Saturday, June 6, 2009

MY TWO CENTS: Avoiding the demise of UFO Hunters

With ratings so slumped as to make a slouching teenager appear upright, The History Channel's UFO Hunters may be facing the Ax Men.

In an op-ed piece on newsblaze, Robert Paul Reyes questions why the show belongs in the History Channel lineup alongside other, more relevant programs such as Cities of the Underworld and Digging for the Truth. But The History Channel has often strayed from the theme of historic documentary with series like Monster Quest, Ax Men, Expedition Africa, Ice Road Truckers, and Life After People.

What do any of these shows have to do with History? Why does SciFi air Ghost Hunters - or better yet, wrestling? Why does Discovery air Cash Cab (even though I love that show)? Why is TLC (The Learning Channel) turning into nothing but a vehicle for exploiting different people like a turn-of-the-century Freak Show?

If anything, of all these shows on the History Channel, UFO Hunters and Monster Quest are the only ones that DO deal with history, by examining historic UFO cases and monster sightings.

I'll admit, I'm not the biggest fan of either show. I find them both sensational, biased, and unsatisfying. Despite the introduction of Kevin Cook to UFO Hunters (the only one with a head on his shoulders), I am still annoyed by Bill Birnes' believe-at-any-cost approach. He is not out to investigate UFO sightings, he's out to PROVE that UFO's are extraterrestrial space craft. And don't get me started on his annoying habit of restating what someone has just said as if it were his own thought. Doesn't he realize this makes him look insipidly unoriginal? And the less said about Pat Uskert, the better.

But I've also been intrigued by both these shows at times. And I think that's the rub: I hate it because I know it can be so much better. The same with Monster Quest. I would like to think that those who watch the History Channel are a fairly intelligent breed. So, why are the shows getting more and more dumbed down to cater to the Joe The Plumber crowd? "Look, Billy-Bob! There's a marathong about the show that pits UFO-abducted sharks against monster trucks and then uses 3D graphics to see who would win in a fight against the DaVinci code!"

So, while I agree the show should have a better network (SciFi would be good, but I've always thought a new paranormal-themed channel would be great), I don't think it is yet time to chuck the baby out with the bath water. It's time that its fans demand more from the show. Better science, better history, better investigation.

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