IN SEARCH OF...PAGE 2
In fact, the show birthed six books.
During the Age of Aquarius, aging hippies were willing to abandon the clear fantasy of Western Christian religion and buy into everyone else's bullshit.
Show creator Alan Landsburg was the go-to guy for making television documentaries in the 1960s and 1970s. He made them for The National Geographic and Jacques Cousteau (who was a French oceanographer back when my Pop was a kid).
Landsburg, who was already gold on television, hit platinum paydirt when he made the documentary, In Search of Ancient Astronauts, in 1973. Because of his unimpeachable resume, he gave the show credibility. He was the only person who did. The TV show was such a wild hit, it actually went from the television screen to theaters! It went up the slide backwards!
And understand the facepalm craziness of this moment. The show was based entirely on the book of the same name by Erich von Däniken: A guy so racist his entire theory rested on the supposition that, in every non-caucasian culture, the non-whites were just too damn backwards to have done something as amazing as pyramids, statues, etc. Däniken would look at the people of Easter Island and basically say "These people aren't white! How could they possibly have been smart enough to create these heavy statues? The only possible answer is ... Extraterrestrials!"
And even for its time that was facepalm stupid because the wildly popular and best selling other book of the period, and for the past 20 years prior to that time, was Scientist and Adventurer Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki. Back in 1947, Thor (a real life Indiana Jones) had already documented in detail how the heads of Easter Island (Moai) were made and he did so by actually asking the natives "Hey! Howdja make them heads anyway?"
And they showed him! And he made them! And they put one into place! And it all worked! And they got the whole thing on film and showed it in theaters everywhere and the book and the movie were a hit and the book was translated into over 60 freaking languages.
Moreover, his research was replicated by other scientists!
Yet 20 years later, all of that meant nothing to Erich. "No, no. These people are too primitive. Too Not-White. It had to be those damn aliens from outer space. No other explanation makes sense!"
Rod Serling was aware of the derisive laughter from the science community world wide. Hoping for credibility, Serling tried to get popular mainstream scientist, Isaac Asimov, to come onboard the Erich von Däniken gravy train: The same Asimov who had thoroughly debunked Däniken's work! Isaac commented to another publisher,
Television show producer and screenwriter, Rod Serling (TWILIGHT ZONE, PLANET OF THE APES, Rod Serling's THE NIGHT GALLERY), who had worked with Alan on The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, was utterly smitten with Däniken's concept (which started with his book, Ancient Astronauts), and happily narrated the pilot show, IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES. Having a respected documentarian like National Geographic and Jacques Cousteau's Alan Landsburg, and a narrator like the respected Rod Serling on his side, Erich could blow past all of his critics and be taken seriously. As with many a preposterous fluff movie disguised as science, Chariots of the Gods? was nominated for an Oscar in 1971. Däniken's book sales soared ever higher.
Publisher's noticed that any book that used that bold style of font and design flew off the shelves. Soon actual scientists from Arthur C. Clarke to Isaac Asimov were dismayed to see their publishers remake their own book covers, using the bold font type associated with the debunked and discredited Däniken (in order to ride Erich's coattails to sweet book sales).
It didn't matter what Asimov thought of Erich. To this day, other authors on Erich's side continuously pair the two together as if Asimov in life knowingly gave Erich validity. In his 2005 book, Evolution Of God: A Concept, Or Is God Stagnant, Robert E. West continuously equates Asimov with von Däniken, as if both men were each other's respected peers or contemporaries.
For Erich von Däniken, a convicted fraud and thief who could never keep his story straight, it all finally came apart in 1979 when Erich was not only debunked, but revealed on camera to be a fraud who, when faced by an interviewer for PBS's NOVA with the evidence of his open complicity (not for the first time) in his scam, was visibly uncomfortable and began blaming his publisher for all of the many instances of obvious untruths. Then, when the interviewer pressed the point that Erich had stood by those obvious untruths and used them in his many slide show lectures, and never changed those fabrications after over 10 years in publication, Erich began contradicting himself, changing his excuses with every new revelation."I also hope for the continuing popularity of books like Chariots of the Gods? in high school and college logic courses, as object lessons in sloppy thinking. I know of no recent books so riddled with logical and factual errors as the works of von Däniken."
- Carl Sagan
That year, 1979 was the year In Search Of... went investigating the Amityville Horror: A book which also presented itself as fact, only to later have the author recant that he had made the whole thing up.
After Erich's fall from grace (he's had many) IN SEARCH OF... chose to deviate away from him and get a bit more serious. But not by much. Throughout its long run, IN SEARCH OF... only wanted to talk about mysteries and conspiracy theories, but never attempted to solve them or provide evidence to back them up.
That is until...
In Season 5, episode 1, In Search of... UFO Cover ups aka Extraterrestrials, had no one but actual witnesses. Television interviews with the men who were actually in charge of project Blue Book and the Roswell cover-up, and the most "credible" of the UFO believers (the ones who didn't wear tinfoil hats or claim that they could psychokinetically bring one down).
Despite the expense of taking film cameras all over the world (much of the "world" clips were were simply old newsreels and aging film stock), the show was otherwise low budget and it showed. Which meant it didn't need a lot to be profitable. Even Leonard Nimoy's wardrobe was by his then wife, Sandi Nimoy.
Ahem. So here we are today.
Visual Entertainment Incorporated has gathered all 152 episodes onto 21 DVDs. It also has a bonus of the first two specials that launched the series, hosted by Rod Serling. Those are the most far fetched of the bunch, but are worth viewing for the fact that one show actually pits the theories of Erich Von Däniken against Carl Sagan with filmed interviews of both!
The DVDs also contain all eight episodes of the show's relaunch, hosted by Mitch Pileggi (SHOCKER, THE X-FILES), which crashed and burned in the year of its birth, 2002. High tech society was just a little older then, slightly wiser, and access to factual information was a whole lot faster and more convenient (thank you Internet!). Also, those eight episodes were the most gullible of the entire franchise. At least our Online society was wise enough to go "In Search Of" the various claims made on the show and determine their authenticity (something a new "In Search of" type show, DARK MATTERS - also hosted by X-FILES alumni - needs to be aware of before they tumble completely over that cliff. UPDATE: Too late. Oh well.).
Well over ten years after they stopped making new shows, IN SEARCH OF... continued in syndication. And as a kid I tried to watch every episode. I was far more open and ready to believe a lot of stuff as a kid, but even then most episodes left me saying, "No way!"
So what about me? Why did I keep watching it? When did I learn the truth and what did I do about it?
I was (more then than today) a hopeless Trekkie. So I watched and enjoyed the damn show warts and all (IN SEARCH OF... warts that is, not... why, how dare you imply that I meant...!). Eventually, I'd sit with my fellow geeks and we'd talk through IN SEARCH OF... Mystery Science Theater 3000 style. Because we were still watching it! And it was all because of One Guy.
Leonard Nimoy, man! Leo with 70s sideburns! Leo with Disco mustache!
You gotta love Leo! Everybody loves Leo! You don't love Leo?
What's wrong with you?
In the 5th season, Leonard even wrote two of the shows: In Search of... Vincent Van Gogh (fans who know Leonard, know how mad he is for Vincent van), and In Search Of... Great Lovers.
Ahem... Well it's hard to be anti-science with those two subjects.
Taken as a whole, the shows are fascinating only if, either you uncritically believe everything they tell you, or you critically take them with a grain of salt.
IN SEARCH OF... was highly influential for its era and for a long time after. So wildly popular that in 1984, the third Star Trek motion picture was aptly named THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK. And while the title was an inside joke, the movie wasn't a comedy. Paramount was actually hoping to cash in on the successful series while showcasing Leonard Nimoy's first outing as a feature film director. Ouroboros there, since IN SEARCH OF... used Nimoy to cash in on Star Trek fans.
Overall, you may find your fascination poorly rewarded, as if caught in a bait and switch. You were promised an educational intellectual pursuit, but have to settle for bland conspiracy theory mixed with religion. And where that borderland of personal knowledge comes that you don't know the difference between either, you are left with nothing.
Then again, you can always use the information IN SEARCH OF... to give you a jump point, to search out the truth yourself. It all depends on where you search, what you choose to read, and what you want to believe.
I believe I'll give this series Three Shriek Girls.
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