There are plenty of big unanswered questions in the world: do ghosts exist? Is there life after death? Why is Lindsay Lohan in the news all the time? The answers are quite likely to be no, no and I don't know, but none of us knows for sure.
Paranormal investigation shows are pure entertainment crack for me: I know most of them are staged, the "science" is laughably bad, and they never find anything. But for some reason, whenever a new variant comes along it's like when Subway releases a new sandwich - it's the same stuff slightly rejiggled but it all feels new again (Orchard Chicken Salad - rock out).
So here we have a new fearless team, led by Ben Hansen, apparently a former FBI agent even he seems too young to have retired. There are a handful of helpers who all claim dubious levels of skill - a photographer whose bio doesn't reflect much photography, a "lead scientist" who builds puppets on pulleys, and a "stunt expert" who they get to run around and do the dangerous parts. Each week they show us a bunch of videos and decide on the best two to investigate, presumably at least partially influenced by SyFy's travel budget and how crazy the witnesses are. There's one woman on the team who's video everyone hates each week.
Almost all the ghost and UFO videos are faked, or light distortions, or compression artifacts, or parallex effects, or out of focus plants rather than black-eyed children, little green men or the last part of Mel Gibson's career trying to get on film. The debunking looks promising in the first episode, and they successfully managed to explain the "ghost car" video that practically everyone in the whole world has seen. Then it starts to go south from there.
Whenever a case can't be immediately debunked and they're not in the business to call the hoaxer's liar, they wheel out a "voice stress analysis" to conclude that "they're telling the truth". Next, once they've exhausted any attempt to recreate the video, usually involving unsuccessfully reflecting things off of glass or the "scientist" building scary-looking puppets and calling it an 'experiment'. In one case, a UFO turned out to be a balloon that the park ranger reported, making the family who caught the aliens on tape seem genetically not too distant from the parents of Balloon Boy.
Finally, you guessed it, they veer off into Destination Truth territory, when they start absolutely inexplicably wondering around open fields with infrared cameras at night. What this has to do with the cases is completely beyond me. In one case where they're trying to find two creatures in a man's yard in Fresno (hey, at least it's not Temecula) they somehow end up in a field and find two living things on the infrared. Holy crap, is it a deer?! Who knows, but the lead scientist draws all sorts of conclusions about Bambi that should have us getting a restraining order keeping him at least a mile from any form of laboratory.
In another 'run around the fields' moment to debunk lights in the Arizona sky, they end up witnessing a shooting star/plane/satellite and are on the verge of announcing War of the Worlds and calling the Prez. I mean, Jesus guys, seriously. Then there are conviction-filled statements - "It's definitely a UFO" - which then get deflated when the confidence evaporates - "er, in that it's unidentified and flying". And an object, sure.
In yet another one - and this is my favorite - batteries start failing on equipment. Camera equipment, walkie talkies - everything except the camera that's filming of course. So our lead scientist whips out an EMF meter and metal detector, and then the metal detector fails and the EMF becomes a WTF meter as credibility jumps straight out of the window. I have no idea what they're trying to prove with any of this equipment, but they should know that if you're going for a night shoot on SyFy's dime, you could at least charge up your stuff before you get there.
Anyway, it's on Thursdays. So guess where I'll be tonight. Ben Hansen - and you heard it here first - is the next Fox Mulder. Quietly brooding and unassuming, he managed to rip Dr Reed (the alien hoaxer) a new one - clearly some of that FBI training will be coming in useful in the episodes to come.
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About the reviewer
James Beswick (jbeswick)
Lunch.com's "token Brit".
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