On Wednesday night, the Discovery Channel’s Expedition Unknown did an hour on Tiwanaku, which is in and of itself of no particular interest. But what was interesting is that Discovery and host Josh Gates seemed to be at odds over how to frame the story. The network’s promotions for the show, and even the show title, spoke of Tiwanaku as “Atlantis in the Andes,” referencing a midcentury fringe hypothesis that the Andean city was 10,000 years old and the capital of Atlantis. But the episode itself clearly labeled both this idea and the ancient astronaut theory as “conspiracy theories” and instead referred to the architectural remains now below Lake Titicaca’s waters as “an” Atlantis, meaning it in the figurative sense—underwater ruins. It was an odd juxtaposition between a factual presentation and a sensational marketing effort, and it probably says something about what Discovery thinks of its audience. Incidentally, Gates’s full-throated rejection of the ancient astronaut theory here on the Discovery Channel is quite the contrast from his Travel Channel days when he openly speculated about space aliens being responsible for Easter Island and other ancient sites. Discovery is very good about sequestering fringe content on specific channels dedicated to lunatic ideas. That’s why America Unearthed is coming to the Travel Channel and not the main Discovery Channel.
According to once and future TV host Scott Wolter, the new season of America Unearthed will debut on May 28 on the Travel Channel. The History Channel announced that the new season of Ancient Aliens will debut three days later, on May 31. The two shows used to air together on the H2 network back in 2012, so it’s almost like we’ve gone back in time and it’s 2012 all over again.
I had a very busy day yesterday and ran out of time for writing, but I wanted to share with you a bit of an interview that voiceover artist Robert Clotworthy did with Monsters & Critics recently. Clothworthy is the narrator of Ancient Aliens and The Curse of Oak Island and has spent a decade complicit in the spread of pseudoscience and conspiracy theories across the country and around the world. In the interview, Clotworthy was asked whether he believes the ancient astronaut theories he shares with the world on Ancient Aliens or whether he is a skeptic of his own show’s claims. So, is he a skeptic?
History Channel Doubles Down on Paranormal and Conspiracy Programming in Presentation to Advertisers
Before we begin today: For the record, the Travel Channel’s rerun of America Unearthed this week returned 421,000 viewers, consistent with the last few airings, and beat out the original series Lost Gold that aired immediately after by 4,000 viewers. Project Blue Book fell to 1.39 million viewers against the State of the Union address, while Curse of Oak Island shed viewers against the same competition, clocking 3.12 million viewers. And now, for something slightly different.
Regular readers will remember Jeffrey J. Kripal, a professor of philosophy and religious thought at Rice University, because a few years ago he declared that a Renaissance painting depicted a genuine flying saucer, and more recently, because he held a UFO symposium. In a recent interview, Kripal has made a surprising new claim that finds further parallels with the pseudo-religious ramblings of latter-season Ancient Aliens. Kripal says that he believes the human imagination does not necessarily generate its own ideas but instead may be a conduit for receiving supernatural messages from the outside. This is surprisingly similar to the claim made on Ancient Aliens that geniuses do not have original insights but instead have their thoughts beamed into their heads by superior space aliens.
Australia's History Channel Marks Australia Day with "Ancient Aliens" Claims about Space Aliens and Egyptians Colonizing Down Under
Australians celebrate Australia Day each January 26, a public holiday that is the rough equivalent of America’s Fourth of July, except that it celebrates the arrival of British sovereignty rather than the loss of it. But the patriotic celebration is not universally beloved Down Under, and thousands turned out last week to protest what opponents call Invasion Day, due to the observance marking the arrival of British colonists and their takeover of Indigenous Australian territory in what is now New South Wales. Supporters believe that the day is an important tool in fostering and celebrating Australian unity, while opponents see it as, basically, a White Pride party. “There are only two events where we can be guaranteed to see white people wearing [Australian] flag capes—on Australia Day and at neo-Nazi rallies,” wrote Luke Pearson, the founder of Indigenous X, a website raising awareness of Indigenous Australian issues.
Since this week I had an extra blog post reviewing Project Blue Book and sat through two hours of Ancient Aliens, and my son has an ear infection, I will make only a brief blog post today to report the results of the Nielsen ratings for this week’s premiere of Project Blue Book. The program had a disappointing debut, fumbling 1 million viewers from its Curse of Oak Island lead-in. The show had 2.2 million viewers, with a 0.43 rating in the 18-49 demo. This compares unfavorably to Curse of Oak Island in the preceding hour, which attracted 3.2 million viewers and scored a 0.8 in the demo—all while airing against Pres. Trump’s prime time address in the Eastern Time Zone. Blue Book, which did not have presidential competition, returned remarkably low numbers given its extensive promotion across television, extending even to a fake newspaper wraparound on last Sunday’s New York Times.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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