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TV Series Review

Back in the day, Fox was home to a little show called The X-Files. Perhaps you've heard of it. The show featured a pair of investigators poking into all manner of paranormal mysteries, from fluke monsters to demonic possession to, especially, aliens. So. Many. Aliens.

But even as these investigators were determined to find hard evidence of interplanetary interlopers, forces within the very government they worked for were determined to hide the truth and squelch their work—obviously for their own nefarious ends.

When Plugged In reviewed The X-Files revival a couple years ago, we gave it a "Sci-Fi/Fantasy" genre label.

Who knew it was a documentary?

The Truth is Way, Way Out There

It's not as though the History Channel is suggesting that the work of fictional FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were pulled from the pages of history, mind you. But the network—proud home to such almost-award-winning documentaries as Ancient Aliens and The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man—brings us, um, evidence that it wasn't so far out there as we imagined.

Project Blue Book gives us two more intrepid investigators: Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a semi-skeptical doctor; and Capt. Michael Quinn, a wholly skeptical (for now) lackey of the United States military machine. They, like Mulder and Scully, have been tasked with investigating strange phenomena—which is on the rise during the show's early 1950s timeline.

But again, like The X-Files, they're not actually supposed to uncover anything. Rather, according to supervising generals Valentine and Harding, they're supposed to debunk any sightings, quickly explaining away any evidence and moving on to the next case. Their job, essentially, is to put a restless public at ease and distract them from the real story: Not only do aliens exist, but the government knows all about 'em.

Project Blue Book was a real government operation, and the History Channel tells us that the show is "inspired" by the investigations of the real Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who was involved in Blue Book and its predecessors from 1947 to 1969. It's also true that Hynek, who began his work as a skeptical debunker, came to believe that some of the cases he investigated had merit. (Not everything could be explained by swamp gas.) More than 12,600 cases were investigated under Project Blue Book with 701 of them going "unidentified." (Those cases aren't evidence of aliens, mind you, just happenings that the Air Force couldn't explain away.)

But jumping off from this real-world inspiration, the History Channel proceeds to color way outside the lines: In the show, Hynek starts receiving mysterious missives from shadowy forces with a yen for strange, oft-repeating symbols. Mysterious deaths mount up around him and Quinn like cordwood. Black-hatted strangers lurk everywhere. The Hynek household is plagued by Russian spies—one of whom seems determined to entice Hynek's wife, Mimi, into a lesbian tryst.

Trust No One (On the History Channel)

The History Channel has been trying to make inroads into the world of scripted television via shows that still, technically, qualify as history (under the network's generous guidelines). Its series Vikings was well received, for instance. And while obviously loaded with fictional and unknowable elements, the show perhaps reflected at least the general vibe of those Scandinavian mauraders. And History's Bible miniseries did a bang-up job sticking to Scripture while giving viewers a tiny hint of what the world might've looked like as the calendars flipped from B.C. to A.D. (Well, except for the obviously northern-European ancestory of its Jesus, that is.)

Project Blue Book makes at least a half-hearted feint toward real history, too: Period costumes feel authentic. Cases seem to stem from real stories (even if Blue Book actually had nothing to do with said stories). It's "truthy," as Stephen Colbert might say—just truthful-feeling enough to lead some viewers astray. But the real truth is, I'd place more trust in Mister Peabody, the animated history-hopping dog, than this series.

Project Blue Book comes with plenty of content caveats, too. Mysterious deaths can be jarring and profusely bloody. For a show ostensibly about chasing after aliens, we're exposed to far more sexual content than you'd expect. Drinking is common, smoking pervasive, and language can be a bit rough, too.

Listen, I'm on record as an X-Files fan. I dig spooky mysteries and don't mind the occasional governmental conspiracy. But Project Blue Book? This is one book I'm shutting.

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Episode Reviews

Jan. 15, 2019: "The Flatwoods Monster"



Readability Age Range



Aidan Gillen as Dr. J. Allen Hynek; Michael Malarkey as Captain Michael Quinn; Laura Mennell as Mimi Hynek; Ksenia Solo as Susie Miller; Michael Harney as Gen. Hugh Valentine; Neal McDonough as Gen. James Harding






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Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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