'Brad Meltzer's Decoded,' premiering Thursday on History

REASON TO WATCH: Bestselling author and comic book impresario Brad Meltzer unravels deep dark secrets, or tries to.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Hey, whatever happened to the original cornerstone of the White House anyway? And will someone please tell me where the hidden Confederate treasury is? And Lady Liberty — is it true there are some hidden messages strewn about the old girl?

Meltzer wants to know about all this stuff, too, and in this 10-part series, he's assembled a team to get the answers. They are Christine McKinley — simply ID'd as a "mechanical engineer," although Oregonians perhaps best know her as lead singer and band leader of Dirty Martini; Scott Rolle, a former state's attorney in Maryland; and Buddy Levy, a professor of English at Washington State.

Thursday night the three pile into a car and head out into the wilds of Washington, D.C., in search of a certain missing White House cornerstone, and those who likely pinched it.

MY SAY: "Brad Meltzer's Decoded" evokes "Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura," and I guess you don't have to be told that this is not the kind of evocation any show wants. Like "Conspiracy," "Decoded" has some howlers — all unintended — and some broadly questionable research and conclusions, all developed and pursued "in the moment," to give "Decoded" that sort of you-are-there-for-this-grand-adventure feel. Like Ventura's show, Meltzer's team even succumbs to flights of paranoid lunacy: hey, what if the Masons stole the cornerstone as part of a centuries-long strategy for world domination? Or, maybe Harry Truman pinched the bloody thing? (Oh, wouldn't that be just like Harry?) You suspect that beneath all this comedy is a good and interesting show that wants to break out. There are nine weeks to go. Maybe ...

BOTTOM LINE: "Decoded" is likable, but goofy. There are interesting facts and factoids here, but they are largely smothered under layers of pseudo-drama and faux research.


10 p.m . EST Thursday






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