Netflix released the first viewership figures for Graham Hancock’s Ancient Apocalypse, and the numbers were less impressive than I expected. Netflix reported that for the week of Nov. 14-20, the show’s first full week of release, viewers of Netflix’s English-language services worldwide watched 24.61 million hours of the show. By contrast, the comedy series Dead to Me had 30.3 million hours viewed in half the time (it was released mid-week) and Warrior Nun, released the same day as Apocalypse, had 27.74 million hours viewed. All of them paled before 1899, which had nearly 80 million hours viewed in its first few days of release.
The success of Graham Hancock’s Ancient Apocalypse surprised me greatly. The show reached #2 on Netflix’s viewership rankings in the U.S. and U.K. and was in the top 10 worldwide. Consequently, it has become the most-watched speculative history series in a decade, likely outstripping the viewership for previous ratings titans in the genre, like History’s Curse of Oak Island (3 million at its peak), Ancient Aliens (2 million at its peak), and America Unearthed (1.5 million at its peak) and easily leapfrogging similar series on the Discovery, Travel, and Science channels, which averaged around 600,000 viewers. (Netflix does not release exact viewership figures.) Part of the reason is likely due to Netflix itself. Cable channels narrowcast. Viewership for the History or Science channels is primarily older white men, while Netflix, which has found success with other New Age shows like the Gwyneth Paltrow Goop series, can put Ancient Apocalypse in front of all four quadrants: men and women, young and old. Thus, they can appeal to a wider anti-establishment audience that would not tune in on cable.
Graham Hancock has made this show before. Netflix’s Ancient Apocalypse is in substance and style very much like the Channel 4 / TLC series Quest for the Lost Civilization that Hancock made nearly twenty-five years ago, albeit with different archaeological sites. In the intervening decades, all that has really changed is the use of drones for better aerial footage, a lot more dramatic music to paper over gaps in logic, and a growing bitterness behind Hancock’s carefully rehearsed enunciation. Each episode, for example, starts with an angry rant about Hancock’s greatness and his critics’ meanness. He opens time and again with some variation on “many archaeologists hate me” and poses as a truth-teller who will singlehandedly overturn archaeology.
This week in the New York Times, novelist Marcel Theroux reviewed The Lion House, a new history of sixteenth century Ottoman imperialism by historian Christopher de Bellaigue, and Theroux’s review is both a case study in how not to review history and an example of how fact-checking and expertise has drained away from the editorial level of journalism. Theroux accused de Bellaigue of fabricating material, and no one thought it worth checking to see if it were true.
Avi Loeb’s newest blog post shows how little the cosmologist-turned-ufologist really knows about the subjects he opines about. His piece claims that humans are genetically programmed to care about “local” issues and thus only a few rare geniuses have the courage to think beyond the local. “In fact, such global aspirations are often regarded as a distraction from local politics and the comfort brought about by the immediate environment of a loving partner, a loving family or the local tribe.” Loeb claims that evolution favors cultural myopia, an idea that finds little support in the historical record.
The Jerusalem Post ran a story this week claiming that the Bible giant Goliath’s skull is located under the land occupied by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre because its biblical name, Golgotha, sort of sounds like “Goliath of Gath.” The Post did not clearly explain to readers that its article was a near-verbatim copy of a 2017 tabloid story from Britain’s Daily Star, itself recycling Evangelical chatter from the early 2000s, nor did the Post disclose that the “author” of their story, “Walla! Tourism,” had apparently produced the piece to draw Christian tourists to Israel.
The annual UFO report the Department of Defense and Office of the Director of National Intelligence were due to deliver to Congress on Monday has been delayed a few days, but that didn’t stop Pentagon officials from leaking some of the key findings to media outlets including the New York Times and ABC News just weeks before Congress is set to legislate a Pentagon UFO office. The government’s major headline, quite clearly intended to reduce interest in the proposed UFO office’s paranormal possibilities, was that officials had solved a near-majority of sightings, that there is no evidence of space aliens, and that most sightings can be explained as foreign drones, balloons, and aerial debris. Naturally, this garnered significant pushback from the UFO enthusiasts who stand to gain the most from a robust UFO office and have been angling for its sweet, sweet government contracts.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.