America's Got Cable: History vs. Investigation Discovery

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Welcome to another brutal week of America's Got Cable: The Search for the Nation's Finest Basic Cable Channel!

OLD BUSINESS: The people—SOME of them, anyway—have spoken, and they do NOT like Nancy Grace. Congratulations go to...


Good call, you guys. While some of us respect HLN for its occasional usefulness, I think we all agree that CNBC has tons more to offer. Both sides had some great explanations for their votes; here are some that were clearly written by people who are winning at life:

NateDogTheGreat: "HLN's interpretation of what important news is falls short of anything relevant and, instead, consists of mainly celebrity-centric coverage and drama-bloated court cases that are only appealing because of their soap operaness. (They make up news, can't I make up words?)"

aondieki: "I choose HLN because, unintentional as it may be, its comedy value is much MUCH higher than CNBC. Also, Jane Velez-Mitchell's mullet FTW!"

whatupwiththat: "CNBC. Just because when I was channel surfing, I landed on Nancy Grace, and my TV exploded. You owe me $250, Nancy Grace."

NEW BUSINESS: This week's battle will be a fact-based NIGHTMARE.


Background: Back in the olden days of 1995, a little network called The History Channel burst onto the scene like an antique cannonball fired from an old-timey cannon. Like many cable channels, History Channel began with a central specialty—in this case, historical documentaries and the kind of educational entertainment traditionally found on PBS. An initially stodgy brand, The History Channel came to attract a wide audience with its Nazis-and-Nostradamus-heavy lineup, and after years of incorporating more and more tangentially (but highly-) rated reality shows, a 2008 rebranding to just "History" cemented the channel's place as one of the most accessible and entertaining networks on cable.

Original Programming: The majority of History's programming consists of its bread-and-butter documentary specials. Although its original lineup included more varied subject matter (like, for example, international history or events that occurred more than 100 years ago), these days we're more likely to find specials about 2012, the occult, and, of course, Nazis. However, History has become a heavy hitter during primetime, with reality offerings like Pawn Stars, American Pickers, Ax Men, Swamp People, Ice Road Truckers, hypothetical history chronicle Life After People, and target practice "hit" Top Shot, plus History's recent foray into red-state humor, Only In America with Larry the Cable Guy.

Reruns: Like NatGeo, History has amassed so much original (and eminently rerun-able) in-house content, it has little need to syndicate outside shows.

Why It's The Best: History is the perfect combination of classy and trashy.

Why It's The Worst: I'd probably prefer watching stodgy educational specials over marathon airings of shows about hicks with terrible jobs, but that's just me.

Investigation Discovery

Background: Sometime in the mid-1990s, somebody must've splashed some water on the Discovery Channel and fed it after midnight, because dang! So many Discovery Channel spin-offs popped up! One of them was christened the very distinguished moniker of Discovery Civilization Network: The World History and Geography Channel. The name pretty well sums up its primary subject matter at the time, but in 2003 the channel was rebranded to Discovery Times in honor of its new co-owner, the New York Times. That partnership was short-lived, and in 2008, Discovery's then wholly owned child was renamed yet again to Investigation Discovery and given a higher purpose: to be the most incredibly entertaining murder-themed channel on the air.

Original Programming: As long as folks are getting murdered, Investigation Discovery will keep cranking out the hits. Deadly Women, On the Case with Paula Zahn, Stolen Voices, Main Street Mysteries, Buried Secrets, Disappeared, Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry, and I (Almost) Got Away With It are among countless other nearly interchangeable (in a good way!) shows that prove just how bizarre and horrifying non-fiction can be.

Reruns: The most prominent reruns featured on Investigation Discovery are the true-crime shows that originally aired on other networks, particularly 48 Hours and Dateline. However, many of these reruns are actually IMPROVED since their original broadcasts, in that many of them have been updated with additional information on how their respective cases have developed since then.

Why It's The Best: Almost any time of day, one can flip to this channel and be confronted with a living nightmare. Crime is horrible! But also endlessly fascinating? Last Halloween I watched a four-hour marathon of American Occult and learned about a satanic prostitution ring in Baltimore who'd murder hookers that stepped on their turf. #powerfulstuff

Why It's The Best: Once you've seen one terrible re-enactment, you've seen them all. (I want to see them all, but that's just me).


Official Verdict:

Not gonna lie, my television is rarely tuned to anything other than Investigation Discovery. It gives me nightmares. It makes me want to write crime novels. I LOVE this channel. (Note: I don't ever want to be ON this channel, okay?)

But now it's your turn! COMMENT BELOW and tell us your verdict: History or Investigation Discovery? And make your case! What do you love or hate about each channel?

Click below to see the full tournament bracket, and read previous America's Got Cable stories here.

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