VIC’S REVIEW: ‘Chasing UFOs’ (National Geographic – Friday, 10:00 pm)

A team of trained investigators sets out to uncover the truth about UFOs. But they’re not just looking for more stories on extraterrestrial activity—they want answers. Risking it all, this team of scientists and UFO researchers investigate and dissect some of the most mysterious sightings on the planet to unearth stunning new evidence. The data they collect on these adventures paints an entirely new picture of what we know about these strange lights in the sky. – Nat Geo

Rating:     50 out of 100

Chasing UFOs is a very strange and peculiar amalgam of various “paranormal reality” shows. It is a blend of some more cerebral and methodical ghost hunting shows mixed in with the zaniness of your average UFO/Alien programs such as UFO Hunters and the zaniest of all alien documentary shows, the grand poobah, Ancient Aliens, I must admit when the show was announced I was intrigued on how they would pull off something like chasing UFOs around in the skies. Especially when the chasers themselves, Ben McGee (The Skeptic), James Fox (The Believer and man, does he ever believe) and the cute, spunky leader and Tech person, Erin Ryder, are so damned earth-bound. I was curious indeed.

Being a sucker for these paranormal shows (that are becoming more and more prevalent), I bit the bullet and tuned in. Having devoured shows like this in the past like SyFy’s Ghost Hunters, History’s UFO Hunters and a bevy of other shows from A&E and even Bio, I expected a familiar approach and philosophy throughout the program. Boy, did I get blind-sided. First, I set my expectations way too high… my fault. Second, I was spoiled by how serious and informative most of these show try to be no matter how funky it all came across. Chasing UFO’s, sadly is a bit of a letdown but I stuck it out because it does have its charms. They are few and far between, but enough to warrant a re-watch of other episodes that do progress nicely while the chemistry between our “chasers” improve and entertain.

So, where I’m going with this is that the strongest asset, in my opinion, is the cast themselves. They come from diverse backgrounds and their home base is in California. They travel the country tracking down witnesses, experts, retired astronauts and just about every other type of UFO zealot and weirdo. In the show’s defense, though, they do track down very respectable  citizens such as law enforcement officers and military personnel., which does add to the credibility, somewhat, with emphasis on the “somewhat.”  The “chasers” come across quite friendly and familiar with each other and when “in the field” they have a good rapport and seem very dedicated to their individual beliefs, but unfortunately, it’s just too ludicrous at times when we get to the actual chasing and science.

The set up for each episode is done capably (interviews, facts and confessionals) but then the night-time treks into places like the Everglades, swamps, forests, caves and woods (even a place in Brazil where aliens have been spotted roaming and living off the land.) are incredibly lame and uneventful. Where is the science? They seem to just be going out with all this expensive tech and camera gear and point at the sky at any light that passes by and freak out. They even walk around with a rig that sticks out from the shoulder and closes in on the faces. How about cameras that look out into the sky, instead? Duh. Ryder, on several occasions, has tripped, screamed, jumped and cursed at just about everything. One episode she almost has a stroke watching a vid in a van of a light in the sky that turns out to be some kind of reflection. It is always nothing. Nothing concrete or even remotely extraterrestrial. It’s quite laughable at times. The “data” is always inconclusive. Well, duh. The Three Stooges can gather data and chase UFOs better. I know, I’m being harsh, but I must be honest.

Chasing UFOs should just be called Chasing Lights in the Sky or Chasing Animals that Live in the Forest.  While investigating they also act like total buffoons. They trip over things, argue, get their jeeps stuck in mud and get lost in snake infested swamps. Actually these bits are what I like about the show. It’s frivolous, funny and a welcome diversion from the corny investigative side of the show. Ben is the skeptic and my favorite of the 3 . He’s down to earth and authentic while James is clearly the Fox Mulder of the show.  I respect his fervor though. He even gets visibly upset and cries after hearing a witness testimony. Ryder is appropriate eye candy but all of her foolishness (some of it very funny and dare I say endearing) and cursing detracts from the show. Hey but who cares? They are chasing UFOs!

So in closing, this show is just too unreal to really be of any serious merit. I get the feeling that sometimes it may even be a bit scripted. Even thought the banter between the three seems natural and the only thing that is worth watching. The investigations are trivial, boring and feel in no way credible. I have to mention one episode where they are supposedly chased by military agents in boats protecting the launch facility at Cape Canaveral. It was hilarious. You’d think it was some black ops force or Navy Seals hunting them down to protect some government conspiracy. This show had potential early on but while the cast is at times very serious about UFOs, it’s their actual cartoonish chasing that is pretty dead on arrival. Chase this show down at your own risk.


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