Monday, June 11, 2007

History Detectives : I Just Like Watching the Detectives

I love Mondays in the summer. I mean, yes, there's the oppressive heat, and I have to drag myself back to work again after the weekend, but there's one thing that makes it all worth it. It's my favorite summer show, and I've been looking forward to it since its fourth season ended last September. It's History Detectives, on PBS, and I'm counting down the days until it returns on June 25.

The premise is a bit like Antiques Roadshow, but rather than asking the detectives how much their family heirloom or gewgaw from a thrift store is worth, people ask if the story behind the object, or the object itself, or just the story that's been passed down in the family is real. That's when the detectives spring into action, checking archives, interviewing experts, and scrolling through miles of microfilm to tell the story. And it's always an interesting one. From the Black Star Line to Lou Gehrig to Civil War prison camps, you get an in-depth look at something you might not have known much – or anything – about before.

And then there are the History Detectives themselves: Elyse Luray, Tukufu Zuberi, Gwen Wright, and Wes Cowan. They're knowledgeable, friendly, love what they do, and they're not afraid to have fun – none more than my favorite, the avuncular auctioneer, Wes. When Wes checked into the provenance of a watch inscribed to Doc Holliday from Wyatt Earp, it was like all of Wes' childhood dreams about cowboys had come true. Wes palled around with the reenactors at the O.K. Corral, pounded sarsaparilla at a saloon in Tombstone, and rode a horse through the streets of New York City (wishing, as he did, that there was "such a thing as a flyin' machine" to get him back to Arizona). And while he couldn't prove that the watch is real, he clearly had the time of his life.

That's why I love this show. I come for the little-known facts, but I stay for the fun. And Wes. He's just so cool!