History’s latest attempt at exciting reality TV has led the channel down the path to uncovering the hidden secrets of our nation. But they never come close to it, and admit as much the entire time.
Brad Meltzer’s Decoded
Thursdays at 10 p.m.
Popular author Brad Meltzer takes a page right out of his own books for “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded,” and sets out to help solve some of the nation’s biggest mysteries. Or at least he talks a lot about them. Meltzer does none of the decoding himself. Instead, his “crew,” consisting of Christine McKinley, Buddy Levy and Scott Rolle, searches out the information and tries to solve the mystery while Meltzer just sits in front of a green screen, yakking away like he’s reading a story. In this episode, Meltzer and crew try to uncover the truth about the location of the missing White House cornerstone. Not exactly a mystery everyone knows about — or wants to know about.
Besides the fact that the crew spends most of its time in a car pretending they have somewhere to go, the way they go about solving these so-called “mysteries” is so ridiculously simple that any kid with a library card could get just as far. When they visit the masonry headquarters, they make it seem like it’s a big deal to get a tour, but the guide explains that anyone can come in and use the library.
“Decoded” is trying to branch out from History’s usual info-style TV shows in which experts in the field sit and tell the story, but the change clearly isn’t working. Cheesy suspense music paired with less-than-stellar revelations about the “case” make it hard to believe anything worthwhile could come out of the program. They should have stuck to the usual format, telling people what is known and what is still left to be figured out.
It’s a direct rip-off of “National Treasure,” but much more boring (which is a bit understandable, given they have to stick to actual facts). The cornerstone in the White House is not exactly a grand mystery, and the team didn’t manage to even to prove where it is. If they don’t even solve the mystery, what’s the point of watching? Meltzer simply ends the show by saying, “Because the White House cornerstone is still, for all intents and purposes, missing, it retains its power as a symbol.” No, Brad, it doesn’t.
The only thing that could pull this show out of the gutter is if it found some better mysteries to investigate, mysteries it could actually solve. Starting off the premiere episode of your new show with a story about a lost brick that ends up still being lost is less than anti-climactic and is aggravating as hell. If your show is called “Decoded” there’d better be something to decode.