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Two series. Two channels. Same name. Could it be... aliens?

TV Review: UFO Hunters (From The History Channel)

The History Channel’s new Wednesday night UFO documentary series UFO Hunters (which premiered on February 6) is the latest in a long line of television’s efforts to satisfy the appetite of a public which continues to be fascinated by the subject of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. Anybody else remember the old FOX TV series Sightings, back in the nineties?

Interestingly, this time around the show has some competition.

It seems the producers of the Sci-Fi Channel’s highly successful (and entertaining) Ghost Hunters franchise about — what else? — hunting down ghosts, have launched their own weekly UFO hunting show. Sci-Fi’s version of UFO Hunters not only airs at right about the same time on Wednesday nights, it even has the same identical name.

In the Sci-Fi Channel’s version, a New York based amateur UFO hunting group called NY-SPI (which stands for New York Strange Phenomena Investigators) investigate UFO sightings, and even some alien abduction cases. The stories are told, the witnesses are interviewed, and the team investigates. There’s not a lot of hard science involved, but it does make for some very entertaining, and occasionally even thought provoking television.

The History Channel’s UFO Hunters on the other hand, choose to take a somewhat more scientific approach. This is after all, the History Channel right?

Here, a team of UFO researchers headed up by UFO Magazine publisher William J. “Bill” Birnes joins forces with scientists like MIT engineer Dr. Ted Acworth to investigate — and whenever possible recreate in a science lab — some of history’s most famous UFO encounters. It’s occasionally a bit drier than the Sci-Fi channel’s version — particularly when the methodology of science is applied to these cases. But while the results are at best inconclusive — at least in the two episodes we were able to view — they also tend to raise your eyebrows a bit.

In the debut episode, we follow Birnes and his team to Washington State where they attempt to solve a case which occurred in 1947 a full two weeks before the more famous purported UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico.

The case began with the sighting of six donut shaped UFO’s by witnesses aboard a boat near Maury Island. When one of the UFO formation appeared to encounter mechanical problems, it rained down some sort of flaming debris which reportedly injured a passenger and even killed a dog onboard the boat.

Shortly thereafter, an Air Force team retrieved said debris, and attempted to fly it out of Washington to Northern California’s Hamilton Air Force Base. But the plane never made it — crashing instead near Kelso, Washington and killing two of the crewmen aboard. Our team of UFO Hunters goes to Washington State to search for answers. They gather debris from both the Maury Island and Kelso sites, and take them back to the lab for scientific analysis.

In the second episode, the team goes to Catalina Island, just off the coast of Los Angeles to investigate reports of USOs (or Unidentified Submerged Objects) — the kind which fly in and out of the water. Here, the UFO Hunters focus in on a report of an airplane crash into the water, which the pilot claims was brought down by one such “USO.” Again, the team attempts to locate the crashed plane. When they fail to do so, they instead retreat back to the lab to try and recreate the conditions of the crash itself.

Future episodes of the History Channel’s UFO Hunters series promise to look into such famous UFO incidents as the mass “Hudson Valley” sightings in upstate New York, and the first — and still most famous — alien abduction case, the 1961 incident involving bi-racial couple Betty and Barney Hill in rural New Hampshire.

As these type of TV series go, I actually found the History Channel’s UFO Hunters to be quite refreshing and, yes, entertaining too.

The “science” used here tends to be somewhat of a stretch at times, relying as it does on hypotheses based on the rather extraordinary claims of the eyewitnesses involved. Still, the fact that this team of hunters goes after the so-called “truth” by attempting to employ scientific methods at all, is a somewhat welcome change for this field. It definitely beats both the blind faith of the believers, and the “swamp gas” stories of the debunkers most often found here.

I’m not sure how the other UFO Hunters show on Sci-Fi is doing. Last time, I checked they were already in re-runs before even getting to a second episode. But I do know that the History Channel has a pretty good track record for these types of shows.

So far at least, I like the chances for this particular team of UFO Hunters.

UFO Hunters airs on the History Channel Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern.

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.

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