The short documentary series History 101 provides a good introduction to a variety of topics, but without much depth.
Netflix series History 101 season 2 was released on the streaming service on August 25, 2022.
The title of Netflix’s documentary series History 101 is a little misleading. Rather than delving into more traditional historical topics, the show’s second season explores topics like credit cards and high-fructose corn syrup. While some of the stories it’s telling do reach back decades, it still seems odd to class it as a history program. It’s not quite pop culture, but it’s also not history in the sense that you might expect.
In short 20-minute episodes, History 101 gives a brief glimpse into the history behind these everyday items, looking at how they came into being and where they are now. It attempts to sum up the controversies and the benefits of the items being discussed. The episodes include “Credit Cards,” “Psychedelics,” “High Fructose Corn Syrup,” and “Dating Apps.”
The show combines archival footage and B-roll with well-created animations to bring the topics to life. While the voice-over narration can sometimes be a bit hokey, the series generally seems like an elevated version of the videos of this sort that you would find on YouTube. It’s the kind of show that you might turn on since you have access to it on Netflix, but wouldn’t want to pay money for.
Some episodes provide more depth than others and some clearly have a bias in the information they are presenting. The topics are largely complicated ones that are difficult to condense into twenty-minute explanations, even with fancy info graphics and film footage. The episodes on “Bottled Water” and “Lasers” were particularly interesting as they revealed a history that most people would not know, whereas the “IVF” episode only contained information that anyone with any familiarity with the topic would know.
If you’re looking for a quick introduction to a lot of topics, then the second season of History 101 is an interesting offering. If you’re hoping for in-depth analysis or an interesting spin on any of these, you won’t find it here.
What did you think of the Netflix series History 101 season 2? Comment below.