Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Dueling UFO Hunter TV Shows and Why Ufology May Not Be Ready for Prime-Time

Positioned almost perfectly to take advantage of the increased popular and media interest in UFOs, two different television series entitled UFO Hunters will be airing this year.

Clearly the model for each of these is the popular American Ghost Hunters franchise and similar shows from the United Kingdom such as Most Haunted.

The first will be on the History Channel. Each episode will follow four investigators (one a previously known figure in ufology, but not the others) from case to case. The official website has the reality-style video in the opening promo, but the videos on the site are in droning narrator style, and I suspect may not be part of the show (and if they are, they are pulling a serious bait-and-switch). Much more information about the investigators and cases can be found at Slice of SciFi.

The second is on the SciFi channel, a stylistic spin-off of Ghost Hunters. As with the other show, two lead investigators are the main "characters" with a rotating ensemble cast of investigators. The official site has video previews, and bios of the two lead investigators. It is noteworthy that both have ties to Bud Hopkins. And in a promo for the History Channel show, an implant case is featured prominently. This suggests abduction will be a significant part of the mix on both shows.

Personally, I think the SciFi show has a better chance at success. The format has been tested and works. Two main characters, with an emphasis on them being "everyday" people, rather than degreed experts. The Mission Impossible-style rotating cast of investigators that are called in for each case (and importantly, not all male). The use of acronyms (ala the now famous TAPS). By contrast, the History Channel show focuses on four men (no women) who are older, and in the promos at least one of them, the most well known ufologist in the group, is already talking about how they know many of the answers, etc. in a style more suited to the stock-footage/talking head style UFO tv shows that History Channel runs every week. Furthermore, the History Channel show is focusing on historical cases, from decades ago, starting with Maury Island, hitting Socorro, and others.

This is part of the problem both shows will face. First off, while UFOs are hot now, popular interest in ghosts and ghostly matters is much higher, and was before Ghost Hunters ever hit the air. Second, part of the reason people watch ghost hunting shows of any sort is because there is the supposed chance that the camera crew and investigators, skulking around in creepy dark abandoned buildings, could run directly into the ongoing phenomenon. That can be thrilling and engaging. By contrast, ufology is for the most part a forensic study (if proper research is even being done at all), looking for evidence (physical trace, photographs, testimony) to understand a past event, a sighting. Attempts to build up dramatic tension will be much harder.


Anonymous said...

Three organizations have filed for the "UFO Hunters" trademark; MUFON, the Histroy Channel and Pilgrim Films. said...

History Channel may be blowing smoke with "UFO Hunters" series name
It appears that the History Channel may be blowing smoke, claiming the UFO Hunters series name is their original idea. According to the website of the company filming the UFO based series for the History Channel, the original name was going to be "UFO Road Trip", which may have been changed to UFO Hunters after the SciFi Channel announced a series with that name in July of last year. Just because the History Channel filed for trademark registration of the mark "UFO HUNTERS" in October of last year, six days before the film company filming for SciFi, doesn't mean they had the series name idea first.

A quick check of the Motion Picture Production, Inc. website clearly shows what the name of the History Channel series was going to be, and it wasn't UFO Hunters. The website is still referring to it as "UFO Road Trip", which is a 13 part series being filmed to be shown on the History Channel, and the History Channel is sending out promos and press releases saying their "UFO Hunters" is going to be a new 13 part series. What are the odds of that...???
On is a screenshot of the Motion Picture Production, Inc. website, referring to the "other" name.