×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Hunting Hitler’

With:
With: Bob Baer, John Cencich

In politics, there’s an unwritten rule that whoever first evokes Hitler should lose the argument. The same really ought to apply to television, as the channel still known as History – for reasons that remain increasingly elusive and hard to justify – trots out “Hunting Hitler,” an eight-part series devoted to newly released documents that supposedly raise possibilities the Nazi leader escaped Germany, as opposed to dying in a bunker. Seriously, guys, what’s next, “Hitlernado?”

The series is derived from 700 pages of FBI material, declassified in 2014, indicating that the bureau continued to probe the question of whether Adolf Hitler might have actually survived World War II, fleeing to Argentina. And obviously, that’s a tantalizing line of inquiry, having spurred conspiracy theories for decades.

“Hunting Hitler,” however, proceeds to trivialize the topic by treating it like any other reality show – TNT’s “Cold Justice,” only with the mother of all 70-year-old cold cases, one that incidentally involves a perpetrator of mass genocide.

Seeking a patina of respectability, the producers enlist CIA veteran Bob Baer, who provided the basis for the movie “Syriana,” and still seems to be dining out on the fact that George Clooney played him. At least Baer sounds relatively sober, insisting he has no agenda except to “For once and all, settle this damn thing.”

After that, though, “Hunting Hitler” becomes just another silly reality show, with a crack team of investigators that almost instantly flits off to Argentina, chasing down leads that, in the first hour, add up to a whole lot of nothing. In fact, if viewers were to take a shot of alcohol every time someone uses a phrase like, “There could have been … ” or, “There’s a chance that Hitler might have come here … ” or, “If there was in fact a bunker …,” they would be plastered by the second or third commercial break.

Desperate to create a sense of suspense, the team keeps talking to Argentinians who look at them like they’re crazy, while employing high-tech gizmos like “ground-penetrating radar” – intended to unearth evidence of a secret bunker – that might as well be Monty Python’s machine that goes “bing.” There are also plenty of references to the search for Osama bin Laden, which really isn’t directly analogous to what’s transpiring here.

Baer keeps reminding the audience how deadly serious this all is, saying at one point, “It’s not a movie. This is a real investigation.” Perhaps so, but it’s dressed up in a manner that makes it hard to distinguish from any number of series on channels like A&E or Investigation Discovery, while cynically trading off Hitler’s name, which harbors enough interest to potentially make this a ratings success. (History notes that the program will air in more than 180 countries.)

In more pragmatic terms, based on the opener, it’s simply hard to imagine how the producers can possibly wring another seven hours out of this hunt. Because while the teased moments will include a future episode that involves diving for evidence of a U-boat that could have ferried Nazis out of Germany, “Hunting Hitler” begins taking on water long before that.

TV Review: 'Hunting Hitler'

(Series; History, Tues. Nov. 10, 10 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Karga Seven Pictures.

Crew: Executive producers, Emre Sahin, Sarah Wetherbee, Kelly McPherson, Jason Wolf, Tim Healy. 60 MIN.

Cast: With: Bob Baer, John Cencich

More TV

  • Ken Jeong TV Take Podcast

    Listen: Ken Jeong on His Return to Stand-Up and New Netflix Special

    Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, talks with Ken Jeong about his Netflix comedy special, “Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho,” and being a judge on Fox’s “The Masked Singer.“ Jeong started working on his new standup act after ABC canceled his show “Dr. [...]

  • "Brother" -- Episode 201-- Pictured (l-r):

    CBS Interactive's Marc DeBevoise on Streaming Boom, Content Strategy, and Apple

    Not everyone wants or needs to be Netflix to succeed in the streaming space. And not everyone sees Apple’s enigmatic new service as a threat. Even as rival streaming services offer gobs of content, CBS Interactive’s president and COO Marc DeBevoise sees the company’s targeted original programming strategy continuing to attract viewers to its All [...]

  • Ken Jeong to Star in CBS

    Ken Jeong to Star in CBS Comedy Pilot From 'Crazy Rich Asians' Author Kevin Kwan

    A “Crazy Rich Asians” reunion is happening at CBS. Ken Jeong has been cast in a lead role in the multi-camera comedy pilot “The Emperor of Malibu,” which is being co-written and executive produced by “Crazy Rich Asians” author Kevin Kwan. In the series, Auggie, the son of a Chinese tech billionaire, announces his engagement [...]

  • Jussie SmollettFOX 'Empire' TV show panel,

    Jussie Smollett Case: Chicago Police Arrest Two Suspects

    Chicago police confirmed on Friday that they have arrested two suspects in the case of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett. The police did not state what charges the men are being held on. Local media have identified the men as two brothers from Nigeria, though law enforcement has not confirmed their identities. Smollett’s representatives have declined [...]

  • Skyline of Doha at night with

    Qatar's beIN Rallies Support From U.S. Companies Against Pirate Broadcaster beoutQ

    Qatari powerhouse beIN Media Group has rallied support from American sports and entertainment entities, including Discovery and Fox, behind its request that the U.S. government place Saudi Arabia on its watch list of top intellectual property offenders. The Doha-based broadcaster, a state-owned spinoff of Al Jazeera news network, accuses the Saudi government of harboring pirate broadcaster [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content