There was a moment circa 2009 when Megan Fox was at the heart of the pop-culture conversation. In movies, she was immortalized as the hot Transformers babe in hoops arching to peer under a car hood, or as the man-eating demon in Jennifer’s Body. In interviews, she was an intriguing quote machine, claiming to have once dated a stripper named Nikita (though nobody could find her); comparing Transformers director Michael Bay to Hitler (they fired her soon after); and positing that High School Musical was actually about “boys who are all being molested by the basketball coach” (she watched it while stoned). At 23, she was already a Hollywood sex symbol and a master provocateur.
But in the years since, Fox has largely avoided the spotlight. She got married, had three kids, and settled down outside the public eye. Which is why you would be forgiven for assuming that the premise behind her newest gig—as the host of a series about ancient civilizations on the Travel Channel—was cooked up by some savvy network producer as a dumb way to bait viewers. But instead, Legends of the Lost with Megan Fox, premiering Dec. 4, was actually pitched by Fox herself, as the result (she claims) of a longtime interest in mythology and the ancient wonders of the world.
Unfolding in four episodes, Legends of the Lost plays like a cross between a boring docuseries and reality TV—or what you might get if you commissioned Kim Kardashian to lead an investigative series on Vice. Over each hour-long episode, we are dragged to archaeological digs, ancient ruins, and museums to learn about different primordial cultures. Each episode is based around a question or mystery that Fox, with help from a contrived script, seeks to puzzle out.
The pilot finds Fox in Scandinavia and Britain, where she intends to explore an emerging theory about the status of women in Viking societies. Though history has led us to believe otherwise, she explains, new findings suggest that women actually played a key role in Viking communities, serving not only as child-rearers but also as merchants, traders, and even warriors. To investigate, Fox meets with an array of archaeologists and historians—all deliberately chosen, obviously—who each end up providing a piece of evidence corroborating the theory that Viking women were, in fact, influential members of society.
The second episode, in which Fox takes on Stonehenge, is even more ridiculous. Guided by a guy whose only title is “local expert,” Fox visits the ancient monument and the stones’ places of origin, studying the terrain and banging on rocks to see what sound they make. She eventually grasps onto the idea that the circle of monoliths were designed as a calming aural chamber, which ancient people sought out for healing and wellness—basically Goop headquarters, 5,000 years earlier.
Throughout, Fox occupies the role of the uninformed but curious observer, posing a series of questions and observations so painfully basic as to border on childish. “It’s like a really cool Game of Thrones set,” she offers when entering a recreated Vikings home. Or, when an archaeologist shows her an ancient scepter: “That looks like a magic wand. Like Professor Snape’s wand.” The pop-culture references are clearly meant to be silly in a fun way, but they mostly just serve to make Fox seem even less informed and suited for the job than she already does.
Even so, Fox is an enjoyable host; there’s something pleasing about her genuine inquisitiveness and spunky spirit. At one point, a historian shows Fox an ancient story about a fierce Viking woman written by a man. “This was a violent woman,” he says, to which Fox quips in reply, “No, that’s just a woman. And [the writer] was a man that was afraid of women.”
The series is peppered with dramatic recreations—Viking battles, ancient Stonehenge builders—overlaid with suspenseful music, quick cuts, slo-mo, the works. The dumb irony of Legends of the Lost is that, for a series that purports to investigate primitive cultures, its cheap aesthetic and jumping-to-conclusions, limited-evidence theories feel just as primitive. But we all knew that’s not really the point, anyway. This is Fox’s series, and she’s always known how to steal a show.