Q&A With Brian Unger
With his new Travel Channel series, Time Traveling with Brian Unger, set to premiere this week (April 20 at 10|9c), we asked the host to give us some insight into what it was like to “go back in time” and visit some of the lesser-known details of well-known stories in American history.
In your own words, what is Time Traveling with Brian Unger all about?
In each episode, 4-5 people go on a journey of discovery in their own hometowns, a backstage tour of historical places, making the familiar new, asking “what was here before?” and debunking myths along the way — all the while using state-of-the-art computer graphics to bring archival photos to life. It’s like a trip to Disneyland for the very first time.
What is your favorite moment from the premiere episodes? Any memorable moments from Tombstone, AZ, or the Golden Gate Bridge?
I can’t forget standing on the observation deck of the Woolworth Building in New York, once the tallest building in the world, now in the shadow of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, One World Trade Center. It’s an awesome, enormous symbol of human progress and industry. The same could be said for the Golden Gate Bridge. Seeing the underside of the bridge, one can appreciate the engineering miracle that it is, all designed without the aid of computers, by hand, and by someone who was mostly overlooked for his work, Charles Ellis.
In Tombstone, AZ, a famous story has been preserved and a shoot-out immortalized. Seeing where it actually happened changes the story Hollywood us shown us over and over. Debunking is often as exciting as discovery.
What makes this show unique?
Going places ordinary folks can’t go is what makes us unique — that, and the complicated, intricate computer graphics that we are using to bring history to life. We’re literally inserting people into history through 4K camera technology and graphics that make this show unlike any other.
You’ve been on a few different television shows in your career. What can fans of your previous work, such as The Daily Show or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, expect from Time Traveling with Brian Unger?
Well, I’m trying to exploit the ironies of history as well as highlight the hidden history in towns and places across the country. You’d be amazed what people don’t know about the places that they call home. With that comes a lot of laughs, a lot of fun and unexpected consequences. And in discovery, often there is humor. It’s not a comedy, but I try to bring some lightness to the weight of history.
What was your favorite story from Season 1? Did any of the historical facts surprise you?
I loved Death Valley in California — it’s a near-mystical place. It’s beautiful, strange and chock-full of eccentric people who put this otherworldly place on the map. I also loved our all-access pass to Florida’s Cape Canaveral, courtesy of the US Air Force. It humanized the colossally technical, scientific world of space travel and brought a real understanding of its human cost.
Were you already a history buff before the show?
Deep in every person is a history nerd. It’s in our nature to question what came before us. I’m no different. I’ve always been passionate about politics and news — and history is a reflection of those things. History is just old news, or in the case of old, old news, it’s the news of the dead. We have much to learn from all of it to help us with the challenges we face today.
You visited tons of lesser-known landmarks. Which 1 stood out to you and had the biggest impact?
We just finished shooting in an unlikely historic place — in fact, it’s better known for its artists, writers and drinkers: Key West. What I didn’t know is the degree to which this tropical paradise served the country as the first line of defense against our archenemy, the Soviet Union, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Key West was, overnight, militarized, overrun with 15,000 troops, and equipped with machine-gun positions and Hawk missile batteries. Our photos bring this period to life as 4 Key Westers learn about the history under their feet. Or, rather, flip-flops.
A Day With Brian Unger 05:07
Tombstone ThenAllen Street doesn’t look much different now than it did in 1881, shortly after the Earp brothers strolled into town to get into the gaming business while serving as the town’s law enforcement. 960 1280
Vegas Divorce Ranch ThenIf you were looking to get unhitched, Las Vegas was your place. To promote business and tourism during the Great Depression, Nevada dropped its regulation from 1 year to 6 weeks to finalize a divorce. The old Boldorado Ranch was the first of its kind — a place where you could go to unwind and relax while waiting for a divorce. 960 1280
Time Traveling: Now and Then Pictures 22 Photos