Saturday, January 12, 2019

Project Blue Book, or Putting the Sex in Subtext


OK, first things first: on a textual level, the History Channel's (sic) Project Blue Book is a dumpster fire of epic proportions, historically-speaking. 

On a subtextual level, Project Blue Book is a fascinating if not ham-fisted exercise in subliminal storytelling, at least the pilot episode is. 

Needless to say, I'm hooked!




A careful reading of Project Blue Book shows that it takes the dullest possible premise anyone on Earth could possibly imagine-- J. Allen Hynek's tenure with the Air Force's Project Blue Book -- and turns it into a Cinemax midnight movie about a bored academic couple getting their bi-curious freak on.

.........
It's actually kind of hilarious. Seriously.

Unfortunately, it's also the television equivalent of some crappy 80s hair metal song, meaning it's an insanely overproduced and overwrought beast, huffing and puffing to disguise the absolute lack of creativity at its core. It's like my dear old grandmama used to say: the ones who scream loudest are usually the ones with the least to say.*

First, let's dispense with the obvious. As many critics have noted, this series is Hollywood's ten-zillionth attempt to clone The X-Files. 

I don't think people unfamiliar with the frothing megalomania and narcissism in show business can truly grasp how wounded so many big producers' egos were by the smash success of that series, which everyone had written off before the pilot even aired.

A show about UFO investigators on that stupid fake-network Fox? Written and produced by some beefy, blond surfer-dude who wrote a bunch of failed pilots for Disney when they were still the sick man of Hollywood? How the fuck did that bullshit make it past its first season?


Of course, the answer to that question was the chemistry and sexual tension between its leads. Without it, the show would have probably died in its first month.

And it should be noted that Project Blue Book had already inspired a TV series, namely Jack Webb's 70-kitsch classic, Project UFO, which ran for two short seasons in '78 and '79 and was forgotten by nearly everyone on Earth immediately after.
.............

But the way I see it, Project Blue Book is less an attempt to clone The X-Files-- which explored a lot of other paranormal topics besides UFOs-- and more a clone of its clones.

I'm thinking the short-lived Dark Skies, which tried to build a series around the backstory bits in TXF before turning into a queasy Mission Impossible fever-dream with a pre-Seven of Nine Jeri Ryan. Its title was later lifted for an alien-abduction movie that was actually good, starring Keri Russell of Felicity and The Americans fame.




Jeez Louise, talk about subtext...

Even more than Dark Skies, Project Blue Book looks and feels uncannily like an episode of Steven Spielberg's SciFi Channel miniseries Taken, which for all intents and purposes was the real tenth season of The X-Files (or the real sixth season, depending on your degree of orthodoxy).

Spielberg basically hired everyone who had worked on The X-Files in Vancouver, aside from the principal actors and writers, and then answered the question "what if X-Files were an all-Mythology show?"


Ironically, Taken's title was also lifted for the Liam Neeson revenge-movie franchise.

Bonus factoid: There was apparently a controversy with Taken's publicity campaign which somehow involved PodestaMattoon, later known as The Podesta Group. 


So, seeing that Spielberg and JJ Abrams succeeded with their X-Files clones (give or take), Robert Zemeckis is apparently trying his hand at it now. Unfortunately, this attempts coincides with his mega-ultra-super-flop-to-end-all-flops, Welcome to Marwen, so his marquee value here is considerably dimmed.
.........
Well, hopefully he has better luck with his remake of The Witches.

Because literally no one cares, I'll dispense with boring you by explaining how every single, solitary thing you see onscreen in Project Blue Book never happened. The "based on real events" card at the beginning should be taken as seriously as the "inspired by actual documented accounts" card at the beginning of The X-Files pilot. Actually less, come to think of it.

But if you're in line at the grocery store and have absolutely nothing else to look at, you can mosey over to Robert Sheaffer's Bad UFOs site and survey the Blue Book wreckage in detail. If you're a masochist and your dominiatrix is out of town, you can check out Kevin Randle's autopsy of the mess.

In short, this is all worn-out old Hollywood saucer-trope from tip to toe. Which is kind of odd to me because I'd assumed this genre had been drained dry ages ago. I get the feeling this thing was pitched before The X-Files' Season Ten trainwreck and while DeLonge and his handlers were prepping the whole To The Stars boondoggle and people were anticipating a new UFO Gold Rush.

Which never actually arrived, as DeLonge knows all too well.

THE CONUNDRUM

.........

So what do you do when given a deadly-dull premise in a sub-genre that's been essentially moribund for more than a decade and big dollars to spend? I suppose in order not only to keep yourself awake -- but also to keep from downing that leftover bottle of Percocet from your gall bladder operation -- you go for sex.

.........
I mean, I'm just spitballing here but I think you'll catch my drift if you watch the pilot on YouTube.

First of all, the character of Captain Quinn is played by British actor Michael Malarkey (Vampire Diaries), who looks and sounds so frickin' much like Johnny Depp, I actually had to check his bio to see if he was related.

There's nothing about that online but seeing how Malarkey was born just before Depp got his big break with Nightmare on Elm Street I wonder if Depp supported himself as a sperm-donor instead of waiting tables. Hey, you never know.


Or maybe Malarkey was cloned from the same batch, maybe down in sub-lever 79 at Dulce or something (no, sublevel 78 is the one with vats of human body-parts, but I understand your confusion). Good a theory as any.

Maybe he's a backup Depp model and is being pushed forward to replace the old one, who looks like he's getting ready for the glue factory these days. 
.........

Needless to say, the recruitment scene plays absolutely nothing like a military officer persuading a reluctant Hynek to join a public-relations program, and absolutely everything like a studly grad student seducing his professor in order to score some sweet A's and a glowing letter of recommendation to show to those eggheads who're talking about sending rockets to the Moon or some such ridiculous nonsense. 

Especially seeing how Quinn looks less like an actual Air Force officer and more an aspiring Depp-clone dressed to the nines for that career-making Halloween party at Joel Schumacher's Malibu beach-house.
.........

.........
I mean, come on: The dim lights, the soft voices, the booze and the toasts, the smokes, the suggestive language, the long, meaningful glances? The slash/fic writes itself. These producers are practically handing this show on a silver platter to the Tumblristas.
.........

And right on schedule, there's this little scenario that actually is straight out of a Cinemax softcore quickie. 
.........
The setup here is that Mrs. Hynek treats herself to a shopping spree while her hubby's off hotting it up with Captain Jack there. While perusing the lipstick display, a 1947-vintage Bohemian blonde starts chatting the ostensibly sexually-frustrated wife up and the sparks just fly from there.

I mean, come on; lipstick? Did they think vibrators were a bit too over the top?

.........

Instead of being creeped out by this little weirdo stalking her around the joint, Mrs. Hynek ends up dropping some laundry with her in a changing room that looks uncannily like a turn-of-the-century New Orleans boudoir. 

Or a Penthouse magazine spread circa 1981.



In case you were raised by wolves-- or never perused a single pixel of porn-- the vocal cue from the soundtrack music clues you exactly into what is really going down here. Again, don't take my word for it, watch it for yourself.

Scully-Reyes Shippers got my back on this one. 


Is that what they called it back then?


And just to top it off, we have Mrs. Hynek returning home from the "store," apparently several hours late (it's night time), and apologizes to poor little Johnny (or whatever, no one cares), who is sitting watching some Cold War bomb-scare chicanery on the idiot box.



.........
Mrs. Hynek then dashes to the kitchen to cut a nice piece of her prize-winning Spam-and-mayonnaise Jell-o mold for hungry young Johnny. But first she pulls out the little napkin-note her new friend slipped her, the one with her phone number. 
.........
Mrs. Hynek, clearly basking in some serious afterglow, then actually swoons like a Homecoming queen. No, seriously-- watch it.

Bonus symbolism: the number on the note is clearly meant to be 555 but looks more like 666

But wait, there's more!

.........

Top.
.........
In one of the most brain-bogglingly unconvincing CGI sequences I've seen since the glory days of Babylon 5, Captain Depp takes the professor for a spin in a two-seater. I'd explain the premise here, but does it really matter? It certainly didn't to the producers of the show.

This is in fact an old Hollywood tradition going back to the Hays Commission days: flying or some similar type of adventurous activity as a stand-in for sex. Think of Superman taking Lois Lane for a spin over Metropolis and you'll get the inference here. 

Then try not to think of the more problematic examples of this motif in children's movies.



.........
And then the plane crashes for no other reason I can think of than to have Hynek wake up with the amorous aviator in bed, albeit a hospital bed.

And I mean, the subtext in the dialogue...


.........
... really is laugh-out-loud funny. 
.........
I swear, Captain, I had too many gimlets. I'm not like that, I swear. For God's sake, I told you to stop!
.........

And this is just priceless-- the guilt-ridden Hynek runs off to phone the ol' ball-and-chain while his new FB knowingly smirks. 

.........
Probably on account of having read the report that this nelly's beard just had herself a little afternoon romp with that nutty blonde he knew back in the Wild Bill days. Y'know, the one who's honey-trapping for Hoover now.

.........
I can just imagine the pitch meeting: "It's not The X-Files. OK, it actually is The X-Files, but it's The X-Files meets Queer as Folk meets The L Word."

"Sold!"
.........

Good pie indeed.

"OK, The X-Files meets Queer as Folk meets The L Word meets Twin Peaks."

I have to admit it's kind of refreshing these days when everything's just put out there on Front Street-- on account of the new generation of feebs snowflakes pampered brats writers needing constant and unwielding validation-- to see some good, old-fashioned subtext, however unsubtle it actually is. 


I'm sure it's just nostalgia for happier times but, hey, I'll take what I can get at my age.
.........
Needless to say, absolutely none of this ever happened-- at least as far as history records it-- and this is all just fake melodrama over-compensating for the fact that there's no story here. UFO reports are usually as boring as listening to someone's dreams, which is why Chris Carter took care to hardwire in the conspiracy elements from the jump. 

And Blue Book? Come on; no one cares about it anymore. It's just a footnote to most UFOlogists these days. This is bad history as much as it is bad drama.  
......
I realize big-time Hollywood producers have an annoying habit of forgetting to ask for my opinion before they go and waste tens of millions of dollars on some white elephant hunt, but had they asked I'd have advised them to do a series based on Project Blue Beam instead of Project Blue Book. 
.........
Now, there's an concept with a proven track record for ratings-gold.


BONUS OBLIGATORY SYMBOLOGY



Hmm, looks vaguely familiar somehow.
.........



* She never said that.

63 comments:

  1. Always a great time reading Mr. Knowles ripping a show/story/anything to shreds. Bravo and thanks for the laughs!
    - Samuel

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kinky blonde in red seems to be wearing a dead crow on her head. Wot's up with that? Ill omen?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. That would be an omen of some seriously ill, girl-on-girl action, dontcha think? With lots of giggling and squawking.

      Delete
    2. Zemeckis owes us Back to the Future Part Four.

      Delete
    3. It's a tribute to Johnny Depp's Tonto, I think. In honor of DeppClone3000 playing Major Jack Sparrow.

      Delete
    4. Exactly.And on the History channel too.This reveals how everything on tv / web is fake and scripted.And of course "Sex Sells".

      Delete
    5. I'm old enough to remember when History and TLC and Bravo were educational channels. Then again, I'm old enough to remember when David Lee Roth was the epitome of cool.

      Delete
  3. The Project UFO tv show was my favorite movie when I was 8 but by nine I wanted to be Starbuck on Battlestat Galactica and then The Phoenix came out... wholly shyte I’ve been being programmed my whole life Lol
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Phoenix_(1982_TV_series)
    Toostoned

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haven't we all? But if there is, or will ever be one, what's "The Final Program"?

      KTV

      Delete
    2. Gotcha covered Toostey: https://secretsun.blogspot.com/2010/11/astrognostic-enter-phoenix.html

      Delete
    3. First favorite TV shows- my favorite Martian (with cute bill bixby!), bewitched (where women ruled the magic but not the house- huh?)I dream of jeannie (out of nellis base- area 51- cool!) mr. Ed (cross species action anyone?) Twilight zone and outer limits when the station out of green bay came in (nightmares and parental threats of prohibition!), rocky and bulwinkle for politics and philosophy, the roadrunner to bring hope for innocents surviving the cold war. I felt for Wiley but please let me be roadrunner!

      Delete
  4. The sexual tension is sure to go through the roof when the smoldering young Valee brings his French charm into their world....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The role of Jacques Vallee will be performed by Timothee Chalamet, according to an item in Hollywood Reporter.

      Delete
  5. A first-hand account of the real Project Bluebook:

    http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/17346/pg17346-images.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ruppelt kind of had a Tab Hunter thing going on in his younger days. Maybe a bit of Fabian.

      Delete
  6. Dear friend Chris without even reading this yet I want you to know that I got 5 cocteau twins cds and this is the most wonderful sound I have put in my ears maybe ever. I never knew these people before you. Many thanks and I would have said kisses but I love your missus haha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's truly awesome, D. Which albums perchance are you referring to?

      Bestest bestness to you as always...

      Delete
    2. Ble bell knoll, garlands, heaven or Las Vegas, stars and topsoil, lullabies to villains 1. Wow.

      Delete
    3. I have had heaven or Las Vegas for a while. Can't understand her words much but I tingle all over when I hear it anyway.

      Delete
    4. My work is done here. =D

      That tingling comes from touching the Infinite.

      Delete
    5. She feels like a tuning fork for my spirit, cleaning and cracking up the crusty vibrations of this place. Caroline's Fingers makes me vibrate and my hair stands up.

      Delete
  7. Aw, this was a very good post. Finding the time and
    actual effort to create a very good article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and don't manage
    to get anything done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are pills for that, you know. Ask your doctor or prescription distributor.

      Delete
  8. OMG I legit burst out laughing multiple times while reading this. I am high, but bravo!!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Chris - fascinating reading as always! I've put some thoughts up that connect the Unifying Colour Theory I've been talking about with your last post and this one. I need visual aids so comment boxes aren't sufficing!

    https://hermeticlessons.blogspot.com/2019/01/malkuth-2019-unifying-colour-theory.html

    Hopefully these contributions will be of use to you and others trying to get ahead of the game, and keep up the stellar work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very, very cool, Blogos. Cheers for the link.

      Delete
    2. Thanks so much! I will check this out.

      Delete
  10. Hey Chris! Long time reader... love the blogs! Keep em comin’! Found a little article that you might be interested in... unrelated to this post however, I think I just won Secret Sun Scrabble!
    Hope you get this! http://www.alternativenation.net/greta-van-fleet-saw-something-surprising-chris-cornell-death-venue/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nerd Zeppelin rule the roost. I'll enter your name in the Secret Sun Scrabble Sweepstakes.

      Delete
  11. I just made contact with a parallel Earth where Jurassic Park was called Dinosaur Park and the star was Kurt Russell. They said to get a lipid test but what do they know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not a lot of people realize this but Kurt Russell is a multidimensional being. All of his films leave clues to this.

      Delete
    2. As did no less than Walt Disney himself. His last words are supposed to have been "Kurt....Russel!".

      I think he was going to say "...is really...a cybernetic organism..." e.g., "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" (one of the few movies I remember seeing in a theater, or rather drive-in, as a kid) was written for Kurt personally.

      Who else ever played a character named "Ego"? They might as well have called his character "Set" or "Rudra", but with "Ego", at least, the masses can snicker semi-knowingly, as if it's all a big joke at Freud's expense.

      And naturally his son Wyatt gave up a promising athletic career to star in the Masonic farce-cum-revelation-of-method, "Lodge 49". Either too many hockey pucks to the head, or a clear case of Masonic brainwashing.

      Delete
    3. "I thought you were dead!?!"

      Delete
  12. Beautifully written and hilarious to boot! Thanks Chris!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I really needed some levity this week. Cheers, Guna.

      Delete
  13. I wonder if any of Dr. Hynek's children or grandchildren are watching this series; and what they think of it. I am no relation to Hynek, but am aware enough of his contributions to feel that this show appears to be a sadly botched effort.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Botched? Hardly, it's a screaming, howling shredding of history. And we're all the better for it!

      Delete
    2. Okay I see your point....maybe the series is pitching Dr. Hynek as Brad and Hynek's wife as Janet...a Rocky Horror Blue book Show...

      Delete
    3. I forgot to mention- you see Captain Depp zip up Hynek's jumpsuit in the locker room and Kooky Blonde Lady zip up Mrs Hynek's dress in the changing room. Two classic porn scenarios linked by that gesture. What cards!

      Delete
  14. I know for a FACT that Hynek has family living in the Boston area, I've met them. This show is completely bizarre to me. If it was me, I might smell lawsuit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're alive. Dead men don't sue.

      Delete
    2. A tricky area of law, you are correct sir, but might as well start the precedents ball rolling as we prepare to live forever in the emerging man-machine world.

      Delete
    3. Years ago I heard a factoid that in Utah dead people CAN sue, so before it published some BS about a dead person a tabloid would always make sure they weren't from Utah. Don't know if true or not...

      Delete
  15. Hi Chris - I was initially kind of looking forward to the show seeing the actors that were involved and because the trailer they ran on the History Channel looked so promising. So, with that said, I recorded it when it premiered and tried to watch S1/E1 later in the week. Unfortunately, I couldn't get past the first 20 minutes.

    The whole thing felt like it was written by some people who had done some cursory internet research on Roswell and Project Bluebook and had heard their older brother talk alot about some old ass show called "The X-Files" and stuff and junk. But geezus, man. In my first impressions, the ham-handed writing and the overall dialog seemed cluttered and rushed to the point that the actors looked visibly uncomfortable trying to keep pace in this under directed sprint through to the plot points.

    Forget about the obvious creative licensing that History channel takes with actual historical events and the treatment of a topic which has become more mainstream than Dr. Who's recent PC cultural zeitgeist. The show's efforts to portray a sensitive and rather paranoid period of America looks like a Saturday Night Live sketch without the live audiences helpful chortles and chuckles in the background to guide us through the parts that are supposed to be funny. Instead we get a familiar lineup of troupes, stereotypes, and props that are supposed to help navigate us through all those bad habits of the 1960's to our nosebleed seats of judgement in this ever so enlightened techno-future our parents only dreamed about back then. Where all media is social and where all things are revealed (if you opt-in for spoilers).

    Because in this day and time of total information access and neo-Americana, *we* *know* what all those alien encounters and abductions where all about anyway, don't we (wink, wink, aside, aside)?

    Thank our lucky, flat-earth, luminaries that the History Channel can show us just how silly and easily deceived we used to be back in the olden-timey days before the tru-tru.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well Bill, someone's keeping the old UFO bandwagon on the road, even though it's being tugged by dead horses. PBB is utter dreck and a deadly bore of a premise so I guess you need to inject some softcore into the corpse. That being said, it's rather hilarious to see all this sex stuff woven into the death shroud. Plus, cloning.

      Delete
    2. Congrats on your shout-out in the Anomalist today, though they practically labeled this NSFW.

      Also mentioned by the Anomalist - Halperin looks at the PBB marketing here:

      https://www.davidhalperin.net/project-blue-book-the-history-journal-and-the-new-york-times/

      And this article flat out calls PBB social engineering:

      https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2019/01/02/project-blue-book-and-the-priming-of-paranormal-belief-on-the-effects-of-history-and-its-re-presentation/?fbclid=IwAR1U23rSy00hIZYPRiR0sJyeSnfmicMffPgvmmI_rrMdZ5sJ9CCRIHZNOx4

      Delete
  16. Shouda called it Project Blue Balls, amirite!?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Project Blue Balls"? "True Detective" Season 2/3?

      Delete
  17. While I have enjoyed it so far, I understand the criticisms. Still, I like the vibe and the spookiness. And it is leagues ahead of Webb's UFO show from my childhood. And I particularly enjoyed your description of Johnny "watching some Cold War bomb-scare chicanery on the idiot box." I had to explain to my son what "duck and cover" was.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, it was a hoot and a howl, Andy. Very good fun indeed. Subtext-wise, I mean.

      Delete
    2. I saw ”Littlefinger” (GOT) in a trailer, I think during the NFL playoffs last week and it piqued my interest. I think he’s a good actor, good enough to forget his name rn... but thanks to your review it reminded me again to give it a spin. I watched both episodes relaeased so far (On Demand free) last night and really enjoyed them. Yet I always feel the pilot episodes of any series always come off a little too polished, as did this one, episode 2 was more granular and enjoyable to watch. Even had an owl in it and an apparent suicide, amongst other conversational points frequently brought up in the past year or so...After the two episodes, the several continuous mysterious underlying plots and character developments are slowly revealed while the A-Team are busy solving the weekly per episode event. It’s a tried and true model, entertaining enough that I’m looking forward to watching episode 3.
      Cheers!

      Delete
  18. Sounds like an interesting premise/angle on the ufo story. Entertaining if unintentionally so? On another tack, you’re Siren “theme”, I came across a poem by WB Yeats; “The Sad Sheperd”, don’t know if you’re familiar with it? Reads like a proto Siren Song plus dewdrops and pearls.. ( btw liked the 1st chapter excerpt, look forward to reading the rest)

    ReplyDelete
  19. So ..."Project Blue Book", which is a "dumpster fyah"(?), is also a "Strange Angel" splice/"Twisted Sister"/Season 2? The "Blue" of the "Project" contrasting with the reds/oranges/yellows of "SA"?

    The trailer begins bathed in blue & shows an abduction(?) then a ruddy forest fire... "The whole forest smelt of death..." ("This must be just like livin' in paradise... & I don't wanna to go ho-ome").

    It also includes a number of flickering lights & symbols (a map?) on the wall of a cave... is this "Twin Peaks" sans David Lynch? Did someone find some Mark Frost drafts & revivify them as their own?

    "Logic can't begin to explain what we're dealing with here" ...whatabout "dream-logic" would that help? Lynch's ears must be burning hotter than the forest fire of "death".

    & "Project Blue Beam"? It's been incorporated as part of the full-spectrum assault on humanity in the form of all the tv/film etc. incorigably, like a naughty "lady in red"/"hot-headed" "fly-boy" crush, shoe-horning wyrdery into everything It streams including the "down to earth" stuff, Itself another spooking just not normiely believed to be so, in contast to supposed "weird shit" - but all the wyrder for It's continual attempt to pass Itself off as "normal". It's all probing.

    P.S. The mention of "Dark Skies" "transported" me all the way back to those halcyon days nowadays referred to as "The '90s".

    KTV

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi Chris: Fresh from The Anomalist blog; your column about the Blue Book TV show is cited and linked; with the advisory comment "His (Knowles) blisteringly skeptical article may be hard to read at times." My question is : hard for whom to read, and why? Cheers to thee.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi Chris: Nick Redfern weighs in on Project Blue Book;
    https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2019/01/about-project-blue-book-my-views/

    ReplyDelete
  22. More info on the U.S. Government's current (?) UFO program:

    https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/3kg8v5/the-governments-secret-ufo-program-funded-research-on-wormholes-and-extra-dimensions

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm liking it so far. How do you feel now that we're a few episodes in?

    ReplyDelete

SECRET SUN READING LIST