Saturday, June 30, 2012

Chasing UFOs - The Review

UPDATE: Dr. Ben McGee has shown up in the comments below, directing you to a series of blog posts he has begun, explaining more about each episode and musing on some of the topics touched on the episode. They are worth reading, and I'd advise you to check them out. At the same time, my criticisms of the final product still stand.

Dr. McGee's followup 1
Dr. McGee's followup 2

The new National Geographic show (oh, how the mighty have fallen) Chasing UFOs can be boiled down to one word: Childish.

It isn't even unintentionally amusing (a justification I've heard for watching Finding Bigfoot), it is embarrassing and awkward. The core of the show is three adults play-acting out spooky adventures in a manner similar to how children might play cops and robbers, or at best like teenagers legend-tripping (with the payoff being getting paid to work on television and building a promotional base, rather than stumbling around in the dark with your freshman high school crush).

You see the trailer at the top of this post? Where our heroes chase a UFO on foot? It makes more sense than the actual show does. Our team goes searching for soil samples and bits of residue or debris or radiation - at night.

Again, I want you think about it. Searching for small geological or metal fragments. In the dark. When you don't have to. That's the plan. Here, let me illustrate.

There really isn't much more to say about it (in the first two episodes, the team stumbled around Texas searching for the Stephenville UFO that was there four years ago, and then go to California to look for triangular UFOs and underground bases).Our heroes alternate between boring conversations with witnesses and UFO enthusiasts they don't really listen to or critically assess, and boring "scared" dialogue as they sneak around various properties in the dark. And they use lots of gear (so much so that National Geographic has a list for you, I'm amazed the link didn't take me to an online store).

The two male investigators are supposed to be the opposite ends of the belief spectrum, the documentary-making ufologist James Fox, and radiation expert and xenoarchaeologist Ben McGee (while this concept can exist in a hypothetical sense, its presence here seems to have more to do with the continuing issue of how easy it is for anyone to claim to be an archaeologist EDIT: I'll leave this link up as it is related, but this particular blog post does not really cover that topic, I'm confusing it with a recent presentation I co-wrote). But from what I can vaguely remember (honestly, if you gave this show your undivided attention, especially both episodes, please for the sake of humanity find ways to motivate yourself to become a better person), in practice they were virtually indistinguishable in behavior. McGee is the skeptic, and in an interview talks about this as a form of education outreach. I can't really see how running around in the dark poorly imitating the idea of geological or archaeological research is public educational outreach. This leaves Erin Ryder, the tech expert, who from what I can gather is the star of the show not just by being female for what I'm guessing is an expected majority male audience, but also as a veteran of another "run around in the dark and make a mockery of the idea of investigation" show, Destination Truth.

That said, if you are a fancier of tactical vests (apparently an integral part of scientific investigation), this show may be relevant to your interests.