Don't know much about history? Watch H2

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This one could lose you some serious money on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"

Q. Which cable channel is premiering a new series Monday night with episodes about Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln?

A. History channel

B. Discovery channel

C. A&E

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D. H2

Your initial response might well be "What the heck is H2?"

And no wonder. Though D is indeed the right answer, its ownership is just now ramping up resources for the channel that launched in 1996 as History International, before changing its name to H2 last September.

@Newsday

H2: THE REASON The channel's slogan is "More 2 History," but longtime fans of its parent History channel might be forgiven for thinking it should be "Here's REAL History." That genre can be in short supply these days on the mothership, now overflowing with the likes of "Pawn Stars," "Ax Men" and "American Pickers."

Those "reality" shows are attracting new viewers, sending History ratings through the roof. But fans who came on board earlier, after History's 1995 launch as a channel focused on what happened back then or how today took shape, might be forgiven for viewing the "History" name now as somewhat a bait-and-switch.

However, "Manly Docusoaps" just isn't a catchy channel name, so History it remains. But shows about, you know, actual history -- past people and things -- now tend to migrate to H2.

THE NEW SHOW Monday night's arrival is "10 Things You Don't Know About" (at 10 and 10:30 p.m.), a half-hour that certainly fulfills History execs' announced aim of H2 offering "a deeper perspective on history." While schoolbooks tell us initial subject Benjamin Franklin wrote "Poor Richard's Almanack," experimented with electricity and helped execute the American Revolution, "Didn't Know" digs deeper.

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Like down to the dirt. Historian-author-host David Eisenbach introduces Franklin as a fugitive from the law, America's "first tabloid journalist" and, "some suspect, a serial killer." Plus, "he frequented a sex club"! Did you know "his sex drive helped win the American Revolution?"

Eisenbach presents national poll results proving his "10 things" previously unknown to most Americans. To be fair, his brisk countdown also heralds Franklin as America's first weatherman. But who'd tune in just for that?

SO IS THERE NO HISTORY ON 'HISTORY' ANYMORE? The original History channel still premieres some big-deal series and specials, thanks to its much-larger universe of American cable households (History reaches 99 million, H2 just 65 million).

Among recent assessments of the past on mothership History: "America: The Story of Us," "How the States Got Their Shapes" and "Vietnam in HD." Upcoming: March 9's "Caligula: 1400 Days of Terror."

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Original series

* "10 Things You Don't Know About . . ." (Mondays at 10 and 10:30 p.m.), debuts Feb. 27 with Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln

* "Top Guns" (Wednesdays at 10 p.m.), debuted Feb. 15 as a companion to History hit "Top Shot"

* "America's Book of Secrets" (Saturdays at 10 p.m.), peeks inside Fort Knox, Freemasons, more; March 8 marathon (8 p.m.-4 a.m.) sets up March 10 premiere "The FBI"

H2 new episodes of History transplants

* "Modern Marvels" (Mondays at 9 p.m.), Feb. 27: "Alaska"

* "Ancient Aliens" (Fridays at 10 p.m.), March 2: "Mega-Disaster"

* "The Universe" (Tuesday marathons 6 p.m.-4 a.m.), latest premiere: Feb. 14's "Alien Sounds"

H2 is on Cablevision Ch. 161, Verizon FiOS Ch. 127, DirecTV Ch. 271, DISH Ch. 121

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