On The Tube: Project Blue Book

This month’s streaming binge-o-rama involved the tv show, not the actual Air Force effort of the 50s and 60s. But the former is a History Channel (!) fictionalization of the latter. I wrote about the latter maybe 45 years ago for an English project (of all things). Now I get to write a bit about the other.

The series opens with the US Air Force recruiting Ohio State astrophysicist Allen Hynek to put a scientific explanation on flying objects difficult to impossible to identify. This is partly a search for an explanation, and partly a snow job for public relations purposes for an American public a but skittish over the concerns of the post-WW2 years. Professor Hynek, by the way, was the name of a real person. Other names in this 20-episode, 2-season series are based on real persons involved in the real Project Blue Book.

Given how much dumbing down has gone on since 1990-ish with what were once “documentary” channels, I was unsure about this show. Until about halfway through the first episode.

I was able to overlook the dumb continuity things (“slam dunk” not entering into US slang until the late 60s) and the needless staging of a North Dakota high school football game in March. The acting, by people mostly unknown to me, was quite good. Scripts were honest, characterization and plotting good. Potty words were minimal, and most all of those were uttered by believable military guys. 

The show has a smart, dutiful wife, a Soviet spy who kills more of her comrades than Americans in the course of the series, and a troubled general who has a scene in a Catholic confessional. President Truman and the nascent CIA make appearances, and Ike is discussed a lot in season 2. 

The two leads skirt close to getting fired, court-martialed, arrested for treason, and having their project shut down. But by the end of season 2 one of them disappears and the cliff-hanger is never resolved. The tv network accomplishes what spies, aliens, intelligence agencies, political rivals couldn’t.

You can see the influence of the X-Files in this program. It’s not an exact replica, but it adapts a winning formula and does it well. Good tv. Recommended. 

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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