You may think of beer, wine and other drinks as tasty treats to enjoy during a night out. But it turns out our favorite beverages have a whole lot more to their stories. In the new Fox Nation series History of the World in Six Glasses, Dan Aykroyd invites us to belly up to the bar and learn how these drinks helped shape human civilization.
Based on the popular book by Tom Standage, each episode focuses on a different drink – beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and soda. Behind the bar at Molly Malone’s Irish pub, Aykroyd plays an animated host, mixing cocktails and serving up fascinating tales spanning centuries and continents. He’s joined by a rotating crew of comedian buddies like Jim Belushi, George Wendt and other Saturday Night Live alumni.
It’s a rowdy roundtable bursting with trivia to enlighten both newbies and connoisseurs alike. We journey back to ancient breweries built by Sumerian kings. We voyeuristically lurk in seedy speakeasies during Prohibition. And we see how clever monks and shrewd entrepreneurs built entire empires exporting booze around the globe. Who knew world history could be so entertaining – with plenty of laughs filling our glasses too!
So come pull up a bar stool with Dan and his drunken hall of famers. With this new series, happy hour promises some very happy viewing for fans of booze and banter alike!
A Happy Accident Leads to Civilization
In the first episode, Dan Aykroyd welcomes two fellow SNL icons – George Wendt and Jim Belushi – behind the bar. The beer-soaked hijinks kick off by introducing us to the so-called “beer theory of civilization.” As Aykroyd explains with dramatic flare, a long time ago our ancient ancestors accidentally left grain sitting in water for too long. The resulting mush transformed into a bubbly, intoxicating brew that became mighty appealing. This liquid gold known as beer motivated early humans to settle down in one place instead of constantly roaming for food. Out of that fateful slip-up, the foundations of civilization emerged!
We also hear from A History of the World in Six Glasses author Tom Standage, who elaborates on his inspiration for writing the book. The hosts taste test fancy Belgian monastery ales and challenge each other to silly bar games, pranking one another about the superiority of bottles versus cans. Of course, what would an episode about beer be without Norm himself? Wendt reminisces on playing his legendary boozehound character for 11 seasons on Cheers. Aykroyd even demonstrates how to properly pour a pint of Guinness for that perfect foam, before a special machine etches their silly mugs into the creamy foam.
Sprinkled between the boozy antics and trivia, we travel through stock footage and photos depicting critical moments in beer’s history. We journey from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs to European castles where monks secretly brewed beer for centuries. We cross the Atlantic onboard the Mayflower only to help smugglers distribute outlawed hooch during America’s failed Prohibition period. And we peek inside modern microbreweries speaking passionately about craft beer today. Just as Standage suggested, it seems technology and beer have long flowed side-by-side through the annals of human civilization!
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Quaffing over Qualifying
It’s no secret this booze-fueled journey leans more towards comedy than scholarly commentary. As both reviewers point out, there’s a predictable reliance on George Wendt’s iconic Norm Peterson character from Cheers. His beer-bellied presence evokes plenty of nostalgic chuckles, but also distracts from the world history lesson at hand. Similarly, Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi ham it up as old Blues Brothers buddies, though their chumminess feels a bit forced.
Make no mistake – this is a rowdy pub crawl, not a stuffy lecture hall. Don’t expect an abundance of academic insights or statistical data. The breezy tone celebrates the wonders of beer itself more than rigorously examining its historical impacts. Besides scattered references to taxation and Prohibition overreach, there’s barely any political pontification to be found at the bottom of these frothy mugs.
There are also some head-scratching omissions in recounting beer’s backstory. It’s odd to spotlight American microbrewing ingenuity without even a toast towards German brewmasters who pioneered iconic styles like pilsners, bocks and Oktoberfest marvels. Additionally, the cheeriness surrounding beer ignores legitimate downsides of alcoholism plaguing society. But frankly, this revelry isn’t meant to rain on any parades.
You can’t ignore the corporate influence either, with Guinness grabbing an outsized share of screen time and pint pouring lessons. Yet product integration is inevitable in a series about mass-marketed commodities with brand-loyal followings. As long as you don’t expect hard-hitting investigative work, the promotion remains reasonably palatable.
If you approach this show in the right spirit, it should still whet your interest with enough origin stories and talking points to rationally rationalize raising your glass. The trivia proved intriguing enough for both critics to recommend streaming the first episode. So even if it fails to earn a Ph.D in beer history, consider it a passing grade worthy of a casual watch.
Appreciation Over Academia
Let’s be blunt – this isn’t a dissertation defense before an academic review board. As the title promises, History of the World in Six Glasses aims more to entertain than comprehensively educate. You shouldn’t expect a barrage of scholarly sources or routine reality checks from credentialed professors. Instead, the breezy lessons sprinkle interesting trivia nuggets that even longtime beer buffs may not know.
We gain glimpses into fascinating facets of beer’s backstory, like ingenious medieval monks covertly concocting beers inside monastery walls. Or clever American brewers staying afloat by selling ice cream and malt extracts during Prohibition. The abbreviated profiles spotlight pioneering and prominent breweries that launched legacies spanning generations. Even the accidental discovery of fermented grain mush, dubbed the “beer theory of civilization,” provides food for thought on beer’s foundational role in early agriculture and community growth.
Rather than pore over dense text or charts, the program relies on punchy animated segments, gobs of video clips and quick soundbites to convey key concepts. This multimedia format undoubtedly favors entertainment value over academic rigor. But it also makes the content far more accessible for casual viewers less interested in scholarly discourse. The presentation style Mirrors the spirit of beer itself – fun, conversational and downright bubbly.
You can easily quaff these introductory lessons without getting weighed down by statistics or political debates. Consider it a launch pad to dive deeper down the brewing rabbit hole if any aspects resonate with your personal palate. The breezy exposure to different drinkable milestones should spur additional exploration into eras or topics that intrigue you most. So let this enthusiastic experience open your mind before opening the next round of drinks!
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A Laughing Matter
Even teetotalers with only a fleeting fascination in fermentation can find amusement in this boozy romp. The entertainment value hinges almost entirely on the hosts’ comedic chops and contagious camaraderie. Anchored by Saturday Night Live royalty like Dan Aykroyd and surprise guest Jim Belushi, the reminiscing feels like eavesdropping on old pals at the neighborhood pub.
As both Blues Brothers, the duo’s rhythm and rapport delightfully lift the spirits. We relive Belushi’s adolescent memories scrounging up his first illicit sip. Aykroyd channels his inner mixologist while concocting cocktails behind the bar, clearly in his element schmoozing and shaking things up. And what would a show about alcohol be without Norm Peterson himself? George Wendt entertains with tales of his legendary beer-guzzling character from Cheers, arguably television’s most iconic barfly.
The drinking games, trivia and beer-themed art projects further amplify the playfulness. Visually, quick-hit animated segments emulate a Monty Python bouncing circus. An endless onslaught of crazy video clips, photos and soundbites inject extra oomph like vodka in a tired Bloody Mary mix. The zippy pace hardly allows you to catch your breath between barstool banter and boisterous reenactments.
Don’t expect the same level of depth or discourse as a roundtable with scholarly professors. But the breezy bromance and alcohol-infused antics should satisfy viewers seeking more comedy than commentary. It’s evident the focus stays on fun over fact-filled academic arguments. You can practically envision Rob Long, the showrunner for Cheers in its later years, emphasizing entertainment above all else.
So if you enjoy playful patter with a buzz, this amusing pub crawl invites you to laugh, learn and throw a few back with Dan and the gang. Just don’t stumble into believing it will ever get too serious with all these comedians and cocktails in the mix!
Room for Refinement
History of the World in Six Glasses clearly aims more for friendly banter than fair and balanced discourse. But a few tweaks could bolster the breadth and depth for inquiring minds seeking more enriching edutainment.
As it stands, the hosts spend an awful amount of time congratulating each other’s past successes rather than brewing fresh insights. Do we really need the entire first segment recapping Résumés when precious minutes could enlighten viewers about beverage impacts worldwide? Perhaps the producers could gently nudge conversations beyond surface-level nostalgia by preparing thought-provoking discussion prompts on sociopolitical influences.
Speaking of politics, it’s likely best to avoid partisan talking points that might needlessly alienate half the audience. But the hosts could raise meaningful points around temperance movements, discriminatory laws against immigrants and minorities, or ongoing debates about legal drinking ages. Even conflicts over trademark turf, taxation policies and distribution rights harbor historical intrigue.
While America takes the spotlight, how might spotlighting brewmasters and traditions from other influential beer cultures enhance the experience? It may prove prudent for producers to feature more international and female perspectives. Additional context around the roots of iconic beer styles could satiate even seasoned aficionados. For instance, why not trace lagers back to Bavaria or stouts to Britain?
Finally, any series glorifying alcohol probably warrants at least addressing the elephant in the room – alcohol abuse and addiction. This doesn’t mean dampening the festivities with depressing statistics necessarily. But thoughtfully discussing Prohibition’s unintended consequences and modern recovery movements could demonstrate social awareness around real-world repercussions.
Implementing even a few of these suggestions need not negate the essential merriment and leisurely tone. Ultimately the drinkability relies on calibrating both history and hi-jinks to suit wider-ranging palates.
A Toast to What Lies Ahead
History of the World in Six Glasses kicks off its global pub crawl by celebrating beer’s essential role in civilization. While far from an academic treatise, the fizzy premiere still manages to educate and entertain shopworn history buffs and novice viewers alike. Is it surprising to find Dan Aykroyd and his band of jokesters prioritizing punchlines over professorial pontification? Of course not. But their playful formula should still satiate curiosity while satisfying our taste for leisurely edutainment.
As the first installment demonstrates, each episode essentially provides a launch pad for beginners alongside longtime beverage aficionados thirsty for fresh perspectives. The breezy tone sprinkles just enough unexpected trivia between the silly stunts, animated skits and nostalgic non-sequiturs. Even casual drinkers may discover uncorked interests worth exploring further once their initial thirst gets quenched.
Could the show incorporate more varied views, address legitimate health impacts, and mix additional global traditions into the cocktail conversation? Absolutely. But coaxing more hard-hitting commentary seems unlikely with a headliner like Aykroyd at the tap. We must simply settle for an easily digestible dose of history hiding behind the laugh lines.
The remaining world tour through wine, cocktails, coffee and cola promises more fascinating origins and anecdotes tied to each libation. Hopefully the fizz continues flowing as freely as the drinks and jokes. Either way, the series provides pleasant, introductory sips ideal for casual happy hour history that goes down smooth. So grab your beverage of choice to watch along, and don’t be afraid to flag down Dan for a refill or two!
History of the World in Six Glasses
History of the World in Six Glasses will likely leave viewers buzzing for more, even if the kick comes more from the comedy than an excess of new revelations. Expect a rollicking pub crawl instead of a stuffy lecture hall. This series is essentially the History Channel meeting Comedy Central over beers - infotainment to be enjoyed but not always taken seriously. The boozy formula favors laughter and leisure over gritty investigative insights, for better or worse depending on your tastes. But Aykroyd and his silly sidekicks still manage to infuse the froth with enough tasty talkable trivia to tantalize both connoisseurs and first-time drinkers. Did I learn an astounding amount of new history? Not quite. But did their drunken delirium deliver enough feel-good fun to merit another round? I’ll gladly raise my glass to that.
- Strong comedic chemistry between hosts
- Entertaining games, animations and video clips
- Interesting trivia and origin stories of beers/drinks
- Breezy, easily digestible lessons on drink history
- Serves as a launch pad for further learning
- Lacks depth on political and social impacts
- Overly promotes brands like Guinness
- Ignores issues like alcoholism
- Focuses more on comedy than intellectual discourse
- Omits some key international beer cultures