Judge Gordon Sullivan used to go deer hunting, but got tired of competing with the UFOs.
Our review of UFO Hunters: The Complete Season One, published September 4th, 2008, is also available.
The truth is out there—and UFO Hunters are on the case.
If we take UFO to mean simply an Unidentified Flying Object, then UFOs unquestionably exist. Too many people have seen too many different objects, corroborated by too many different means for it to all be simple cases of overactive imagination. However, this doesn't mean that we must immediately devolve into believing in a vast, intergalactic conspiracy between aliens and the U.S. Air Force. For too long the UFO debate has been stuck in a quagmire: on one side, zealots who steadfastly believe in aliens and coverups, and on the other hyper-rational skeptics who wouldn't believe in UFOs if one landed in their front yard at high noon. What's been needed is a show that's willing to debunk hoaxes while also giving attention to those cases which are not easily explained by carnival trickery. The UFO Hunters attempts to fit that bill, offering investigations from a team of experts (including one, the box proudly proclaims, who worked for NASA and MIT) who approach UFO stories agnostically, trying both to corroborate the evidence, and ensure the veracity of any sightings. It's a smart idea, but sadly hampered by poor production decisions.
Facts of the Case
UFO Hunters: The Complete Season Two follows the exploits of three researchers as they investigate various UFO claims. Each episode starts with an overview of the particular case. Then, each of the researchers gets a task associated with the incident, and the group comes together at various points to compare notes about the likelihood of different scenarios (extraterrestrials, hoaxes, scientific explanations). Bill Birnes is the publisher of UFO Magazine, and seems the most gregarious of the group, leading him to do much of the personal interviews on the show. Pat Uskert seems the most vigorous, handling the most physical field work, while Ted Acworth, who gives off a scientific air, often takes on more theoretical tasks.
All 13 episodes from Season Two are included on four discs:
I really wanted to like UFO Hunters. Any show that attempts to be skeptical of zealots on both sides of the UFO debate sounds like my cup of tea, but sadly UFO Hunters is painful to watch. Instead of letting the investigations unfold, the show's producers decided that the audience needs a bunch of caffeine-induced editing, jumpy camera work, and footage recycled ad nauseum. I could have probably handled all that headache-inducing crap, if it weren't for the fact that the show has maybe 20 minutes of information in each 44-minute episode. To fill out the running time we get an obnoxious intro to each case that that repeats information the team is about to tell us in three minutes. Repetition is at the heart of this show and it gets old really fast. Part of it is caused by the nature of broadcast television, with information repeated after commercial breaks, but even allowing for that each episode repeats a scandalous amount of information during the 44-minute runtime. Cut in half, each episode might work, but at these bloated lengths I just couldn't get into UFO Hunters
The DVD set is also a bit of a mixed bag. The audiovisual presentation is fine, with a widescreen video presentation and stereo audio that always keeps the voiceover and dialogue clear. However, the video is non-anamorphic, which is frustrating, and there are no subtitles. The DVD producers do get credit though, for well-designed menus that include easily accessible scene breakdowns to find your favorite moments. For extras we get some additional scenes that might be useful for the UFO faithful, but don't add much. A commentary or two, as well as some behind-the-scenes peeks would really help sell this set.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's not all bad. Individual segments within some shows are actually quite interesting. For instance, one episode went into the archives of James E. McDonald at the University of Arizona. One of the cases that was investigated by Bill concerned the "best" photographic evidence we have of a UFO, the Heflin photographs. While his teammates tracked down other cases, Bill called in a specialist from Polaroid to discuss the technological challenges some raise about the snaps. Using everything from advanced computer modeling to a stopwatch, Bill demonstrates that it is very unlikely that Heflin faked the images or lied about his experiences. It was a very interesting segment, and it played out in two long chunks of time, which was a welcome change from the hyper-caffeinated editing of much of the show.
I also appreciate that the show is relatively agnostic about UFO phenomena. Individual hosts and guests have very strong opinions about the stories and evidence, but overall the presentation is pretty balanced. I don't feel like these are a bunch of rabid alien-lovers intent on ignoring scientific evidence, nor do they come off as rigid, closed-minded skeptics who wouldn't believe what was right in front of their faces. Instead, the group displays an enthusiasm for the chase, for finding and studying accounts and evidence, and I'm glad someone is out there doing it.
It's hard to recommend UFO Hunters for anything other than a rental. Although the material covered is interesting, the show's editing is a little too jumpy for my tastes, and there's nothing special about this DVD set to warrant a recommendation. Only diehard UFO-philes will get more than a single viewing out of most of the episodes contained here.
Just so I don't get abducted, I'm going to find UFO Hunters: The Complete Season Two not guilty.
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