The great thing about being a bureaucrat in a dictatorship is you can take credit for everything that happens in your personal fiefdom and treat people like garbage and there is no recourse.   Well, almost no recourse.   Those guys working for Saddam Hussein didn't fare all that well when their boss started floating rumors he had weapons of mass destruction, but generally the life of a senior guy in a dictatorship is pretty good.

For Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, it is better than good because he gets to make people call him "Pharaoh" and pretend they just do it naturally - and if you don't like it, you'll never go anywhere in Egypt.   The History Channel is happy to pimp his ego and have done so in the fakest reality show I have ever watched, called "Chasing Mummies".  

In it, no forced personal encounter can go without overacting on the part of both Hawass and his charges, none of whom seem to be there for any reason I can recognize.  An art history student?  Okay.   An actor?  Sure, why not? 

 I was not sure what to make of the production value of this, since supposedly the producer has 25 years of experience but it comes across as a hopeless mishmash of opportunities to invent fake drama and showcase Hawass rants about nothing.    

Is it a show to make him look like a superhero?  In one instance an intern just happens to be locked underneath the Step Pyramid and in danger and no one realizes this until Hawass is at a book signing and has to personally rescue her?   I even thought maybe it was a chance to showcase girls, since Alice (in fairness, an actual archaeologist) was once the focus of an entire episode while in a wetsuit ("Sunken, Aug. 8th)

 yet in another episode Zoe pees herself, which certainly didn't add to her sex appeal and detracts from the girl focus theory -  and it was probably the only real thing that happened during filming this stuff:

But in case you are a young archeology student desperate to be on television, or you are a masochist and want to be kicked around by someone who couldn't get a job at the 75th best college in America yet can run all archeology in Egypt, where it is perfectly okay to excavate recklessly, put public relations first, hype every archaeological find and take credit for others' discoveries, here are some quotes from Hawass to inspire you:

1. "I will announce some of the tombs I found next to the great pyramid of Khufu. One is an intact tomb that I have not opened yet."

2. "I am damn good. I am doing all this for Egypt and nothing else." 

3. "I found in one of the tombs an inscription saying, 'If you touch my tomb, you will be eaten by a crocodile and hippopotamus.' It doesn't mean the hippo will eat you, it means the person really wanted his tomb to be protected."

4. On pop star Beyonce, "she’s a stupid person and she doesn’t understand a thing and she doesn’t want to understand"

5. “Mummification built ancient Egypt” - so it wasn't Egyptian or Jewish slaves.    It's so hard to keep up.  That's why I can never be Zahi Hawass.

6. “What’s happening? We’re having a curse here”

7.  On Jews and Israel.  "For 18 centuries, they were dispersed throughout the world. They went to America and took control of its economy. They have a plan. Although they are few in number, they control the entire world."

I don't want to be entirely critical of Hawass.  He has made important discoveries, like that the original Pharaohs used Egyptian slave labor and not just Jews to build pyramids - that was a big one for showing the love and tolerance of Egyptians historically.    And he isn't as goofy as John Anthony West, who thinks the 'Man on Mars' was built by the same aliens that built the pyramids.

So thanks Zahi, for making people believe archeology is all about big golden tombs.

"Chasing Mummies" airs at 10PM eastern on History Channel.