Frontiersmen of America, Episode 2

 DATELINE: Never Surrender

 Robert I. Mesa   Robert I. Mesa as Tecumseh

History Channel and Leonardo DiCaprio present the second documentary in the series, Men Who Built America: The Frontiersman.

This time, they take two storylines and entangle them for their parallels: Tecumseh (played by hottie Robert I. Mesa) starts off as a young man whose tribe is wiped out largely by smallpox, brought on by the American settlers flowing into the Ohio and Indiana territories after the Revolution.

The twin sides of the story feature Meriwether Lewis and William Clark being saved by their guide Sacajawea, who meets a long-lost brother and intervenes on behalf of her friends. Jefferson’s plan to have a peaceful settlement soon meets the reality of the greed of American settlers.

On the other hand, Tecumseh’s brother is a visionary who helps the Native American bring together tribes into a united nation. To that end, Tecumseh creates Prophetsville, a symbol of Pan-Indian unification.

The stories diverge from there. Lewis ended up committing suicide and Tecumseh’s village is wiped out in a genocidal attack by Tippecanoe Harrison himself, who parlayed the vile sneak attack into political capitol.

Tecumseh never trusted the British who tried to curry his favor, but the Americans were worse, convinced of their destiny to drive out the natives to settle the land from coast to coast.

The episode manages to bring the highs and lows of American roots into one trail, both of tears and joy. You cannot blame Tecumseh for wanting revenge whose power was enhanced the the New Madrid earthquakes—and an alliance with the British in 1812.

Yet, Tecumseh knew the quality of mercy is never strained. He wanted a diplomatic settlement to the war.




Tom Brady’s End Game

DATELINE:  End of the Time Bomb

smashing mirror

A month later, Tom Brady scraps his final TV episode to surge into a new phase of life: he makes a blitzkrieg of appearances on New York live TV interviews.

After discarding the previously filmed episode of Tom Versus Time which had Tom winning the Super Bowl, the Chopra re-telling has been re-mixed for a re-do.

It seems everyone was a tad overly optimistic, like treasure hunters on Oak Island.

Episode 6 in the saga of the oldest MVP quarterback in NFL history is more than the remains of the day. However, Tom is playing it like the last scene of Sunset Boulevard, ready for his closeup.

Everything is fine, if you don’t confuse Tom with Tom of Finland. They have the same interest in big men, but from different perspectives.

Let the parsing begin.

The bittersweet final episode of the sixpart series called modestly Tom Versus Time was short and bitter. You can slice it up any way you want, but it looks like Tom is considering whether he still has convictions to prove in football.

One of the first calls he receives is not from his wife that from Gronk. Perhaps they are both contemplating retirement to the WWE. Perhaps, too, we might see them his buddies in an action adventure movie. Tom is ready made for the movies and has already appeared in one of those Ted puppet movies with Gronk.

As for the finished series, Tom has suddenly taken to making appearances to plug the video audition tape. He chugged a beer with Stephen Colbert on late night. And he appeared on the Good Morning America show with show biz producer-partner Michael Strahan.

He and Gronk shared a laugh about Danny Amendola, which shows how close Tom and his tight end are. Within 24 hours Amendola was gone in free agency to the Dolphins, where Wes Welker began.

Gronk and Tom may want to go out in retirement, hand-in-hand, on to the Hall of Fame together. Or, maybe they will play one more season together.

Brady admits he’s closer to the end than to the beginning. This episode was a re-do because he really thought he would win another Super Bowl, which would’ve greased the skids into retirement.


Tom asks in the show: why are we doing this? He has no answer. All through the series, he has been sophomorically philosophical. He also admits that losing one’s conviction means you should look for another job.


Is Tom looking for another job? His wife, Gisele Bündchen, clearly admits the past two years have been difficult. She wants him to spend more time with the family. And, she holds all the cards—and all the money too.


Boone Starts Building America

DATELINE: History Channel Series

boone 1820   Daniel Boone, age 84

Leave it to the ever-sensitive History Channel to honor women’s history month with two new series. First on the docket is the Men Who Built America’s sequel: the frontiersman. The other is Kingpin, a series about four criminal thugs.

Don’t let that stop you from watching. The frontiersman series starts with Daniel Boone. It’s produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, probably based on his experience from playing The Revenant. No, Jeremiah Johnson is not among those to be studied.

As documentary dramas go, this is superb. It is an old-fashioned American view of rugged individualism. John Wayne would be proud, not to mention the Fess Parker. In the weeks ahead, the series will also tackle Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, Andrew Jackson, Lewis & Clark, and as a nod to political correctness, Tecumseh. That episode may be the most illuminating.

A few unusual commentators, like Gen. David Petraeus, offer their insights.

Boone was in parallel to the Shot Heard ‘Round the World in Lexington by defying King George and going out to settle territory beyond the Appalachian Mountains.

Boone was a superhero of the 18th century, running 150 miles in 4 days to warn settlers of an impending attack by Indians.

The show gives credit to the daughter of Boone, Jemima, who was heroic in facing kidnapping by Native Americans.

It appears the British put a bounty on American heads and gave the Native Americans rifles to take back their land. It was a losing proposition either way for them. The writing was on the fort’s walls when a rainstorm stopped the Native Americans from burning down the place.

Though it is basic American history, we suspect that most viewers will find it all new stuff. We are always grateful for intelligent TV viewing.


Wrap Up Oak Island: Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

DATELINE:  Like a Hunt for the Maltese Falcon


If ever a season of hope was upon Oak Island, the fifth year of the series dig was it. Yet, the curse of the treasure hunt was that hope may be their worst enemy.

As the team of hunters gathered at the end of The Curse of Oak Island for an assessment, we came away yet again with a great respect for 94-year old Dan Blankenship. He cut through all the discoveries and made a simple pronouncement. He felt 90% of what they found was on the surface, not under ground.

He wondered about the expense. Yet, he was also even as he comes around the bend toward a century of life, allured by the mystery of the place where he has spent half his life.

We went around the table at the faces of we have come to know quite well: Dan, the wise elder, to Gary Drayton, our metal detector, to Alex Lagina, the hot young nephew of the expedition leaders, to his bearded cousin—and a couple of historians who lead the scribe element of grand expeditions from Alexander the Great to Lewis & Clark.

Dumb luck was lost to dumb decisions, that made the dive team into a 75-foot shaft disheartening. The wish for a steel plate over a treasure chest is the stuff of dreams. If Oak Island is just another Maltese Falcon, we are satisfied with the adventure of it all.

Will there be another season? You can bet your Nielsen ratings on it.








Twofer on Oak Island

DATELINE:  Family History Episode

Drayton Rising Star Gary Drayton!

On the longest of the five seasons of Curse of Oak Island, the series gave fans a grand send-off with two episodes back to back, before the finale next time. We find it hard to believe there are 104-hour episodes of the series, according to some History channel sources.

Though this episode does nothing to advance the treasure hunt, it may be one of the most interesting of the entire five-year history. For the first time, the series consolidates the backstory on all the hunters going back to the late 1890s.

The show is entitled “Family Album,” and it has a nice human touch to the families that supported the diggers and dreamers.7

Interviews with descendants enhance the narrative, but special attention is paid to Samuel Ball, an emancipated American slave who left for Canada after the Revolutionary War, and bought land on Oak Island, with suspected treasure he found.

The other intriguing figure is, of course, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who came to the island when his grandfather, Warren Delano invested in the latest scheme to find the jewels of Marie Antoinette. The allure of Oak Island never left FDR, even during his presidency.

The tie of wealth and high rank among the Masons seem to highlight the earlier treasure quest. The hints are that they knew something derived from their legendary ties to the Knights Templar.

The other intriguing point of the show is the explanation of the alleged curse—six have died, and a seventh must die before the mystery is solved.

The more recent families have re-visited the island at the invitation of the Lagina Brothers, and their appearances on earlier shows are re-capped with clips from the past five years. Of cours

Nothing earth-shattering, or bored from the ground, is here, but this turns out to be one of the best episodes in five years.


Penultimate Digging, Season 5 on Oak Island

DATELINE:  Coming Down to the Finish

 fake ruby  fake ruby?

A twelve-facet ruby that could be half-a-millenium old? Is it part of the long-lost jewels of Marie Antoinette, decapitated queen of old France? Robert Clothworthy’s voice remains so memorable from Curse of Oak Island as narrator.

Under poor conditions with no historical value, it might render only a pittance of $20,000, but with the allure of Oak Island and a queen’s ransom, the sky is the limit.

However, carbon dating of wood objects now seems to eliminate the Templars as the originators of the building process.  No one wanted to go there among the show’s hunters.

Well, that would be enough to satisfy a season of tedium. Thanks again to Gary Drayton, the Australian metal detective, with his uncanny ability to look in unlikely places for unlikely treasures, the series Curse of Oak Island rendered up more mystery as the fifth season draw to a close.

Other events include finding wood structures buried near the beach that 94-year old Dan Blankenship excavated forty years ago to no avail. Is it part of a French or Spanish galleon? Again, we are left holding our collective breaths.

The series may be reaping its rewards at long last with the arrival of a diver to find out what kind of metal plate is covering what kind of chamber nearly 80 feet below the surface in the area of mysterious vaults.

We don’t seem anywhere near losing another treasure hunter in the process of excavation, which may mean we are facing a long winter of the waiting game yet again.

Marty Lagina has been notoriously absent for many important moments this season, and now it becomes clear that he has moved on to another treasure hunt—and a new series to start on the heels of this season’s cliff-hanger. Yes, we will be lured into the trap of hunting for Civil War gold under Lake Michigan and won’t have time to think about what’s still missing on Oak Island.







Not Springtime for Hitler

 DATELINE:  Ultimately Superb

 hitler & edward

Unlike other History Channel series, the Hunting Hitler: Final Evidence show has gone by quickly and been chock full of suspense and intrigue on a cold-case 70 years old.

The cast of detectives are perfectly off-kilter types that find witnesses too that might be casting gems, if they were not real. We came to appreciate the various duos when they cross-teamed to do their specialty.

We bid adieu to the third season with this episode, presuming it will return to dig up bones where and when necessary.

You know it’s the end of this segment of shows when Bob Baer, host and orchestra leader, leaves his high-rise Los Angeles comfy office to take credit on the big picture. He wants to go to the FBI with his team’s findings.

We would have thought INTER-POL a more apt choice, but former CIA operative Baer goes where the ratings lead him. And he goes alone, because he is the only ‘I” in team. To top it off, he goes to a retired FBI agent. Hunh?

The findings of the show were distressing: uncovering Hitler’s microfilm will in Chile, a concentration-style camp under Pinochet run by escaped Nazis, and remote fortifications in Paraguay.

Baer thinks they were planning a Fourth Reich, but more likely they were hiding, like cowards, from execution in empty luxury at mountainous hideaways.

Next season, if it comes, will hunt for Hitler’s bones.





Steely Resolve on Oak Island

DATELINE:  Not Rock Bottom


As we finish up one of the longest seasons of the five in the can on Curse of Oak Island, there is a sense again that we’re going nowhere fast.

However, more flooding in shafts and tunnels shows the doom of history repeating itself. Once again, a search effort has been thwarted by the lesson of the past: booby trap is thy name. This time the discovery seems to transcend all previous searches.

The Oak Island Lagina Brothers have found a steel plate 70-feet below the surface, preventing their dig.

Who put an iron cap over whatever is below, and why?

We suspect that the Knights Templar were indeed time travelers if they were able to create such engineering marvels on an obscure little island off the coast of Nova Scotia 800 years ago.

There can only be one more dive into the murky silt of the latest hole to find out what kind of steel plating is making a ceiling or a floor over history.

The latest episode also put forth the theory that the Templar gang was smuggling gold out of Europe under the disguise of a lead coating. If that holds true too, then metallurgy was alive and well in the time of Medieval knights. Gary Drayton, Oak Island’s resident metal detective, has his work cut out.

We can likely predict that any treasure or notable discovery of earth-shattering quality will require steel-shattering resolve. Another episode will follow, but we suspect we are going to be back here next season, probably in November, to hear the results of another summer of searching.


DeHavilland Renews Legal Fight

DATELINE:  ‘Feud’ Subject & Creator Continues in Court

Real Feud Feud

Just when producer/director/writer Ryan Murphy thought he had beaten the clock on the lawsuit filed by Olivia DeHavilland, the 101 year-old movie star legend, she has risen up again.

It’s back on, set for a March trial.

She, as you may recall, took umbrage with her portrayal and use of name in the infamously entertaining series Feud, about the relationship of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

Miss DeHavilland insists that no one asked her permission to use her image and give words to her actress voice.

That’s probably because Ryan Murphy figured she was already deader than a doornail, like the rest of the characters in his hilarious series about Hollywood’s most rotten segment of the Golden Age.

Instead, Olivia rose up like Marley’s Ghost, warning Ryan Murphy. Now she is demanding the trial be held at a university where students may attend to see the shenanigans play out. Talk about a sense of drama.

Whether Miss DeHavilland will make the flight from her home in Paris is unknown, as she is elderly and frail. However, her spirit is not about to be buried by the likes of Hollywood upstarts like Ryan Murphy.

Murphy’s lawyers insist that if DeHavilland has her way, it will have a chilling effect on making docudramas where old historical figures come in and out of scenes uttering misquotes.

His money is on Miss Olivia DeHavilland croaking before the case, and his inevitable loss to a living legend, occurs. Our money is on Gone with the Wind‘s Melanie Wilkes, the survivor of The Snake Pit, the vindictive Heiress, and the Lady in a Cage.


Finding Hitler Series Pays Dividends

DATELINE: Hunting Hitler, S3 e8

 mengele  Josef/ Jose Mengele, circa 1955

Hunting Hitler: The Final Evidence on History Channel continues to amaze us with its discoveries.

Though Hitler is the primary subject, they have decided to seek out ancillary figures, like Dr. Josef Mengele. Though the Angel of Death of the concentration camps escaped, his exact travels have never been substantiated till now. The show’s researchers find a marriage registration from 1958.

Tracing Nazis through living witnesses is impressive. One old man recalled Mengele staying with his family—and his mother warning him to avoid the “dangerous” man.

Combining jungle terrain marches with thumbing through archive documents is no easy match on adventure reality shows like this, but the series manages to do both with aplomb.

You still have the needless overtures of Bob Baer in his Los Angeles headquarters, allegedly giving orders, but it is the likes of Mike Simpson, Tim Kennedy, and Gerrard Williams, who do the leg work and find the results.

On the verge of ending their season, they may well be on to the estate in Paraguay where Hitler might have spent his last years.

The series has used slightly off-kilter searches (from nuclear weapons’ heavy water to airbases in Argentina) to spark the hunt, yet they all have a pay-off. It is astounding that the United States government appeared to know about the rumors, but did little about it.

The show does not explain how difficult it might have been to kidnap Adolph Eichmann out of German communities in South America, but you can see the powerful hidden Reich that was in place for decades after the fall of the Nazis in Germany.




A Twist on Oak Island: Templars in Tunnels?

DATELINE: An Apt History Lesson

Wayne Herschel map


The 14th episode of Season 5 for Curse of Oak Island was both quite different and quite the same as many preceding weeks.

You had a delay in the hunt for the treasure by giving the audience a nicely-wrought history of the Knights Templar. By piecing together snippets from previous seasons, the Lagina brothers show how they are coming to an inevitable conclusion. Whatever is buried on the island, it was from the Knights Templar and their crusading discoveries 1000 years ago.

The Templars may indeed have come to Oak Island in Nova Scotia around 1300, after their persecution, to hide the artifacts of the Ark of the Covenant and Holy Grail.

On top of that, the show continued to point out that the major hunters for the treasure were all Masons, part of an order that could have been the descendants of the Templars, with their zeal and secrets in full order.

It made for a compelling foundation to indicate the treasure of Oak Island is related to hidden wealth of the Knights Templar. If we wanted a delay, this one was the most satisfying yet.




Tom Brady Not Ready for Prime Time

DATELINE: The Arrogance Game

Rodin's thinkerThe Thinker, Fan-Version

If you are among the throngs (yeah, millions for defense, but not one fan for tribute) who await the final episode of the Tom Brady self-congratulatory TV series called Tom Versus Time, you have to wait longer.

It appears Tom and his producer Gotham Chopra have to scrap the final episode and come up with a new one. They finished the series with Tom winning the Super Bowl. Reality bites. His team lost, though he came close to pulling it out, but horseshoes is not football.

You may see a pattern of arrogance in the series that denotes Tom Brady as a wise, old philosopher, on the lines of another problematic Bostonian, Henry David Thoreau.

Gotham Chopra self-admitted their problem with a statement that puts a smiley face emoji on the situation. “Everyone keeps asking me about Chapter 6 of ‘Tom vs Time’ and when it’s going to be ready. The truth is we had a plan, but unconsciously, it was tied to the Pats winning the Super Bowl and, when that didn’t happen (congrats, Eagles!), I felt like we needed to pause and recalibrate.”

Yeah, losing’s a bitch. Having to re-interview Tom Brady for an hour to find bon mots is not pleasant. They had to re-calibrate Tom’s happy-go-lucky philosophy with a reality check. That’s the unfortunate side of “reality TV.”

Chopra ends his emoji apologia with: “So, Chapter 6 — ‘Coming Soon!'”  It sounds like the next chapter of Batman.

We actually would like to see the pre-Super Bowl, arrogant, mad-as-a-hatter Tom Brady. but that episode will be lost forever to history.  Please Note: we said  hatter, to all you haters who have trouble reading.


Buried: Templars &/or Holy Grail

DATELINE: Friday, Oct. 13, 1307, D-Day


What? Another search-for-treasure reality show from History Channel?

Yes, indeed, but this one Buried: Knights Templar and the Holy Grail uses the formula of former military adventurers on a hunt for secrets to better effect than most.

If the show sounds like bad Monty Python, don’t be fooled. It’s far more fact-based than History’s series Knightfall, another show that’s no slouch at entertainment.

This miniseries of four hours promises a look at the Knights Templar and their technological prowess.

Since they figure big on shows like Curse of Oak Island, a condensed historical look at them is valuable. They purportedly had the relics known as the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, among other historical treasures. How they may have hidden them and where is the subject of many conspiracy/reality shows in recent years.

So, it is refreshing to have an examination of who they were, where they went, and how they ended up in big trouble.

The approach for this series is that the Knights Templar were like special forces and a government army belonging to no government.

We have heard the stories that they were almost wiped out and turned into other secret groups like the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians, or the Illuminati. It may be possible, as they had great technical skill and tons of money back in Medieval times. Their tunnels, fortifications, and routes of subterfuge, are traced with LiDar and other technological marvels for the first time.

Even hardened archeologists are grateful for the expensive and free help the show provides by looking below the surface with ground penetrating radar tools.

The Templar Knights were monk warriors and great adventurers. They were also slightly crackpot in their obsession to protect the great relics of Christianity. They were destroyed for being heretics and falling off the Christian way by the Pope and a couple of French kings who had them all executed to gain control of the gold cache and miraculous relics.

The Templar leaders took their secrets to the grave when the end came on Friday the 13th. Or maybe they headed over to Oak Island. The series leaves open a chance to go in that direction– if ratings make for another season .



Oak Island, Season Five Continues…

DATELINE: More Delays on Oak Island, S5 e12

march of time news

You know you are becoming a hardened veteran of the series Curse of Oak Island when you expect nothing to occur and your frustration level to be enhanced.

We could dispute every decision made by the Lagina brothers as being a tactic to string out the series for another lucrative episode, not in terms of treasure, but in terms of ratings. We presume the delaying strategy is part of the way to enhance ratings by keeping us in suspense and willing to tune in again next time for another chapter.

Once again Rick Lagina brought his fascinating cross to an “expert” researcher. This one, some woman on the phone, tells him that it is Phoenician and from 1200 BC. It’s not Christian, which seems to eliminate the Templars. Even Rick Lagina realizes this bad news in terms of a big payoff.

Told he has the find of the century, Rick Lagina still has not brought the physical object to a real expert. So much for clarifications.

Also, their boring drilling remains boring drilling. This time, however, they hit some oddly-placed hard surface that started breaking the teeth of their bore machine. It takes quite a while to decide to send a camera down to see what the matter is.

Wait till next week on that point.

They also go to the swamp on the Nolan property, now having permission after five years, to find another surveyor post that indicates the swamp was made by men to hide something.

That too will cause you to wait another week for results.

The season is drawing to a close, and you can bet your treasure pants you will be told to come back next summer. However, the next episode will be held back AGAIN for two weeks—just to increase your frustration.


Timely Episode 5 for Tom Brady

DATELINE:  An Affair to Remember

brady back

On the day of the ignominious Super Bowl that will live in infamy as the Last Hurrah of so many coaches, Tom Brady chose to release #5 of his Tom Versus Time vanity project.

What Brady never fully understood about his six-part documentary series is that all is vanity when his speaks about his personal philosophy like he was Henry David Thoreau facing a lockup for failure to pay taxes in Brookline.

Right from the get-go, he tells the audience he is tyring to find the deeper purpose of life and and live it in the episode called “The Spiritual Game,” which likely amused Zen-Buddhists everywhere.

Alas, Tom Brady comes across as self-centered in his egocentric universe. He is looking for miracles and magic and finds them only in pro sports. He has had a 27-year affair with football, and his wife approves.

The insights begin 8 weeks before the season in Costa Rica where Brady goes to surf, learning “not to fight Mother Nature.” His Argeninian wife loves it there, and it is tropical and quite in contrast to the coldest game he has ever played in during December.

Narrative jumps over 15 weeks in a flash, and Tom admits life goes by fast: but really, this fast?

Tom knows he is a public figure and withholds paying attention to those distractions. He cannot waste his precious energy on media trivia, except to make a documentary.

“I’m gonna determine what’s important for me,” he tells his fans. Clearly, everything else comes in second to self-importance.

Tom and Patriots lost Super Bowl LII—and the final episode has been withheld to deal with that ugly fact.