History Detectives

 
(i)

 

Lively series reveals history's everyday secrets.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series shows how history can be both fun and interesting, and highlights the different ways questions about historical events can be scientifically answered.

Positive role models

Investigators are dedicated and passionate about history. All are knowledgeable in their field.

Violence

Weapons, war, and crimes are discussed in historical terms.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

Commercial items are discussed in historical terms (ex. Mickey Mouse; Coca-Cola).

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs may be discussed in historical context.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this educational series follows experts who try to uncover long-hidden mysteries submitted by viewers. The topics are wide-ranging (from the Civil War to Mickey Mouse to Charles Lindbergh), and most of the investigations center on a particular object. Weapons are presented in a historical context -- for example, one investigation centers on a gun that may have been owned by an infamous Nazi. Drugs, alcohol, and tobacco are also occasionally presented in historical context (examples: a Whiskey Rebellion flask and a Chinese opium scale). The show's investigators demonstrate that history is fascinating, fun, and occasionally frustrating (when they run into dead ends), and they keep viewers in the loop as they combine forensics, appraisals, ballistics, and other techniques to solve their cases. The show moves at a lively pace (three mysteries are investigated in each hour-long episode), but most cases present a good bit of historical detail, so younger kids who aren't into history may lose interest.

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What's the story?

From a crystal cross uncovered at an archaeological site to what may be the first tape player designed for a car, on HISTORY DETECTIVES, experts Wes Cowan, Elyse Luray, Gwen Wright, and Tukufu Zuberi investigate fascinating historical mysteries. Investigations cover a wide range of topics -- from World War II and Cesar Chavez to Coca-Cola and Lou Gehrig -- but the focus is on American history. Each episode covers three mysteries, 75 percent of which are submitted by viewers.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Obviously, this educational show aims to get everyday folk interested in -- and excited about -- the history that surrounds them. As each new investigation is assigned, the team peels away the layers behind the subject at hand, and viewers are kept in the loop on all investigative decisions.

Yes, the mysteries are investigated in-depth, so younger kids may lose interest, but the scholarly hosts are upbeat and passionate about their work, and the show moves at a lively pace compared to other history programs. Ultimately, History Detectives puts to rest the idea that history is boring, dry, and static. Not convinced? Tune in and watch as the four intrepid investigators travel the country, interview interesting people, and dig around in some of the strangest places to reveal the truth. If you and your kids like history and solving mysteries, you can't go wrong with this show.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the investigators solved the mystery and can use the program as a jumping-off point for further research. How did the investigators use a combination of tools and techniques to get to the bottom of things? How would you go about answering a historical question? Families can also research their own history to learn more about their ancestors. Are there any mysterious items in your family that you could submit to the program for possible investigation?

TV details

Cast:C. Wesley Cowan, Elyse Luray-Marx, Gwen Wright
Network:PBS
Genre:Educational
Topics:History
TV rating:TV-G
Available on:Streaming

This review of History Detectives was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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