“I know how disappointed all of you are. I am too. It’s not the show that was sold to both myself and scientist Ben…[It] does get a bit better further down the road but not a lot.” —James Fox
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|By Robert Hastings|
“James and I both had expectations and (for our own reasons) hopes of an ultimately serious product. We both saw the project heading in a different direction as time went on and were powerless to influence it.” —Dr. Ben McGee
My last article on this website, Nat Geo’s Chasing UFOs: Investigation as Farce, roundly criticized the format and content of the new reality series currently being aired on the National Geographic channel. Having meticulously investigated UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites for 39 years—utilizing declassified U.S. government documents and the testimony of more than 130 military veterans—I was appalled by the ridiculous thrashing around in the dark and superficial-to-non-existent analysis by the trio of “investigators” offered up in the program’s first three episodes.
I was/am concerned that public and scientific perceptions about the UFO phenomenon, and those who actually research it, will be very negatively impacted as a result of Chasing UFO’s pretend-investigation approach to the subject. God knows there already exists a pervasive perception, at least in some quarters, that there is no “there” there. Consequently, this crap was the last thing that I, or anyone who wishes to learn the facts about UFOs, needed to see on our TV screens.
Out of a sense of fair play, upon posting the article I emailed one of the show’s stars, filmmaker James Fox—whose previous two UFO documentaries I loved—and notified him that I had just publicly trashed him and his current project. To his credit, he took my very harsh but accurate criticism in stride and, in response, subsequently offered some mostly-apologetic commentary on journalist and best-selling author Leslie Kean’s Facebook site:
(A new article by Robert Hastings on the “Chasing UFOs” disaster.)
(A new article by Robert Hastings on the “Chasing UFOs” disaster.)
Shortly thereafter, a second member of the Chasing UFOs trio, Dr. Ben McGee, added his own input. Both comments appear below and, as of this moment, over 40 other individuals have added their views to the very influential blog.
James Fox said: I know how disappointed all of you are. I am too. It's not the show that was sold to both myself and scientist Ben. Two months into it, we were off to a great start; good locations, solid witnesses and some opportunities for Ben to apply his field research as a geologist at some crash sites. Very exciting stuff. Unfortunately, when we actually got out in the field we began to realize that they were more interested in poking around a night than allocating the time necessary during the day as apparently (so we were told) Americans love watching others sneak around at night from the comfort of their couches. Ben and I reluctantly played along...and it wasn't always bad. We really set up field maps and surveillance at the Roswell crash site (with a slew of high tech gear) and ran out of daylight. As it was in the middle of nowhere we all decided to work through the night and did find something...there were other cases in the show where when witnesses claimed to see strange lights appear in certain areas and that too made some sense for us to go out at night...but for the most part it was gratuitous night time boloney. As far as the title, it was UFO Investigations until they switched it to Chasing UFOs after it was all shot and edited. So with a lack of control in the field and zero in post the show is what it is. Having said that, all my previous works are circulating Nat Geo headquarters and I've been influencing and establishing contacts in the mainstream (middle america mainstream) and will continue to do so and I will only return if I'm on as a producer all the way through to the end. Will it ever be I Know What I Saw or Leslie's great work...? No, but I'll do my best to make is a credible while entertaining as possible (as that's most important to Nat Geo). I promise I'll either quit or change my position within the show because at least I can make it all make some sense. The show does get a bit better further down the road but not a lot. Please bare with me a bit longer as I've jumped into the lions den to see what I could do from the inside. My credibility and reputation has, deservedly, taken a serious hit but know that I'm hoping to come out with an opportunity that otherwise wouldn't have presented itself. Fingers crossed. James
Ben McGee said: Greetings, all - James asked me to chime in as well. When we were brought onboard, the project certainly had a much harder inclination than its final realization, and as a career scientist I was excited that NatGeo was at the helm (unaware of their desire for a major shift in programming flavor). Our intentions were very sincere, and the project working title was even more serious than James remembers: Sightings Investigated. For my own part, while personally unconvinced of any extraterrestrial visitation, I had plans to provide insightful context that I thought viewers of all stripes would appreciate and find engaging - examples of spaceflight technology, astronomy, planetary science - helping anchor the show and explain why the scientific establishment supports the possibility of extraterrestrial life yet is unconvinced of extraterrestrial visitation either now or in the distant past. We filmed much of this content, but as you no doubt noticed, the great majority was ultimately not included. Apparently, such is television. James and I both had expectations and (for our own reasons) hopes of an ultimately serious product. We both saw the project heading in a different direction as time went on and were powerless to influence it. Injecting science into mainstream media is also problematic, and I am suffering heat in my own circles for the lack thereof on the show. I will personally vouch that James's motives were true, and if anyone is interested in the science that we did perform, I’m keeping a blog on the NatGeo website (linked below).
Cheers, Ben tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/author/benmcgee
END OF POSTS
My own opinion, expressed in great detail in my first article on this subject, is that the fix was in from the get-go and neither Fox, McGee nor Erin Ryder (the trio’s third member) had any real chance of influencing or altering the ridiculous outcome.
Indeed, the Nat Geo network’s track record on UFO “documentaries” speaks for itself. As I wrote in the other article, “Over the years I had told several people, only half-jokingly, that if the Nat Geo scripts were not actually written at CIA headquarters, the network was at least making the agency very happy by broadcasting its poorly researched, extremely biased, essentially propagandistic shows on the UFO subject.”
Those comments were specifically directed toward Nat Geo’s other new UFO program, The Truth Behind UFOs: Popped, a true-to-form debunking exercise—only the latest of many—which aired the night before the premier of Chasing UFOs. Given the absurd ambiance offered by latter, I suppose I can now add, “Not to mention making otherwise serious people who sincerely wish to investigate the phenomenon look like fools.”
Nat Geo’s Chasing UFOs:
Investigation as Farce
CHASING UFOs: ". . . The Most Paranoid and Absurd Pieces of Supposedly Non-Fiction TV That I Have Ever Seen"
UFO Hunters Review - an Embarrassment to UFOlogy
National Geographic Mockumentary
National Geographic Solves Roswell UFO Enigma!
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