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History Channel or Irony Channel?

Marisa Guthrie of Broadcasting & Cable magazine offered some cover hype on Monday to promote how the History Channel is launching its “most substantial programming investment ever” with a “robust slate of specials and series.” But it’s looking more like it’s trying to become Comedy Central II in an effort to grab ratings, including Jon Stewart on illegal aliens and foam-flecked rant artist Lewis Black on religion:

Jon Stewart, who knows a thing or two about irony, will create a two-hour special on a perfect target—the U.S. naturalization process—for History Channel, to air in the fourth quarter.

Stewart’s show, The Naturalized, is among the highlights of History’s most substantial programming investment ever. The network’s robust slate of specials and series, to be announced May 14 at History’s upfront presentation, ranges from a sweeping 12-part series about the creation of America, to a critical examination of holiday traditions (and the anxiety they engender) by comedian Lewis Black.

The projects are among 16 new series and 13 new specials greenlit or in development for the 2009-2010 season.

The Naturalized, to be produced by Busboy, Stewart’s company, follows eight individuals through the bureaucratic morass of  the U.S. government’s immigration and naturalization process. The special will also include interviews with undocumented and deported illegal immigrants.

“It’s a look at that process that is very much in Jon’s tone and manner,” says Nancy Dubuc, History’s executive VP and general manager. “The early stuff we’re seeing is quite funny but really poignant and relevant.”

Stewart will serve as an executive producer, and there is a possibility he’ll appear. “He’s been very open,” Dubuc says. “This is a topic that he appreciates.”

In Surviving the Holidays With Lewis Black, the acerbic comedian asks if the deluge of office parties and extravagant displays of conspicuous consumption aren’t perverting the true intent of the holidays. The special is timed to premiere during the ‘09 holiday season.

There’s a problem: Lewis Black likes perverting religion. Black’s Comedy Central series Root of All Evil started with a debate over whether Oprah or the Catholic Church is more evil. Black introduced this concept with lines like this about Jesus: “He made St. Peter the right hand of God, leaving both of God’s hands free to bitch-slap heathens and sinners.”

Black even perverts the Virgin Mary on his book cover of Nothing’s Sacred.

Tim GrahamTim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center, where he began in 1989, and has served there with the exception of 2001 and 2002, when served ...

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