and at least it has viewers thinking about their nation’s history.
Imagine there is a book. And inside that book is America’s most protected secrets. Only the people in the highest ranks of government have seen this book. And Nicolas Cage. This hypothetical book is the frame for the History Channel’s America’s Book of Secrets, an infotainment show that profiles shady American stuff in each episode.
People have been eating this type of stuff up since Dan Brown and Tom Hanks’ forehead brought semiotics and the free masons to masses with The DaVinci Code.Even if some of it is pure bullshit speculation, it’s still really fun and gets people thinking about history (always a good thing). ABSpresents 11 episodes in this affordable 3-disc package. Some episodes cover well-worn territory (Area 51) but there are some odd enough subject matters in here (the dark secrets of the Playboy Mansion) to hold our interest. Here we go:
• THE WHITE HOUSE: There’s really nothing juicy here. They cover the history of the building, the protocols, and dull stuff like the kitchen. The security systems are pretty neat though. They obviously can’t go into too much detail there, but did you know there are missile launchers on the roof? That’s pretty sick.
• FREEMASONS: The history of this elite brotherhood is finally exposed for the satanic cult it is. Not really, but they do dip into some of the alleged satanic mason stuff. Like how Washington, DC was purposefully mapped out to resemble a pentagram. They talk about mason symbols, famous members, and rituals. Probably the craziest shit is the Denver International Airport. Have you ever seen that goddamn place? It was built by masons (there’s a plaque and everything) and it has some of the most un-airport decor on earth. There’s a horse statue with glowing red eyes near the entrance. There’s a mural depicting a soldier in a gas mask tromping through fire, stabbing a dove with a scimitar. In short, this is probably the best episode.
• FORT KNOX: Did you know that there’s absolutely no gold in Fort Knox? Well, maybe. That’s one of the many conspiracy theories about America’s armored piggy bank. They talk to some ex-employees who discuss the crazy security measures and whatnot. It’s weird that we have a giant storehouse of gold, isn’t it?
• AREA 51: This is that place where they stored the Roswell wreckage. Maybe. They definitely mess around with lots of experimental flight technology – it’s where stealth was invented! Remember that movie Stealth? When that experimental plane downloads all of the songs from the Internet. That movie was nuts. Anyways, they don’t spend the whole episode whacking off about aliens, which is nice.
•THE PLAYBOY MANSION: This is an odd choice for the series, but an entertaining one. The narrator repeatedly calls it “America’s Most Private Residence”, which I don’t think is true. I’ve seen plenty of pictures of the Playboy Mansion, but have you ever seen photos of, say, Burt Reynolds’ house? Nope. The episode covers some of the mansion’s secret passageways and legends, but easily the most shocking reveal is that it’s not as wild as people think it is. It’s actually a cozy, peaceful place. Also, Bill Cosby partied there, which blew my mind.
• PRESIDENTIAL TRANSPORTS: The most dull episode. They talk about Air Force One, Marine One, and Obama’s limo. Surprise, they’re bulletproof! I was hoping they’d reveal he has a bulletproof Segway he scoots around the White House in. Or some huge guy like Hodor who carries him around.
• THE FBI: The is pretty standard hush-hush FBI stuff. They go into training, special ops, ghost agents, and how technology has changed the game over the years. Or has it?
•WEST POINT: Turns out it’s not so much of a party school. They talk about the centuries-old history of the school, the almighty Honor Code (“he who smelt it, dealt it”), and infamous alumni. They have a great job placement program.
•BLACK OPS: This one is pretty insightful. It covers how cadets become special forces, who runs the show, and what makes a mission Black Ops worthy. Their hand-to-hand training is way more advanced than waxing cars and painting fences.
• THE PENTAGON: The episode looks at the history of America’s military headquarters and why it has such a weird shape. They run a tight ship over there and this episode doesn’t really get much juicier than that.
• THE MONUMENTS: This is the “bonus feature” on the last disc. It’s just another episode that covers the history of nine monuments. The narrator really hypes this one up, spitting promises about “a hidden world of secrecy” and whatnot. There’s really no big surprises here. Bonus, my ass.
Nowadays History’s bread and butter seems to be sensationalized shows like this (and reality shows about truckers). Shows that promise to reveal secrets but just end on giant question marks. But like I said, at least they get people thinking about history and that’s better than thinking about reality show garbage.
There are no bonus features besides the Monuments episode. Each episode clocks in around 47 minutes. They’re perfect for Sunday afternoons when you’re trying to decide what else to watch.
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars