When I saw "Independence Day" in 1996 I first thought, "A Mac can bring down an entire alien civilization? Their users really are creative!" but then I wondered if some day, someone might actually get paid to find aliens.
Well, that day is here. But I have to warn you, the language is bad in this UFO stuff.
"Chasing UFOs", on the National Geographic channel, is not a family show. I sort of assumed it would be, like these sorts of shows used to be, but it became evident early on that the way our intrepid UFO hunters had to show you how terrified they were being around an old levee was to drop a bunch of F-bombs. Yes, yes, they were bleeped out. Your children aren't going to be fooled.
If you can get by the language - and I am no Puritan, but it gets annoying because the cursing happens a lot - you will probably like the show.
The first thing that struck me was that, even for someone who does not watch these shows, I felt like the Two White Guys And A Girl thing has been done a lot. Do black people not believe in UFOs? Do network executives think we wouldn't watch a show about UFOs that had a redhead, a black girl and an Asian old woman as hosts? IT'S ABOUT UFOs. Girls are not going to detract from that. Heck, add in aliens that are platinum blondes in shiny costumes and I bet viewership would go up a lot.
Ben, Ryder and James or, if you know your television stereotypes: Skeptic, Hot Girl, Believer. Quasi-military clothing required. Credit and link: National Geographic
Because this is a show about UFOs, and I am not all that experienced, I conscripted my wife for the event. She gives everything a fair chance; Shroud of Turin programming, those ghost shows, President Obama's 'jobs saved or created' numbers...she is in touch with the marketplace. So I wanted her input. The Two Guys And A Girl thing, she said, was the default because of a show called "Decoded." Fair enough, these are highly paid network executives and I write for peanuts on the Internet so they must know what they are doing.
Why did they include Reese's Pieces in the package with the DVD? I asked, since she is in tune with marketing too. "E.T.", she said. Brilliant!
We got two episodes. Since we were watching a pre-broadcast DVD I have no idea what order the episodes will air but the first one we watched was set in Fresno, down the road a few hours from me. As if UFOs are the weirdest thing in Fresno, I thought, but our investigators dutifully traveled there to examine the evidence.
What struck them, they noted, was 'how similar' the stories of sightings were. Yes, it seemed to be confirmation to them that a lot of people who have seen UFOs describe similar events to what science fiction did during the beginning of the Atomic Age and since. They first talked to "Sarah" who did not want her name revealed. Whaaaaa, a UFO person is paranoid too? Regardless, they found her story "compelling" - you don't get to be host on a show like this by being skeptical.
Well, maybe a little skeptical. One investigator is a 'radiation scientist' but they don't go much deeper than that, one is a full-on UFOlogist. I didn't even know that job existed. Who is laughing about my PhD in Theoretical Phys Ed now, huh? The final person was a woman who considers herself a 'skeptical believer' but her official title (because it is in white letters across the screen when they introduce her) is Tech/Recon.
Soon, they are off in a field at night, using night vision goggles, of course, and some car stops on the road. "It is tracking you," one says in a panic. I can't speak for anyone else, but in a rural area if we saw three people in a field with flashlights we stopped to see what they were doing.
Enjoy the language. NSFW, Ryder! Credit: National Geographic
I won't spoil the plot but I can tell you that they do determine that Dry Creek Reservoir in Fresno may actually be a west coast version of Area 51. The evidence is "unclear" to them, in that 'you can't prove it isn't a military UFO research site' sort of way. They call it an 'underground facility'. To me it just looked like a hydroelectric plant.
To someone who is not the target market, some things stick out. In the next episode, they basically find nothing, but they won't say they found nothing. They say it "deepens the mystery." And I made sure to write in my notes that if I ever meet them that I want to know what 'water conducts radiation' means. I'm no James Clerk Maxwell but I have some idea about the difference between conductance and radiation.
Clearly I could be picking nits. So I polled my survey sample of one and asked what she thought.
My wife liked the show, she said, because...
1) It was a not a 'decided' format. One of the people was skeptical, one was neutral and in neither episode did they claim to find anything conclusive.
2) She liked the approach. It did not have a lot of 'crazy' people. She has a point there. These were all folks just like your friends and neighbors, they had simply experienced something they could not explain and defaulted to 'supernatural', whereas many people would not.
3) She liked that it had a format similar to "Decoded".
What she did not like was the overdone music score. Dramatic music over basically nothing - skulking around a military post and having a guard look in your direction is not a reason to drop an F-bomb and cue minor chords. She said it reminded her of one of the bad ghost hunting shows.
Which made me laugh. They aren't all bad?
Nope, apparently there is a credibility pecking order for everything. So if you like UFOs (and as interstitials after commercials they included 'footage' people had shot of UFOs, which I thought was neat) this may be the show for you.
"Chasing UFO" premieres Friday June 29th at 9 PM.
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