NatGeo Channel (VOD Hidden Gem)April 26, 2012
Media savant T Tara Turk goes deep inside cable TV to reveal Video On Demand's Hidden Gems so even the busiest of our readers can get the most out of On Demand TV. Tell Tara what VOD shows you think deserves her attention.
NatGeo Channel (VOD Hidden Gem)
My very first memory of watching television aside from Looney Toons and Mighty Mouse goes straight to my addiction for the Leonard Nimoy hosted “In Search Of...” If you weren’t born yet or your parents had you outside, you know, playing, “In Search Of...” was a great show about the mysteries of, well, everything. That was the beauty of it.
A few episodes still stick with me and one of them was the story of cult leader Jim Jones who famously took a bunch of his church followers to Guyana to leave “in peace” if living in peace means stealing life savings, sexually assaulting female churchgoers, mind control and, finally, drinking poison punch. My mother couldn’t get me to drink Kool-Aid ever again after that.
Though “In Search Of...” is gone, it seems like NatGeo is taking over its quest “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before” (I couldn’t resist the Star Trek bit...sorry). While major US problems like the economy, racism, health care and the like make headlines, certain aspects of the changing American culture seem to be often ignored. I’m talking cults, changing religious views and how we as Americans are growing up with a more global impact daily.
With that “I Escaped A Cult” on NatGeo has picked up right where my Kool-Aid fear has left off. The show is much like it’s “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” series but this time it explores people who have managed to escaped cults. You’re probably wondering, like me, if these things still exist but they indeed are still around and doing just as much damage.
One woman recounts her terrifying experience with the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps which started out as a simple prayer group (that’s the scary part) but turned into a mind-controlling, abusive, radical cult damaging her relationship with her mother, her kids and her friends. Another young man recounts his experience with radical FLDS, a breakaway sect of Mormonism led by the infamous sexual assaulter Warren Jeffs. While it’s safe to watch series like HBO’s “Big Love” about religious groups we may not be familiar with, it’s seems important to watch the real accounts of how these people got trapped into these cults and what kind of damage they’ve done. The mind boggles at just how many cults there are out there preying on fears of a changing world.
“Amish: Out of Order” comes from the same team that put a spotlight on the Amish culture in present times with their film DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND a few years ago. This show follows takes the Amish tradition of spending time out with the “English” (non-Amish folks) before adulthood, one step further by exploring what happens when you don’t want to go back, what happens when you’re not Amish but you want to be and how the ever changing world is affecting those young people who can’t make up their minds. It’s a fascinating glimpse into things we take for granted (driving, electricity, cellphones, education).
The last focus is on an oldie but goodie: “Locked Up Abroad.” If you’re a regular reader, then you know I love these kinds of shows (I think it all started with BROKEDOWN PALACE starring Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale - a movie that is responsible for me NEVER checking any luggage when traveling abroad for fear of Thai prison). It seems this season is adding a bit more depth to its focus - is it possible the crimes abroad are getting that much crazier? In its sixth season (ALREADY??) this year has stories from Hollywood actors, a story about a man in Saudi Arabia who was arrested for being gay, a woman raised in a hippy carefree household who finally found responsibility in jail in Tokyo...the hits keep on coming.
It’s great to see a channel really shaping its TV brand in the image of its global brand - National Geographic as a whole was always worldly edutainment. If you start to feel like you’re developing a twitch every time you hear the words “Real Housewives” and your brain craves real reality tv, then NatGeo won’t disappoint.
T. Tara Turk is a novelist/playwright/screenwriter, living in LA with her boyfriend and dog - all three successful TV addicts. You can find her at www.ttaraturk.com or follow her on Twitter @ttaraturk.