While I'm always enthusiastic about learning about ancient cultures and history, I have to admit that the usual documentary on history just doesn't always catch my interest, as they often are full of dry, "talking head"-style interviews with scholars and move at a glacial pace. Nature shows had evolved into a mixture of education and entertainment (see "The Jeff Corwin Experience" or the late Steve Irwin's "Crocodile Hunter"), so why not history shows?
That's where "Digging For Truth" comes in. While host Josh Bernstein is drier and less humorous than Irwin or Corwin, he does bring an "Indiana Jones"-style sense of adventure to his attempts to try and get to the truth behind various mysteries that lurk in the past. Complete with a Jones-ian hat, Bernstein goes to a different location in the world for each episode, sometimes going to great lengths (climbing down into an active volcano or hiking into the high Alps - in terms of the latter, Bernstein has to contend with a sudden storm, brutal cold and the possibility of crevices hidden in the snow) to uncover clues.
While the series occasionally does use stock footage, reinactments and other materials to highlight the situation that the episode is looking into, the majority of the running time is devoted to Bernstein visiting with locals, historians and others to discuss, but the difference here is that the discussion often doesn't take place in someone's office, but instead out in the field. Additionally, instead of trying to offer recreations for everything Bernstein is discussing, Bernstein often tries to do a lot of things (using similar tools as his subjects did many years ago to make fire, cut stone, etc.) to both illustrate the tools and how they were used for the audience, as well as try to prove/disprove some of the elements that will allow him to unlock the mystery at hand.
Each episode is structured as a quest to find the secret behind the mystery, but there are times when the ending is a bit anticlimatic, given that the end result in some episodes seems clear before the credits roll. Some of the more interesting mysteries Berstein takes on this season include, "Who Built Egypt's Pyramids?" (questioning whether or not the Egyptians built the pyramids or was it possibly the inhabitants of the lost city of Atlantis?), "The Iceman Cometh" (Bernstein explores the Alps to find how a 5,000-year-old iceman remained remarkably preserved over the years and what caused his death), "The Holy Grail" (Bernstein heads from Jerusalem to a castle in France to Germany in search of the legendary relic.) Other exciting adventures include Josh trying to unlock the mysteries of the giant stone structures on Easter island, how the Anasazi people mysteriously vanished and the search for the lost "City of Gold": El Dorado.
Overall, "Truth" manages to be an excellent example of edutainment, as Bernstein is a relaxed, engaging host and the show's breezy pace pulls the viewer along for the ride as Bernstein attempts to solve the latest mystery from history.
1. 1- 1 24 Jan 05 Who Built Egypt's Pyramids?
2. 1- 2 24 Jan 05 Nefertiti: The Mummy Returns
3. 1- 3 31 Jan 05 Pompeii Secrets Revealed
4. 1- 4 7 Feb 05 Hunt for the Lost Ark
5. 1- 5 14 Feb 05 The Holy Grail
6. 1- 6 21 Feb 05 The Iceman Cometh
7. 1- 7 28 Feb 05 Quest for King Solomon's Gold
8. 1- 8 7 Mar 05 Passage to the Maya Underworld
9. 1- 9 14 Mar 05 The Lost Tribe of Israel
10. 1-10 21 Mar 05 Secrets of the Nazca Lines
11. 1-11 4 Apr 05 The Search for El Dorado
12. 1-12 25 Apr 05 Giants of Easter Island
13. 1-13 9 May 05 Mystery of the Anasazi
VIDEO: "Digging For Truth" is presented by A & E in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Shot on HD-video, the picture quality is terrific on this set. Sharpness and detail are especially pleasing on the set, and the picture looks crisp and well-defined, even when Bernstein goes into some very dark interiors, such as the pyramid chambers in the first episode.
Aside from some minor shimmering on occasion, the picture really did not show much in the way of issues at all. Some very slight artifacting was spotted in a couple of scenes, but no edge enhancement was spotted. Colors remained natural and vivid, with excellent saturation and no smearing. Black level remained strong and flesh tones looked accurate and natural.
SOUND: The show's stereo soundtrack seemed crisp and clear, with dialogue/narration sounding natural and crisp.
EXTRAS: "History in the Making" is a 20-minute promotional doc that takes viewers behind-the-scenes of the series. The piece opens with a visit with the different members of the smaller-sized crew and some discussion of the camera and how the crew is able to keep mobile/flexible while they follow Josh. Overall, this was a fairly straightforward and informative piece that provided an overview of how filming of the show is accomplished. A bio of Bernstein is also included.
Final Thoughts: "Digging For the Truth" is a fine example of edutainment, as Bernstein's adventures are engaging and inspire the audience to learn more about the history behind the subject of the episode. The DVD set provides excellent video quality, fine audio quality and one nice supplement. Recommended.