Run, dude. Zahi's gonna yell at you. (ZH.com)
Dr. Hawass, like many celebrities before him, [has been given] the mistaken impression that any sort of personal behavior will be embraced by his adoring public, because he sure is obnoxious on “Chasing Mummies,” an annoying new show that begins Wednesday night on History.
Dr. Hawass has allowed a History crew to tag along as he does what he does, but, at least from the evidence of the premiere, this does not result in many revelations about the science of archaeology. It results instead in a fair amount of footage of Dr. Hawass verbally abusing those around him: the film crew, college-age interns who have come to worship at his feet, and so on. Any infraction, or no infraction at all, seems sufficient to warrant one of Dr. Hawass’s tirades.
Sure, some Egyptology occasionally creeps into this irksome spectacle. In the opening episode Dr. Hawass finds a never-before-breached sarcophagus, a rare thing these days, and when it is opened, he imparts interesting tidbits about why this mummy is not in very good shape. But this scene doesn’t last as long as you want it to; gotta go look for someone else to dress down.
There are two possibilities here. One is that the program is accurately capturing Dr. Hawass’s personality. The other is that, as on many reality shows, the people in this one are putting on personas that they think will make good television, and Dr. Hawass, having studied his Simon Cowell and Donald Trump, has concluded that American audiences want to see underlings browbeaten. But there’s a big difference between enjoying Mr. Cowell’s antics in the artificial construct of “American Idol” and seeing the same thing out in the real world, where college kids are just trying to learn, and film crews are just trying to film.
I've always thought an archaeological excavation would make a good reality TV show. The slightly insane and occasionally cruel excavation director is an important character of course, but it's frankly not enough for a good show. To get the real flavor of the experience you need to see the real monotony and stress of excavation, combined with excessive drinking, sunburns, sexual tension, culture shock, and poorly-thought-out relationship choices. THAT show would be tight. Not sure if Zahi just yelling at people would scratch the itch.
Thanks to Diana Ng of Northwestern U for the tip!