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Your Paracast Newsletter — January 27, 2019

Gene Steinberg

Forum Super Hero
Staff member
January 27, 2019


Author and Teacher Jason Offutt Talks About Monsters and Other Phenomena on The Paracast

The Paracast is heard Sundays from 3:00 AM until 6:00 AM Central Time on the GCN Radio Network and affiliates around the USA, the Boost Radio Network, the IRN Internet Radio Network, and online across the globe via download and on-demand streaming.

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This Week's Episode: Gene and Randall are visited by Jason Offutt, author of fact and fiction books on a variety of subjects, with a special focus on the paranormal. Jason grew up on a farm near the little town of Orrick, Missouri where he's been a farm hand, journalist, photographer, bartender, and mayor! Jason teaches journalism at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, and keeps the world safe from the forces of evil. As a kid he looked for Sasquatch footprints in the yard, UFOs over our farmhouse, and one night his whole family saw something that shouldn’t – couldn’t – have been in the sky. One afternoon, while alone, he saw a full-bodied apparition.

J. Randall Murphy's Ufology Society International: Ufology Society International (USI) - Explore the UFO Phenomenon

Jason Offutt's Blog: https://www.jasonoffutt.com

After The Paracast -- Available exclusively for Paracast+ subscribers on January 27: Gene and Randall are joined by paranormal author Jason Offutt, as the trio cover a variety of topics, which include the notorious UFO marketer Bill Knell, who was exposed in an early episode of The Paracast, the tale of a woman in the 19th century who stood 8’4’’ tall, Jason’s early interest in sci-fi, with a brief discussion about “Lost in Space,” a show was rebooted some time back on Netflix. You’ll also hear about Jason’s humous columns and how to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Reminder: Please don't forget to visit our famous Paracast Community Forums for the latest news/views/debates on all things paranormal: The Paracast Community Forums. Check out our new YouTube channel at: The Official Paracast Channel

It’s Just a Scripted Drama Folks
By Gene Steinberg

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read some criticisms of the new History channel historical fiction drama, “Project Blue Book,” which is loosely based on the life of the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek.

When I first saw the previews for the series, produced by an Oscar-winner, Robert Zemeckis, I wondered if they had opted to portray Dr. Hynek as a sort of action hero with a beard and a pipe. With all those questionable reality shows about UFOs and the paranormal, I had mixed feelings of what was going to transpire.

But “Project Blue Book” is not presented as fact. While loosely based on real people and real UFO events from the 1950s, the screenwriters have taken great liberties with their subject matter. Some characters, such as Air Force Captain Michael Quinn, are fiction. But you can see some resemblances between Captain Quinn and Captain Edward Ruppelt, one of the best-known leaders of Project Blue Book.

Let me put this on the table first: I’ve not seen all the episodes, at least not yet. The pilot of the series began pretty much as a paint-by-the-numbers drama, although I gather it gets better once the introductory exposition is out of the way.

Now I can see where some people seriously interested in UFOs might chafe at the treatment. It’s easy to find the ways in which the facts are manipulated for good drama. But that’s nothing unusual. After all, lots of movies and TV shows are based on historical characters behaving in ways that hardly resemble their real-life counterparts.

These sensitivities are easy to understand. The media hasn’t treated UFOs so well over the decades, although there have been some recent exceptions, such as The New York Times. Reality shows, which pretend to be factual, will deliberately alter facts and situations to fit within a 43-minute time slot, plus commercials. At the end of an episode, particularly in one involving alleged ghost hunters, something strange has to occur.

That’s true even if the actual investigation fails to yield any paranormal encounters. It is, after all, about ratings and ad revenue. If there aren’t enough viewers, the show is canceled. That was evidently true for “Hangar 1: The UFO Files,” a reality show from the History channel that purportedly depicted genuine UFO cases from the files of MUFON. It was obvious early on, however, that the producers took great liberties with the facts.

Due to its pretensions, the show was widely criticized. Evidently it didn’t capture a particularly high audience, since it was canceled after two seasons.

Now if you can get past the obvious objections to presenting error-filled reports as fact, it’s probably true that most people won’t notice, or bother to fact-check. I suppose it’s possible that such programs might lure them into taking UFOs seriously so they continue the quest.

Even though “Project Blue Book” is strictly entertainment, a “ripped from the headlines” show, I suppose it might also interest some people in genuine UFO studies. If that’s the case, it’s a worthy effort.

For now, the jury is still out. The first episode got decent ratings. The latest, as I write this, was broadcast on January 22nd, and was loosely based on the Lubbock Lights sighting. In the Nielsen overnight ratings, it ranked sixth behind such shows as “Curse of Oak Island” and “WWE Smackdown.” That’s pretty decent for this sort of program, so the History channel has nothing to apologize for.

I cannot guess about the expectations of the producers and the network. If those ratings are high enough, and they are far better than the long-running reality show, “House Hunters,” no doubt there will be more seasons. There are certainly quite a number of UFO cases from Project Blue Book’s files that can be mined and adapted for the show.

If the series hangs on for a few years, will it show how Dr. Hynek gradually became disenchanted with Project Blue Book’s efforts to explain away all sightings? Will it depict Dr. Hynek’s clear change of heart after he delivered the infamous “swamp gas” explanation for the 1966 Dexter, Michigan sighting?

Of course, that takes us way beyond the early focus on the 1950s, and it might take quite a few seasons to reach that point in Dr. Hynek’s life, assuming the producers want to take it there.

Then again, some TV shows, such as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” can hang on for two decades and still garner decent ratings.

Now if producers and the network have a finite limit for how many episodes they want to produce, perhaps they will telegraph events to cover a longer period of time. A good way to end it might be an episode depicting the “swamp gas” debacle, and how it led to Congressional hearings on UFOs.

All right, those hearings produced little more than the infamous Condon Report, which gave the Air Force the excuse it wanted to shutter Project Blue Book. But such an episode could also contain brief scenes of how Dr. Hynek became one of the best-known civilian UFO researchers, and how his concept of close encounters became a cultural meme.

I might be expecting too much, however. As it stands, “Project Blue Book” is, as you might expect, modestly budgeted and there’s little indication yet that the producers and actors are there for the long haul.

But if production values are kept at a decent level, it might be fun. Just remember to keep that salt shaker handy. Once again, the series is strictly fiction. It’s not meant to depict the real history of the UFO field except in a very general way. The focus is primarily on its entertainment value, and if it can capture a consistent audience week-to-week, that is a good thing.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice to see a TV show about UFOs that actually adheres to the facts? That would require producers and networks actually caring more about the truth than high ratings.

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USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
I don't mind a mix of fact and fiction so long as it's clearly defined as docudrama rather than documentary. Naturally I've also been constantly let down in the manner Gene describes as well. The X-Files was an almost perfect example. I was a fan of the show, but still wished it had been more documentary than drama.