Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cities of the Underworld

While we wait in breathless anticipation for the final episode of Showtime's "DEXTER" tonight, I'd like to give a vigorous nod to a little gem that I've wanted to write about for quite a while. It's called "Cities of the Underworld" (History Channel, Mondays at 9pm).

When I was about 9 years old, I lived in a suburb a half hour outside of New York City. I'll never forget the first time my mom brought me out of our bland Leave it To Beaver landscape into NYC. It was like "Oz" for me, and I fell in love at first sight. The soaring buildings! The honking taxis! Even the smell was electric and appealing, a mixture of Chock Full of Nuts coffee, gasoline and steam. But one of my best memories was of the underground shopping center beneath the Empire State Building. It seemed to go on for blocks and blocks, a whole city underneath the magical metropolis of New York.

If you've ever wondered what lies beneath, "Cities of the Underworld" will captivate you. The most appropriately named host Don Wildman will lead you there, whether it's under NYC's Grand Central Station (pictured) or ancient Rome or even Sin City itself (Las Vegas), which I would have thought to be too new and sandy to have an underworld. Turns out, the relentless heat of the desert makes building part of the city underground practical and more energy efficient.

I've watched many episodes where Don squeezes himself into impossibly tight spots. He's been wedged into narrow caves under ancient druid enclaves , or lowered into appalling sewers far below the streets of London, where Jack the Ripper himself may have escaped from his dreadful deeds. Through it all, Mr. Wildman maintains an absolutely correct tone of enthusiasm and amazement. He's fearless in places that would reduce most folks to claustrophobic hysteria.

Like many cable shows, "Cities" is repeated endlessly, so it won't be hard to stumble across it on the History Channel. It's worth searching high (or low in this case) to find a few dark places where most people never travel.


Lisa said...

I also love this show! It's been since last January -- when I wrote a small piece on it -- how time flies! Definitely a fascinating hour and the host is terrific. I love the combo of urban modern environments and the ancient secret places! This show deserves all the viewers it can get -- it's wonderful!

Anonymous said...

I think this is an awesome show. I never miss an episode. If you guys like the show, there is a website I found which shows photos of abandoned mines. Check it out: