Monday, August 18, 2008

Josh Bernstein promises to unravel mysteries in 'Unknown'

Josh Bernstein, the explorer/survivalist/TV host whom Discovery hired away from the History Channel, has staked his TV career on being an everyman's man, a conquering hero in performance fleece. Early on in his new series, "Into the Unknown," which premieres tonight at 10 on Discovery, he demonstrates one of his most stunning superpowers: He can ride a moped through Rome while looking directly at the camera. As a feat of bravery, that's nothing to sneeze at.

Like "Digging for the Truth," the History Channel series that made Bernstein a star, "Into the Unknown" purports to answer deep and unexplored questions about human history. But in the premiere, at least, the title is a misnomer. Bernstein explores the history of gladiators, reminding us every few minutes that Hollywood movies portrayed them as pathetic slaves. Soon enough, he announces the vaguely counterintuitive truth: They were actually celebrities in their time, iconized and slightly reviled, a little like today's professional wrestlers.

Intriguing enough, but hardly a secret; this territory has already been well-trod by the historians, scientists, and self-proclaimed gladiator experts Bernstein meets on his travels through Italy, Europe, and Asia Minor. Information-wise, this show is no different from any of the countless historical documentaries that populate Discovery, History, and PBS - except that instead of just the brainy talking heads, we get Bernstein as a guide.

With his tousled hair and his attractively craggy face, he walks us through ruins, peers at human bones, and dresses up in gladiator gear, acting as a stand-in for the couch potato dude who fancies himself a history buff. And for the mostly male Discovery audience, Bernstein has to be the perfect fantasy persona. He's suitably smart and comfortably casual, and he inhabits the high end of the geeky-sexy spectrum.

When he visits a modern-day gladiator school, the teacher muses about what his trademark skill might have been, and concludes - no joke - that it's his handsomeness. That about sums up his TV career, as well.


about Josh Bernstein
Personal life
Josh Bernstein was born and raised in Manhattan, and attended the highly prestigious Horace Mann School. In 1989, he went to Cornell University where he double-majored in Anthropology and Psychology, and double minored in Native American and Near Eastern Studies. He served two terms as president of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. After graduating from college, he spent a year in a post-graduate program in Jerusalem studying, among other things, mysticism and ancient texts. He is of Jewish heritage. His father was born in Jerusalem's Old City and his paternal grandparents and great-grandparents are buried in Israel.

Bernstein's father died of a heart attack six weeks before Bernstein's 15th birthday. A year later, his three-year-old sister was killed in an automobile accident.Bernstein has an identical twin brother, Andrew.

Bernstein has an apartment in New York City, and a yurt in southern Utah.

Professional life
The History Channel: Digging for the Truth
Digging for the Truth was a History Channel adventure-archaeology series that explored ancient mysteries around the world. The series premiered with Bernstein as host in January, 2005 and quickly became the highest-rated series in the history of The History Channel. Season 3 premiered on January 22, 2007, again setting a record for the network with the highest-rated series/season premiere to date (over 2.1 million viewers). The April 16, 2007 episode marked Bernstein's final appearance as host of Digging for the Truth.[4][6] The series continued for a 4th season without Bernstein before it was removed from primetime and then cancelled.

Digging for the Truth: One Man's Epic Adventure Exploring the World's Greatest Archaeological Mysteries is a print companion to the television series, authored by Bernstein, that reveals much more of the personal trials and challenges he faced making the series. It received critical acclaim and was released in hardcover in Winter 2006, and paperback in the Fall, 2007

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