Paid cable is full of great alternatives to sitcoms and reality programming, like History Channel documentaries and Military Channel weapons programs. It’s all very educational, but like the evening news, it’s also being sold and packaged as entertainment. With shows like “Monster Hunters” and “Ghost Hunters,” it was only a matter of time before someone created “UFO Hunters.”
The production design seems pretty good for this new show, as does the film work. What crushes the authenticity of what I’ve watched in the pilot is the mock seriousness that the crew seems to exude, making the planning and execution scenes feel more like a reality show task in the planning rather than actually conducting an investigation. From their “secret” observatory hideout, they have mounted Hi-Def video screens to watch pre-produced briefs of their upcoming investigations, which again seems more like a superhero team about to organize a strike on a villain’s lair than look for evidence.
Bill Birnes, Patrick Uskert, Jeff Tomlinson, and Ted Acworth are each introduced and assigned tasks based on what their specialties are. For the introductory episode, it is explained that a few weeks before the Roswell / Area 51 incident, a fleet of saucer-like craft in formation flew over a river, one spewing molten slag metal onto a boat and into the water as it spiraled out of control. The purpose of the hunting expedition was to gather evidence from this site as well as a crash site from a plane carrying other recovered pieces before going down during unusual circumstances. The declaration at the beginning of the program that this was a new and somehow unique opportunity didn’t look any more special than renting a fishing boat and doing a little SCUBA diving.
In the end, we’re told nothing conclusive and nothing particular interesting that wasn’t already part of the original story. The show is padded between these non-relevant segments with computer-enhanced and staged re-enactments of the what the spacecraft may have looked like, then shown doing the same thing over and over again. With a cast that alternates between overcooked hams and the camera shy, “UFO Hunters” feels completely staged and about as conclusive and compelling as any other unsolved conspiracy theory. Maybe I was expecting to see a re-creation of Fox Mulder’s “X-Files” office with an “I Want to Believe” poster hanging on the wall overlooking stacks of forgotten paperwork, but with far better shows on cable already, this could use some serious retooling to have any real longevity.