Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bad TV Blast From The Past

Now here’s a memory trigger.

William Wise, over at his blog Rational Geek, mentioned that episodes of Project UFO are available for downloading from the Web. I hadn’t thought about that TV show for years –- and for good reason.

Project UFO followed the Sisyphean adventures of two bland investigators for Project Blue Book, the US Air Force department that handled flying saucer reports. Never mind that Blue Book was no longer in operation when the series was broadcast in 1978. The movie, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, was a hit at that time and so producer Jack Webb, Mr. Dragnet himself, could sell this turkey to NBC-TV.

And talk about special effects. One of the investigators recalled how he was aboard a bomber one time and the crew spotted an UFO. The plane chased after it. A crew member described the object during the pursuit, observing that the UFO was saucer-shaped with a metallic silver surface, no openings such as jet exhausts or windows. I noticed the guy didn’t mention the four white strings holding up the cheap model against the rear screen projection.

My favorite Project UFO episode: A married couple meets with the Blue Book investigators. They’ve had a terrifying experience. One foggy night they glimpsed something from their high-rise apartment. Eventually it comes out they saw bipedal aliens inside a spacecraft with horse-shaped heads. The husband exclaims: "So that's why we couldn't look at this!" He goes over to a painting hanging on a wall, the image hidden by a small sheet of cloth draped over it. He pulls off the sheet and –- DUM-DE-DUM-DUM (Dragnet music) -- there's a painted image of a horse's face!

Or so I remember. It's been a while, but I think I got the gist of the two episodes I’ve described. Anyway, it was a stupid series. They could never reveal anything, just leave it a mystery, week after week, slight variations on the same plotline: someone sees an UFO, Blue Book investigates, and it usually turns out that something weird is going on. That routine wore out quickly.

The opposite extreme to Project UFO and its one-plotline-for-every-episode was The X-Files where it just kept adding to the mystery, piling on more details regarding a great conspiracy lurking in the background, until it was a complete mess. All it needed was horse-headed aliens thrown in.

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