Craptastic "History" Channel: D00dstorians only!

Good luck with that, Spanky!

Here’s an e-mail from a loyal reader who was forwarded this message from a “History” Channel casting associate–and not because the forwarder thought my reader might be eligible for the job!  (If you recall, I’ve had some choice bons mots here about the quality of programming on the “History” Channel in the past–just click here for our conversation last winter.)

Hello Professor _______,

My name is B——- McC——, and I’m a casting associate working on a new show for The History Channel entitled “History Quest”.  We are currently casting hosts for the show, hence this e-mail to you.

I’ve contacted of few of your department’s professors, and I wanted to reach out to you as well.  Perhaps you know of someone who would be an appropriate candidate for our show.

We are looking for a host with a strong background in American history.  Additionally, we need a host who is approachable, relatable to the audience, and capable of dispensing history lessons to show contestants in an accessible manner.

The show is half history lesson, half adventure reality series.  Each episode will be based in one American city, in which two teams will compete in physical and mental challenges based upon that city’s history.  The host will serve as both motivator and educator.

We’re open to many physical-types for the host position, but we’re focusing on finding more of a rugged, rough, and smart type.  Think Survivor’s Jeff Probst or Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe, but with a background in American history.

Here’s a description of our ideal host:

Male, mid 30s – mid 40’s, blue collar intelligent with the right mix of humor and gravitas.  Needs to be quick on his feet and have the ability to give game instructions, interact with contestants, and ladle out historical fact.  Rugged but approachable and knowledgeable.

If you have any interest in talking more about the show, please respond to this e-mail address or give me a call at (***) ***-****.

 If you know someone who would be an ideal candidate for the host position, please feel free to forward this e-mail to them.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


B——- McC——
Casting Associate
“History Quest” Casting

Of course, a host with boobs is entirely out of the question.  Only men are capable of achieving the “right mix of humor and gravitas.”  And since authority is gendered male in our culture, only a man could possible be “approachable, relatable to the audience, and capable of dispensing history lessons to show contestants in an accessible manner.”  Now, never mind that I’m finding it difficult to think of more than one male American historian who is “rugged,” a guy who used to teach here as a matter of fact.  I mean, geez–maybe there’s a d00d with a History M.A. working for the National Parks or National Forest Service, but they’re not exactly thick on the ground at the American Historical Association’s annual meetings!

Now, if only they had asked if we could find a short, pale, male American historian who has a baseball fetish, I could fill Fenway with suggestions. . . even the bleachers!

0 thoughts on “Craptastic "History" Channel: D00dstorians only!

  1. Emma: Because it’s an acting gig. Would you say that it’s “discrimination” when ABC sought and hired only women hosts for “The View”?

    I think the e-mail was not tactfully worded, to be sure. But what I think happened here is that the casting associate was “thinking outside the box” to find talent for the TV show, by asking around colleges and universities for the host they would hire, in addition to the usual hiring channels, such as open auditions or going through talent agencies.


  2. “Because it’s an acting gig.”

    So what? How is that dispositive? In law, the only persons who are supposed to make those determinations are jury members.

    “Would you say that it’s “discrimination” when ABC sought and hired only women hosts for “The View”?”

    I don’t answer hypotheticals. Give me some facts, I’ll address those.


  3. Pingback: bl1y » Blog Archive » Blind Drunk Justice, Episode 8

  4. Emma, as an entertainment lawyer, I can tell you that it is perfectly legal for a TV production (or live action theater) to restrict casting choices by race, gender, disability, and age. “Because it’s an acting gig” is the legally dispositive fact itself. The e-mail is from a “casting associate” who states that the History Channel “is currently casting hosts for the show.”

    In 1971, in Phillips v. Martin Merietta Corp., the Supreme Court ruled that “in the employment of actors or actresses, fashion models, and the like,” it is not illegal discrimination for an employer to restrict hiring choices by sex. That is, a gender restriction in entertainment employment is a bona fide occupational qualification that excepts these particular situations from Title VII employment discrimination law.

    Call the casting of a “rugged” male host stupid stereotyping — and I probably wouldn’t disagree — but it’s not legally cognizable employment discrimination.

    As for “The View,” Barbara Walters is quoted in Variety in 1997 as saying she intended the show to have “four women” hosts who “got together and talked about issues of the day.” In other words, when they were looking to cast personalities for the show, they were looking to restrict the pool by gender. I think this situation is analogous to History Channel’s seeking a male host for its own TV show.


  5. “Sal Marchiano, a decades-long fixture in New York sportscasting, filed suit Wednesday in Manhattan federal court accusing Betty Ellen Berlamino, the former general manager of WPIX-TV/Channel 11, of age discrimination when she did not renew his contract in 2008.”

    But, but — how can he do that?? It’s TELEVISION!!!

    Phillips doesn’t stand for what you said it stands for. It’s a per curiam opinion that doesn’t have the language you quoted and it vacated and remanded a lower court opinion that upheld the employer’s refusal to hire women with school age children.

    The language you quoted is from Justice Marshall’s concurrence and in FULL relevant part is:

    “The exception for a “bona fide occupational qualification” was not intended to swallow the rule [of nondiscrimination]. That exception has been construed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, whose regulations are entitled to “great deference,” to be applicable only to job situations that require specific physical characteristics necessarily possessed by only one sex.

    Thus, the exception would apply where necessary “for the purpose of authenticity or genuineness” in the employment of actors or actresses, fashion models, and the like. If the exception is to be limited as Congress intended, the Commission has given it the only possible construction.

    When performance characteristics of an individual are involved, even when parental roles are concerned, employment opportunity may be limited only by employment criteria that are neutral as to the sex of the applicant.”

    I’d say The History Channel’s hiring practice in this case falls squarely afoul of the following EEOC regulations interpreting Title VII:

    “(ii) The refusal to hire an individual based on stereotyped characterizations of the sexes. Such stereotypes include, for example, that men are less capable of assembling intricate equipment; that women are less capable of aggressive salesmanship. The principle of nondiscrimination requires that individuals be considered on the basis of individual capacities, and not on the basis of any characteristics generally attributed to the group.”

    “(iii) The refusal to hire an individual because of the preferences of coworkers, the employer, clients or customers except as covered specifically in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph.”

    And does NOT fall within the narrow actor/actress exception, i.e. “subparagraph (2)” referenced in (iii):

    “(2) Where it is necessary for the purpose of authenticity or genuineness, the Commission will consider sex to be a bona fide occupational qualification, e.g., an actor or actress.”

    Those regulations are quoted at length in Justice Marshall’s concurrence which WOULD NOT have remanded the case to the lower court and would have simply found that the employer’s practice violated Title VII and potentially allowed a too-broad reading of the BFOQ exception.

    So, what you quoted is NOT a ruling of the Court AND you misquoted it to say what the concurrence does not, in fact, say. So, either you’re a bad lawyer or you’re willfully misrepresenting the case. So, excuse me if I don’t take YOUR word for it that what The History Channel is doing is perfectly legal.

    Authenticity or genuineness probably requires a female actor to play Martha Washington. It does not even arguably require that the historian-host who talks about Martha Washington be male.

    IF The View excluded males from the hiring process, then, yes, I’d be prepared to argue that was sex discrimination. It’s not the hard choice you seem to want to make it. I’d much rather have women hired everywhere than protect the women-ghettoes we now have in the entertainment industry.


  6. Sorry, forgot to say, please note, where Justice Marshall says: “the [BFOQ] exception would apply where necessary ‘for the purpose of authenticity or genuineness’ in the employment of actors or actresses, fashion models, and the like.”

    That “WHERE NECESSARY” language clearly points out that whether gender specific hiring of actors/models is allowable under Title VII in any particular case is a question of FACT not of law.

    But, you know, thanks for pointing me to the law and concurrence that proves my point. I love when defense attorneys do that.


  7. I’m posting this under an assumed name because I fear the long arm of the History Channel.

    I worked for a production company that did TV shows for the History Channel. We were told to never, ever use female academics because – and I quote – “men don’t want to see women on TV.”

    (We were also told to get hot Egyptologists under 30 with at least a doctorate. Because there’s LOTS of Dr. Daniel Jacksons out there. Oh, yeah, and they wanted “an Egyptian with a milky eye” as an expert. Didn’t care if he had credentials – he just needed to be an Egyptian who could speak English and had a milky eye. We managed to shoot them down on that one.)

    We were also told to change our documentaries in ways that made them less historically accurate. Not to make them more interesting, but just to suit the personal preferences of someone at History because they didn’t like how the ACTUAL history had turned out. If we stood up to them, they could opt not to take the show, and all the money we invested in it would have been for nothing.

    The joke within the industry is, “It’s called the History Channel, not the Accuracy Channel.”

    This is why I no longer work in TV.


  8. taffygrrl–not to worry, at least not about the “long arm” of the “History” Channel. Clearly, they’re not reading this blog!

    “get hot Egyptologists under 30 with at least a doctorate.” BWHAHAHAhahahaha!!! How many mutually exclusive categories can you pile into one casting call? “Hot” “Egyptologists” “under 30” “with at least a doctorate.” Hilarious. (Esp. the “at least” part.)

    I think the quote button on my computer broke tonight.


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