Ezekiel saw the wheel. This is the wheel he said he saw.
May 31, 2014 8:49 PM   Subscribe

Years before the X-Files appeared on TV, there was Project U.F.O., produced by Jack Webb, famous for creating Dragnet and many other popular television series. The show features two U.S. Air Force investigators with the Foreign Technology Division at Wright-Patterson AFB, charged with investigating UFO sightings. The first season starred William Jordan as Maj. Jake Gatlin alongside Caskey Swaim as Staff Sgt. Harry Fitz. Jordan was a rather nondescript leading man, while Swaim, who had never had any significant acting experience before landing the role, added diversity as a Southerner with a pronounced accent. In season two, Jordan was replaced by Edward Winter as Capt. Ben Ryan. Many of the episodes were loosely based on case files from the Air Force's Project Blue Book, which ran from 1952-1970. Project U.F.O. only ran for two seasons, from 1978-1979, and was never re-aired in the USA, nor was it released on video.

Considered by many to have been an inspiration for the X-Files, the series is mostly forgotten today, except for being nightmare fuel for many Gen Xers. Even though the series suffers from a lot of cheap 1970's TV special effects, and somewhat stilted dialogue, it's still a fun watch, especially for those who probably remember watching it while hiding behind the couch.

The show takes the unique approach of making the UFO's themselves characters in the show. Unlike many historical UFO sightings, where the unknown aircraft can be ethereal and strange, the alien spacecraft of Project U.F.O. were very much nuts & bolts affairs.

The entire series is currently available for viewing on YouTube.

Season 1
The series premiered on February 19th, 1978, just after Star Wars and Close Encounters had been in theaters and got the American public excited about science fiction all over again.

1 - "Sighting 4001: The Washington D.C. Incident"
Based loosely on the Mantell UFO incident, and the 1952 Washington Flap.

2 - "Sighting 4002: The Joshua Flats Incident"
After several prominent citizens of Joshua Flats report seeing a U.F.O., Air Force investigators turn, after getting nowhere with the adults, to a frightened 11-year old boy. Gatlin and Fitz try to investigate the reported sightings, but are hindered by curious sightseers and townspeople who are reluctant to reveal any information. Trying to determine whether or not the sightings were a hoax, Gatlin and Fitz surmise that the answer might lie with young Pauley Ramirez, if he would only break his silence.
For some reason this episode terrified the crap out of seven year old me, and the UFO seen in this episode, or variations of it, appeared in my nightmares for so many years that I completely forgot the source of them. You can imagine how I felt at seeing my old dream nemesis once again as an adult, only to quickly realize it was nothing more than a plastic model aircraft carrier turned upside down, with a bunch of junk glued on it!

3 - "Sighting 4003: The Fremont Incident"
Loosely based on the Lonnie Zamora sighting in New Mexico.

4 - "Sighting 4004: The Howard Crossing Incident"
An honorable ranching family is assaulted by glowing green blobs. Based on the Kelly-Hopkinsville incident.

5 - "Sighting 4005: The Medicine Bow Incident"
Based on the Chiles-Whitted UFO encounter.

6 - "Sighting 4006: The Nevada Desert Incident"
When an Air Force Lieutenant sees four metallic flying objects and a huge mother ship, he reports the sighting but finds that his claims have jeopardized both his career and his marriage. He sticks to his story that, while alone at dawn in the desert, he was stranded when his car stalled. While checking the engine, he saw four glowing, disk-shaped objects hanging in the sky. Then they took off in different directions, followed by a large mother ship. But, upon reporting his sighting, he finds his wife doesn't believe him, and his father-in-law, a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, is sitting in judgment on a hearing board.
I thought this was one of the better episodes.

7 - "Sighting 4007: The Forest City Incident"
Some enterprising aliens looking for antique bottles are interrupted by some meddling teenagers and a couple of hobos. This episode was parodied in Mad Magazine.

8 - "Sighting 4008: The Desert Springs Incident"
Gatlin and Fitz investigate the case of elderly Emma Smith, who claims that she has been offered a trip to Venus by 2 aliens. She says they promise to take her to her husband, who has been missing for 3 years. Elsewhere, a writer and his friend tell Gatlin and Fitz that they and their dates saw an immense UFO pursuing them as they rode down from the top of a mountain in an aerial tram at a California resort in Desert Springs.
The special effects of the red-hot UFO are particularly hokey.

9 - "Sighting 4009: The French Incident"
John Tanner, son of Presidential envoy Carleton Tanner, is driving with his French-born wife, Michelle, in the small village of Brebeuf, France when they see an other-worldly vehicle hovering on a cushion of light. As Michelle watches in horror, an alien figure beckons to her husband, and he disappears inside the vehicle. Because the abducted man was the son of a Presidential envoy, Gatlin and Fitz are ordered by the White House to investigate the incident.
Another good episode.

10 - "Sighting 4010: The Waterford Incident"
A strange sighting is reported by several students at Waterford Military Academy, headed by Col. Max Delany. The boys claim a saucer flew over their school, discharging strands of an 'angel hair' substance that turned their hands green when they touched it, and the military school becomes enveloped in a strange web-like substance left behind by the UFO. Gatlin and Fitz investigate the incident, and also a case told to them by astronomer Dr. Virginia Paulson, who puts them in touch with Darryl Biggs, a young man who sighted a triangular-shaped vehicle in the woods while hunting. Based on the Cisco Grove UFO sighting.
Guest stars are Dr. Joyce "I brought my own mic!" Brothers and Robbie the Robot!

11 - "Sighting 4011: The Doll House Incident"
Carl Youngstrom, a caretaker for Senatorial candidate Frederick Flanagan, is working on a doll house for his grand-daughter when his room is filled with the 'heavenly glow' of an alien craft. Stepping outside to investigate, Youngstrom is confronted by 2 aliens who hand over an alabaster jug they wish filled with water. In exchange, they offer a lotus-shaped loaf of bread which they want him to eat. He saves part of it as physical evidence of the encounter to show Blue Book investigators. Based on the Eagle River UFO Encounter.

12 - "Sighting 4012: The Rock and Hard Place Incident"
While dining at a restaurant with Theresa Ball, Major Gatlin is alerted to a UFO sighting at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, less than 30 miles away. Within seconds, Gatlin, Fitz and more than 100 diners have a spectacular sighting of their own as a UFO leaves a trail of exploding colors over the restaurant. As Gatlin and Fitz probe the amazing sighting, they find themselves under investigation by the government. For some reason, both Jack Webb and Steven Spielberg must think there is a mountain range on the border of Indiana and Ohio.

12 - "Sighting 4013: The St. Hillary Incident"
In one of Project Blue Book's most challenging cases, 2 nuns, Sister Lucy and Sister Anne, report they sighted a UFO and communicated with aliens who left a cryptic message about their return.
This episode has a couple of (unintentional) Star Trek references in it. Maybe Will wasn't the first Riker to meet aliens?

Season 2
William Jordan leaves the show and is replaced by Edward Winter. The show's theme music is also replaced by a (terrible) disco-sounding tune. This season is regarded by some fans as being the weaker of the two. One other change is that in many episodes of this season, the Project Blue Book investigators discover a conventional explanation for the sighting, only to find out in the last two minutes that aliens were involved after all.

14 - "Sighting 4015: The Underwater Incident"
Capt. Ben Ryan, an ex-fighter pilot, has been assigned to head the Air Force's Project Blue Book, replacing Major Jake Gatlin. He is teamed with Harry Fitz who is newly promoted to Tech Sergeant. When 2 men who run a charter service claim their boat was rammed by a UFO that streaked out of the sky and crashed below the ocean's surface, Ryan and Fitz join forces with the Coast Guard and the Pacific Institute to investigate the incident.

15 - "Sighting 4017: The Devilish Davidson Lights Incident"
Samantha Klein is enjoying a barbecue at the home of 2 fellow college professors when they sight and photograph 2 strange bluish-green V-shaped UFO's. The California coastal town of Davidson is abuzz with the news. Ryan and Fitz arrive the following night, just in time to miss a second mass sighting. While the Blue Book team investigate the mysterious appearances, the residents of Davidson turn off their lights to wait for the return of the UFO's. Based on the Lubbock Lights UFOs. Interestingly, the model UFO created for this episode is reminiscent of the Hudson Valley UFO which happened 4 years after this aired.

16 - "Sighting 4016: The Pipeline Incident"
The 3-man crew of an Alaskan cargo plane is crossing the Yukon border when they see a target closing in on them at an incredible speed. The brilliant glowing white object performs bizarre maneuvers and gives chase before disappearing. When Ryan and Fitz investigate, navigator Tim Jenkins relates the story of the UFO chase. Later, he mysteriously changes his story about the UFO sighting and claims he saw a weather balloon, even though Ryan and Fitz know that no weather balloons were in the area and NORAD picked up the UFO on its radar. Yes, that's Randolph Mantooth as Tim, who starred in Emergency! also produced by Jack Webb.

17 - "Sighting 4018: The Incident on the Cliffs"
A young woman with a history of mental illness sees 4 bright blue and white UFO's while standing on a cliff on the coast of Maine. Lisa Forman waits for the return of the blinding lights, which spiral around her at incredible speeds. Ready for the strange visitors, she films them and produces evidence that Project Blue Book considers to be real. This is another one that seriously freaked me out as a little kid.

18 - "Sighting 4019: The Believe It or Not Incident"
An engineering student claims he was warned by a laser blast and musical notes that aliens will take over Earth unless the world's pollution is not cleaned up. Student Roy Layton tells Blue Book investigators Ryan and Fitz that he had contact with a 300-foot-long vehicle ringed by a thousand pulsating lights. he claims that the aliens told him they have been observing Earth for hundreds of years, and could breathe easily in the atmosphere at first. Since the increase in pollution, the aliens have not been able to breathe Earth's air, Layton says, and they warned him that unless the situation is corrected, they will take over the planet - by force if necessary.

19 - "Sighting 4022: The Camouflage Incident"
A businessman films a UFO after it attacks him and two other men but he does not want to part with the evidence. Also, a man claims to have UFO debris in his garage.

20 - "Sighting 4020: The Island Incident"
Ted Saunders, a brilliant doctor who works on a small South Pacific island, comes to the attention of Project Blue Book, after he and 3 island fishermen sight a huge mothership and a smaller UFO emerging from it. Ryan and Fitz are sent to investigate, but run into trouble from Manuku, the leader of the island people. The island people interfere with the investigation and the 3 fishermen change their story and deny having sighted anything out of the ordinary. Spoiler: the ending is pretty corny.

21 - "Sighting 4021: The Superstition Mountain Incident"
Young Charlie Higgins and his girlfriend, Laurie, are watching an eclipse of the sun when they sight a UFO, which deposits 2 egg-shaped metallic artifacts inside a mine. Analysis proves them to be pure magnesium, a form of the metal rarely found on Earth. After the sixteen-year-old student from South Dakota finds the magnesium, he is warned by a gypsy to be careful in telling anyone about the "Overlords" visit. So, how did that giant UFO shrink down and contort itself into that tiny little tunnel?

22 - "Sighting 4023: The I-Man Incident"
A large but extremely delicate UFO hovers over a 10-year-old girl on a beach and plays her a startling message, which echoes a signal sent from Earth 15 years before. Young Cindy Harper was walking along the beach when she sighted the wondrous vehicle that then played a Morse code message to her. One goof: an F-4 Phantom somehow turns into an F-106 Delta Dart several times.

23 - "Sighting 4024: The Scoutmaster Incident"
A Vietnam veteran with a dark secret has a dangerous encounter with a UFO, but insists that Project Blue Book is making too much out of the sighting. High School teacher Andy McMurtry had been leading a group of Explorer Scouts when they saw the strange lights and a flaming crash. When Andy went to investigate, he received mysterious burns from the craft. Ryan and Fitz find Andy a cooperative witness at first, but then the Vietnam veteran becomes strangely reluctant to reveal any more information. Based on the Florida Scoutmaster Incident. Cheap 1970's TV special effects or not, even 35 years later this one is still creepy.

24 - "Sighting 4026: The Atlantic Queen Incident"
Steve Rollins, Executive Officer of the luxury liner Atlantic Queen, has a UFO sighting while the ship is returning home from its latest crossing. Ryan and Fitz are notified and fly to Boston and are taken by helicopter to the deck of the Atlantic Queen. Once there, they encounter the ship's Captain, who believes the Executive Officer has invented the UFO story to further his own career. That night Ryan and Fitz are visited in their cabin by former tv comic Ollie Hyers, who provides confirmation of Rollin's story and adds his own incredible account of a night-time encounter with a visitor from the UFO. The production in this one comes off as pretty cheap, as the Atlantic Queen is represented on screen by no less than three different ships from file footage.

25 - "Sighting 4025: The Whitman Tower Incident"
Shortly after an air traffic controller at the Los Angeles Airport spots a mysterious blip on his radar screen, several residents of a luxury apartment building, known as the Whitman Tower, are startled by the appearance of a UFO outside their windows. Ryan and Fitz fly to Los Angeles to question the witnesses and ascertain the facts in the case. One of the witnesses, Mr. Rashoon, reports he saw only some red beams of light. The other residents, a family named Ryerson, give a more detailed description of what they saw. Their version includes the sighting of 2 beings with horse-shaped heads and medallions around their necks bearing horse images. Ryan and Fitz next head to San Pedro to search for additional witnesses and try and separate fact from fiction in this bizarre case. Probably the weakest conventional explanation of the whole series. Agoraphobia induced hallucinations? Seriously? Oh well, I guess we know where Mister Ed came from.

26 - "Sighting 4014: The Wild Blue Yonder Incident"
Student pilot Kay Galloway sights a UFO while flying a T-34 and recklessly dives to Earth trying to chase it, and then faces expulsion from school and humiliation from her fellow students. Because of the unique configuration of the T-34, Galloway's teacher doesn't see the UFO, and doesn't believe her story. Accused of buzzing a restricted area, Galloway is brought before an honor board at school which could recommend her expulsion. With no other witnesses to her sighting, Galloway is certain she'll be expelled, not realizing her boyfriend, Douglas Detwiler, is keeping important information from her and the honor board.
posted by smoothvirus (62 comments total) 102 users marked this as a favorite
Whoa. I forgot this was a thing. Until just now.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:00 PM on May 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ezekiel saw the wheel. This is the wheel he said he saw.

That line never failed to freak the living fuck out of my 12-year-old self.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:20 PM on May 31, 2014 [5 favorites]

This was AFTER Edward Winter had made four guest appearances on M*A*S*H as the paranoid Colonel Flagg (Flagg later appeared once more on M*A*S*H and once on the failed spin-off After-MASH). If that's not evidence that Jack Webb DOES have a sense of humor, nothing is.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:38 PM on May 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Coincidentlly, it's been exactly one year since the post about Gerry "Supermarianation" Anderson's first live-actor series, "UFO".
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:43 PM on May 31, 2014 [5 favorites]

I watched this when I was 10 years old, and I think it was a major influence on me. Glad to revisit it.
posted by bashos_frog at 10:11 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Coincidentlly, it's been exactly one year since the post about Gerry "Supermarianation" Anderson's first live-actor series, "UFO".

And it's been about 20 seconds since I realized that Project U.F.O., a show I had probably read the title of many times in books and articles about TV sci-fi, wasn't the same thing as that UFO.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:32 PM on May 31, 2014

Loved this show. Watched it with my dad, who was Air Force. I almost afraid to watch it again.
posted by jadepearl at 10:36 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also watched it. I was a boy, and my childhood in the 70s and 80s seemed to exist in a world in which nobody thought twice about aliens building the pyramids, Sasquatch living in peace with the ancient Indians, and the Loch Ness Monster regularly making appearances in Scotland. It was a demon-haunted world, as Carl Sagan put it.

I suppose it's better now, with the nonsense debunked and extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence. But I miss it sometimes. I know I didn't actually live in a world where the fantastic was real, but it seemed like it might.

I guess I can console myself that I am living in a science fiction universe now, but sometimes I miss Bigfoot.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:21 PM on May 31, 2014 [19 favorites]

Don't even get me started about Samsquanches.
posted by mazola at 11:55 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I remember this, but my memory was absolutely convinced the show's name was Project Blue Book.
posted by Zed at 1:15 AM on June 1, 2014 [16 favorites]

The French episode is delightful. Quel fromage.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:12 AM on June 1, 2014

I guess I can console myself that I am living in a science fiction universe now, but sometimes I miss Bigfoot.

May I introduce you to Psychic Sasquatch and their UFO Connection? It's the you-got-the-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter of madness. Not only is it free on Prime, but includes stories of Bigfoot telepathically hitching a ride so they can go swimming and how they use their great strength to aid the Starpeople in their mining operations.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:01 AM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Zed, I also remembered this show as Project Blue Book.

Thank you for this post, and reminding me of something I enjoyed greatly as a child.
posted by anastasiav at 4:22 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Between this, In Search Of, and the latter day conspiracy bunkum like The X-Files, it's no wonder I live in a country filled with people who believe in stupid, stupid things and in the notion that attempting to disprove those stupid, stupid beliefs somehow reinforces the suspicion that the stupid, stupid things are, in fact, true.

Say what you will about millennials, but at least they'll never read Charles Berlitz.

That said, TV people sure could come up with an opening sequence custom tailored to scare the pants off a ten-year-old.
posted by sonascope at 4:55 AM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I guess I can console myself that I am living in a science fiction universe now, but sometimes I miss Bigfoot.

Not me. The trailer for Mysterious Monsters alone was enough to make me afraid of windows for a decade.
posted by sonascope at 5:14 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

The sad thing is with the proliferation of smartphones, that we've seen a collapse in UFO sightings but a staggering uptick in duckface selfies.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 5:33 AM on June 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

Ezekiel saw the wheel. This is the wheel he said he saw.

That line never failed to freak the living fuck out of my 12-year-old self.

It's weird, I remember those opening lines very vividly, but nothing else about the show. In fact, until I googled it recently, I thought it was from the opening of In Search Of. I would have been just about to turn 7 when Project UFO debuted.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:52 AM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

The trailer for Mysterious Monsters alone was enough to make me afraid of windows for a decade.

You too, huh? I recall seeing it one night while sitting on the couch at my dad's house, which was just beneath the bay window in the living room. I probably did not sit on that couch at night for a few years after that.

But yes, great FPP. I watched this devotedly as a ten-year-old although I found it too dull and Dragnetesque to really remember much of it. ( I am sure that as a kid I had not connected Jack Webb to both.) Still, there were UFOs and maybe aliens so I could sit through a lot of talking on the off chance that they would show up, in much the same fashion a few years subsequent I would suffer tedium if breasts might make an appearance at some point.

I watched a couple this morning and found them underwhelming in a different way, with the meh performances and scripting, and the style of editing that is unknown in TV these days. In The Doll House Incident, there is a fifteen-second-long dialogue-free scene of a car pulling up to a gate and the gate slowly opening, which would never pass muster on any TV series now.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:13 AM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Me and my best friend spent many nights in the late 70s scanning the skies at night for UFOs. Never saw any, of course, but we did learn the constellations and planets so the time wasn't wasted.
posted by COD at 6:35 AM on June 1, 2014

I was insane about UFOs when I was a kid, and super eager for this show. When I found a source for all the episodes a couple years ago, I was excited to revisit it, as I didn't remember watching too many of them as a youngun'.

Revisiting it revealed why: God this show is boring. It's a 70s show, with incredibly lousy pacing. Every single scene starts too early and ends too late, and there's a bunch of faff that we linger on that adds nothing to the story or characters. It's punishingly slow, and with very little payoff. The main characters have no depth to them whatsoever (except their secretary, Libby, who is always a delight when she shows up.)

I was doing a thing on my blog where I went through the series and talked about each episode, but I gave up after only a few. It's just not that interesting, and not even in an interestingly bad way.

The memory, as they say, cheats.
posted by Legomancer at 7:31 AM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I remember those opening lines very vividly, but nothing else about the show. In fact, until I googled it recently, I thought it was from the opening of In Search Of.

Me too. Actually, Project U.F.O. doesn't ring any bells with me, but I just read at Wikipedia that this show was also known as Project Blue Book "in some countries," and that title stirred some memories. Maybe it was a syndication title here in the U.S., I don't know. That show open was aces, though -- I remember the one with the rough sketches from the pilot much better than the more polished subsequent ones -- with a great, intuitive voice performance by Jack Webb.
posted by Mothlight at 7:35 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think I vaguely remember this as Project Blue Book maybe...
posted by saulgoodman at 7:49 AM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just read at Wikipedia that this show was also known as Project Blue Book "in some countries,"

Was one of those countries “Nebraska?” Because I totally remember Project Blue Book. And yes it scared the bejeezus out of me.
posted by axoplasm at 8:44 AM on June 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also remember as Project Blue Book.

Don't forget "In Search of...." with Leonard Nimoy. That show was probably my first into. to UFOs, Bigfoot, and other Fortean ephemera.
posted by otto42 at 8:52 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

It was Project Blue Book in Minnesota as well.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:56 AM on June 1, 2014

In case anyone wants to download these with youtube-dl for offline viewing, here's the series of commands with cleaned up URIs from the OP:

youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skVJEwN2zIA"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udtucQha_2A"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRkoMnuM7FU"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbDubdSxeEc"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rF8X80_HX8"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzZzK9KK6rE"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDP6ZH4KOtY"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYYpL84sjaY"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RptU1pGTBK0"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFAsZ1VvVxI"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=re4w-KhaGf8"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldH_cddwg08"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7ztUDdFXRA"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R19-eNdrQX4"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSFe2ZelLQ8"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUF07pWrgjo"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_S7z1hUO-Y"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDj6WyTl9FE"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3dke1hWB4Q"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD2axaRpJtk"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fOjwZeXoPc"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtNgCMToT5Q"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qaV1f8xk10"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJYU1JJ7z0s"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7ywyR5jq2c"
youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGa1BuCdRHs"

posted by Brian Puccio at 10:33 AM on June 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

I ended up watching a few episodes last night as I was trying to remember it. I think I was too young or something. I was nuts about UFOs and space during that time so I'm not sure how I could have missed it unless it was opposite something I was more into. Kids today have it so lucky with DVRs and on demand. Back in my day you had to watch that shit when it aired.

You don't need the VO and Executive Producer credit at the top of the show to know this had Jack Webb's fingerprints on it. The dialog. The cheesy attempts at humor. The clean cut lead characters. The 100% positive portrayal of the government agency they were portraying (like Adam-12 with LAPD, and Emergency! with LAFD). At least trying to place a little diversity in the supporting and guest star cast.

I enjoyed watching it now as it seems to be a mirror to a parallel universe similar to my youth.
posted by birdherder at 11:15 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I thought I'd invented this show and especially the opening credits. I'm relieved to learn it was real.

Was there a Gothic show in the 80's about a guy who had the power to melt people's faces when he whistles?
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:03 PM on June 1, 2014

I was 9-years-old when I watched this and read every book in the Bookmobile about UFOs and concluded that UFO's were obviously time-travelers from the future (since FTL was impossible) and was terrified that one might appear in or be hiding in my closet.

I remember dashing across the room, grabbing a hanger from the closet, dashing back to my bed, putting my clothes on the hanger, dashing back to hang it up, scared of being close to it. And UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES could the closet door be shut at night because who knows what might happen in there if I couldn't see in.
posted by straight at 1:21 PM on June 1, 2014

Ezekiel saw the wheel. This is the wheel he said he saw.

Yeah, it's remarkable. Even after 30+ years I still get a little shiver from this line. I was nuts for UFOs, like a lot of kids in the '70s, and I think I watched every episode of this. As I recall the show was referred to as Project UFO in the opening credits and TV listings, but the phrase was never used in the show which always referred to "Project Blue Book." But I never saw it again after the first time, so who knows?

Watched it with my dad, who was Air Force.

I did the same with my dad who was ex-AF, then DOD. I could barely hear the show over all the scoffing and tut-tutting. (But then he would scoff, wouldn't he?)
posted by octobersurprise at 1:50 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

And UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES could the closet door be shut at night because who knows what might happen in there if I couldn't see in.

That's crazy talk. If you don't shut your closets at night who knows what might get out while you're sleeping.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:56 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Was there a Gothic show in the 80's about a guy who had the power to melt people's faces when he whistles?
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:03 AM on June 2 [+] [!]

The short about the whistler who could melt faces was actually part of the Vincent Price movie called Monster Club which has 3 shorts films wrapped up together in vintage Vincent Price cheese. The whistler story is called "The Shadmock". I recommend it!
posted by ninazer0 at 7:34 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

IIRC, in-show the project was always referred to as Project Blue Book, which may account for the some of the recollections here.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:08 PM on June 1, 2014

A friend of mine had this lunchbox UFO but I am not sure it was related to the series. I saw a bit of an episode at a friends house as a kid but it is a bit of a blur. Something about people being attacked by UFO's while dumping barrels of toxic waste off of a ship?
posted by boilermonster at 10:09 PM on June 1, 2014

This is a fantastic post, btw!
posted by mazola at 10:13 PM on June 1, 2014

It's nice to know that I was not alone in knowing what the post was about just from reading the title. I'm looking forward to going through the links. Thanks, smoothvirus.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:20 PM on June 1, 2014

"Sighting 4009: The French Incident"

So they're told specifically to not cause attention/blend in, told to work 'out of uniform', given non-military passports, AND THEN FLY INTO PARIS ON A MILITARY JET?!? WTF?
posted by mazola at 10:30 PM on June 1, 2014

Also: the 70s were so 70s…
posted by mazola at 10:31 PM on June 1, 2014

and that's a good thing!
posted by mazola at 10:31 PM on June 1, 2014

I watched the first episode last night, and was struck, more than anything, as someone who was watched A LOT of Dragnet, how Jack Webb the whole thing was. Like birdherder said above, it has his fingerprints all over it. It's so Jack Webb it almost feels like a parody of Jack Webb

Speaking of all the TV I've watched in my lifetime, I was also glad to find that Caskey Swaim went to guest star on The Dukes of Hazard, CHiPs, and The A-Team because he seemed like he was the prototype of guest actors from shows I watched as a kid, and those three in particular.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:34 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Sighting 4009: The French Incident"

Also: Victor Newman!
posted by mazola at 10:49 PM on June 1, 2014

Oh holy cats, ninazer0! Thank you! I didn't dream it!
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:16 AM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bunny Ultramod: “I guess I can console myself that I am living in a science fiction universe now, but sometimes I miss Bigfoot.”
That's a great point. In Search Of…, this program, Led Zepplin records, D&D, et cetera guided an entire generation towards a fantastic realm that sadly doesn't exist. We got a science fiction future instead, but too bad for us it's Soylent Green instead of Star Trek.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:07 AM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I liked this show a lot as a lad of 11. I was deeply into UFOs and monsters at the time, so this was fine fodder.

That nuts and bolts aesthetic appealed. I think I tried to build a model UFO out of wood and whatever else I could find: wires ad diodes mostly.

Thank you for the memory blast, smoothvirus.
posted by doctornemo at 5:35 AM on June 2, 2014

nthing Project Blue Book, fwiw
posted by mwhybark at 6:26 AM on June 2, 2014

Watching the opening credits, three things jumped out at me: Webb's nonchalant use of the phrase "high strangeness" (kissin' cousin to "high weirdness" I suppose), the UFO that looks exactly like the one in Close Encounters, and the score by the ubiquitous Nelson Riddle. How could it not be a hit?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:29 AM on June 2, 2014

Best of the Webb.
posted by mazola at 6:44 AM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maybe I am wrong, but isn't this show a clear inspiration for the X-COM games (specifically the first one: UFO: Enemy Unknown, a.k.a. X-COM: UFO Defense)?
posted by Vindaloo at 6:52 AM on June 2, 2014

And speaking of high strangeness, Archive.org has a collection of recordings, lectures, and radio interviews called High Strangeness : Men in Black, Mothman, Flatwoods Monster, Hairy Bi-Peds in UFOs, Allende and the Philadelphia Experiment, Richard Shaver and Gray Barker. I haven't listened to any of them but the description of interview 10—
Hayden Hewes of the Flying Saucer Investigation Bureau (FSIB) is interviewed regarding Mo-Mo, a hairy bi-ped that terrorized people in 1972. This was the attempt to combine UFO phenomena with the appearance of hairy bi-ped sightings, although a definitive connection has yet to be established and remains unresolved, with rare reports of such creatures continuing to date. This recording was taken off-air and the telephone connection for the interview was not the best. It is, however, very listenable and fortunate to have survived.
—makes me feel very fortunate indeed.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:57 AM on June 2, 2014

Oh, man, I've thought about this show from time to time. When I was six or seven, I would hide behind an armchair in my grandmother's living room when the tense, dramatic music before the monsters' "reveal" started building during the Saturday afternoon Creature Feature. By the time "Blue Book" was on the air, I think my parents actually took some pleasure in seeing me squirm with the unexplained or unexplainable bits.
posted by steef at 7:04 AM on June 2, 2014

So they're told specifically to not cause attention/blend in, told to work 'out of uniform', given non-military passports, AND THEN FLY INTO PARIS ON A MILITARY JET?!? WTF?

Well, they had to find a way of using the footage that they had of the C-141 Starlifter landing, so, yeah.
And you guys are right, I didn't think about it before but they sure do spend a lot of time in every episode talking about their travel and lodging arrangements. In fact, in a lot of episodes there are some sequences where they don't seem to be doing anything except filling time. For example in the episode from season 2 where they first start flying the T-38 Talon, they spend a few minutes showing Capt. Ryan and Sgt. Fitz going through the entire takeoff checklist. I am a huge aviation nerd and even I was sitting there thinking "GET ON WITH IT!" There's another scene in the final episode where Sgt. Fitz spends a good minute or so complaining about how the UFO landing sites are always way out in the wilderness somewhere. I almost have to wonder if they shot a lot of filler material because at some point they thought there would be a version of the show where it was trimmed back to a 30 minute run time.
Happy that everyone is enjoying the FPP. I spent the last couple of months re-watching the whole series. I went back last night and watched some parts of season 1 again and those episodes really are better. For some reason production quality seems to slip in season 2, although I did like "The I-Man Incident" and "The Scoutmaster Incident". Somehow the burning alien figures dancing in the blue flames in "The Scoutmaster Incident" is super creepy to me, even now.
As noted in the post I think "The Nevada Desert Incident" and "The French Incident" are probably the best ones. I liked "The St. Hilary Incident" as well. My award for worst episode ever would go to "The Atlantic Queen Incident", followed by "The Whitman Tower Incident" with the HORSE ALIENS.
posted by smoothvirus at 8:28 AM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

This show must have been on the one channel I had as a kid because now that my memory has been jogged I remember it vividly. Can't wait to rewatch the series.
posted by Mitheral at 5:08 PM on June 2, 2014

(I liked the "The Whitman Tower Incident", mostly because of the Horse Aliens but not entirely. The big reveal of what's under the curtain on the end makes the episode fantastic!).
posted by mazola at 7:56 PM on June 2, 2014

Ok, halfway into "The Atlantic Queen" and it's fantastic.
posted by mazola at 8:29 PM on June 2, 2014

Ok, halfway into "The Atlantic Queen" and it's fantastic.

Well, that one definitely lays it on with the corniness! The Love Boat meets the X-Files meets Dragnet, with a bit of Scooby Doo thrown in. Add one alcoholic, washed up, unfunny comedian. Jack Webb should have never been allowed to have anything to do with stand up comedy, ever. lol
posted by smoothvirus at 7:11 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

followed by "The Whitman Tower Incident" with the HORSE ALIENS.

posted by Legomancer at 10:49 AM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Legomancer, I would have liked to have read your reaction to "The Waterford Incident." In the encounter with Robbie The Robot, I wondered what the robot's motivations were. Well, here we have this young man, out hunting in the deep woods, alone at night... it made me think of these guys, and that made this episode much funnier.
posted by smoothvirus at 12:30 PM on June 3, 2014

The first TV show I ever remember watching was Dragnet and I more or less imprinted on the Jack Webb TV style along with 70s paranormal pop culture (Chariots of the Gods, In Search Of, those silver pages in Omni magazine, Outer Space Connection, etc.).

I vividly remember seeing Jack Webb on the Johnny Carson show promoting Project UFO and I was crazy excited about the show. First season delivered... 12 year old me wanted to be an Air Force Blue Book investigator for Halloween.

Never warmed up to the second season. I remember going to see Alien in the theater in the middle of it and it instantly changed everything I thought about UFOs/saucer culture, etc.
posted by quartzcity at 10:18 PM on June 5, 2014

By the way, there's a very good ontological UFO-themed episode of the Bionic Woman clumsily titled "The Martians Are Coming, The Martians Are Coming."
posted by quartzcity at 10:20 PM on June 5, 2014

6 - "Sighting 4006: The Nevada Desert Incident" yt

Jesus, that Father-in-Law is a jerk!
posted by mazola at 11:23 PM on June 6, 2014


posted by mazola at 11:36 PM on June 6, 2014

I re-watched a couple of episodes from the first season while pet/apartment sitting this weekend, since it has actually been anywhere from a few months to a year or so since I watched them.
Another difference between season 1 and season 2, season 1 is kind of ambiguous about what decade it takes place in. I'm guessing this is because the TV show aired in the late 1970's, but the heyday of Project Blue Book had been from the early 1950's through the mid 1960's. In one of the early episodes Maj. Gatlin tells the story of his U.F.O. sighting while flying a B-25 (I think they were delivering it to a museum or something) - that was not something that would have happened in the 1970s, the last USAF flight of a B-25 took place in 1960.
Season 2 is different, it is absolutely placed in the "contemporary" times of the late 1970s, as if the Condon Report never happened, and Project Blue Book had continued right through 1970 and on to 1979. Even as a little kid UFO-nerd I knew that Blue Book had been cancelled years ago and thought this was sort of weird.

Jesus, that Father-in-Law is a jerk!

Wait until you get a load of the slimy Monsignor Killian in "The St. Hilary Incident"!

LOL Why am I spending so much time with this corny old show?? Oh well, it's fun. ;)
posted by smoothvirus at 11:26 AM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

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