Case Number 25113: Small Claims Court

HISTORY DETECTIVES: SEASON 10

PBS // 2012 // 486 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dawn Hunt // January 12th, 2013

The Charge

"MYSTERY SOLVED. No secret is safe from the HISTORY DETECTIVES!"

Opening Statement

In order to enjoy History Detectives: Season 10, you have to be a history buff. What oftentimes boils down to a simple "yes" or "no" answer about an object can take upwards of 15 to 20 minutes to get to, but the wait is worth it as the clients almost always have an emotional reaction demonstrating a true connection to the item at hand.

Facts of the Case

History Detectives: Season 10 consists of twenty-four investigations broken up between nine episodes and three discs. The episodes follow the same formula: Someone has an item they believe is historically significant in some way. The nearly hour-long runtime is filled with three or four different investigations. The "History Detectives" who narrate, investigate, and meet with the case's person of interest are one of five people. First is Elyse Luray (Collection Intervention), auctioneer and appraiser, next is Dr. Eduardo Pagan (The American Experience), professor of history and American studies. Third comes Tukufu Zuberi (500 Years Later), professor and chair of sociology, followed by Wesley Cowan (You Are Here), another independent auctioneer and appraiser and rounding out the group is Gwendolyn Wright (Modern Tide: Midcentury Architecture on Long Island), historian and professor of architecture.

The Evidence

The human element is the heart of the success of History Detectives. As you watch you quickly realize this show doesn't have to exist in the format it does. There are so many internet searches, phone calls, faxes, and other forms of communication which have to happen in order to get to the root of the mystery at hand -- and (almost) none of them are shown. Instead of the minutia of tracking down the backstory what we get are interviews and narrations, people telling their stories. That's where the connections are formed. What could so easily be a detached recounting of the facts associated with an object instead becomes an oral history, people whose very lives are connected to the object relaying its significance. Those stories are the reason to watch History Detectives: Season 10.

If you're a fan of shows like Antiques Roadshow, History Detectives: Season 10 is a no-brainer. Both shows share that same sense of curiosity, of wanting to delve into the provenance of an item. The questions the client wants answers to on History Detectives oftentimes lead to surprising avenues and it's a fun journey to join. I'm not sure how they decide who gets to be the lead on an investigation but it works, whatever the method. Each investigator displays a sense of joy in their work, in being able to help discover the truth. Some may connect more readily to the objects themselves but all of them come across as committed to seeing answers unearthed.

Here's a list of the items and their corresponding episodes which comprise History Detectives: Season 10:

* Episode One: A Frank Zappa collage, a Beatles autograph, and a Bob Dylan guitar
* Episode Two: A KKK record, a pair of Civil War derringers, and a Motown amp
* Episode Three: A piece of an airplane crash, a Bettie Page slide, a piece of the Hollywood sign and a rogue book
* Episode Four: A pair of WWII patches, an oath signed by Abraham Lincoln, a piece of the Marshall House flag and a Cheyenne warrior's jewelry
* Episode Five: A luxury liner picture frame, Woolworth signs, and Nazi spy toys
* Episode Six: Bootlegger's notebook, an Ince ledger, and a Vietnam War diary
* Episode Seven: Continental Club card, transistor radio, a Valley Forge map and Our Colored Heroes poster
* Episode Eight: Kit Carson book, Yakima Canutt saddle, Tumbling Tumbleweeds album, and a Modoc basket
* Episode Nine: A slavery bill of sale, a powder horn, sheet music, and a 1775 almanac

The video is a pretty standard palette for a currently broadcasting show, that sort of "straight out of the camera" look that's popular on many educational shows, no messing with balancing the colors at all. With so many historical objects being shown, pictures especially, it would be too difficult to try and find a color balance which would benefit everything equally. It's far better to allow each to have its own natural look. The audio track fares well, the simple Dolby stereo benefiting from a narration track which sits on top of the main track instead of being integrated into it.

There are no special features on this set.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

There are a couple of "encore presentations," which is a nice way of saying repeats from previous seasons. So if you're a buff don't be surprised to find some investigations you've seen before filling up some of the runtime here.

Closing Statement

History and antiquity buffs alike will find themselves drawn to History Detectives: Season 10. While I definitely recommend the series, it isn't necessary to purchase as the episodes are currently streaming for free on the PBS website. However, a purchase will help benefit public television, so if you're leaning toward one anyway, allow that to sway you.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2013 Dawn Hunt; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile
Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)

Running Time: 486 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0375341/combined

* Official Site
http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives