On Thursday, CNN’s website ran an article on the ancient astronaut theory by Jen Rose Smith. The piece frames questions about the origins of UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Giza pyramids and the Nazca lines in terms of Erich von Däniken’s version of the ancient astronaut theory. It then devotes most of the article’s space to describing how “mainstream scientists” reject the ancient astronaut hypothesis, with lengthy quotes from archaeologist Sarah Parcak.
On the Narratively website, California college student and journalist Reed Ryley Grable provided a poignant and thought account of his father’s gradual slide into Q-Anon conspiracy madness. Grable describes his father’s growing paranoia and social isolation, and he talks eloquently about how his father’s strident conspiracy theory advocacy has alienated him from his family and his friends. While I am not particularly interested in Q-Anon conspiracies, I was neither shocked nor surprised to read Grable’s account of how Ancient Aliens served as a gateway drug leading his father from a nebulous interest in the mysterious and the bizarre to a raving world of online conspiracies.
Last week I receive a request from someone who is consulting on a documentary to take a meeting with a producer who works with Netflix about adapting one of my books into a documentary or potential documentary series. Normally, I don’t let this sort of thing get very far because it is always a huge waste of time, but since I have been stuck in quarantine, I figured it would serve as a bit of a distraction. So, we set up the meeting, and before the appointed day, I suggested that the producer should probably be aware that my work is not pro-alien. Regular readers of this blog can guess the rest. There was no meeting at the appointed hour. It wasn’t unexpected, but even so, it is disconcerting.
Ancient Aliens is not on tonight, so I am taking the day off. However, before I sign off for the day, I wanted to provide a quick overview of the week in pseudo-historical and paranormal TV. Rob Riggle: Global Investigator actually rose in the ratings for its alien-themed episode, reaching 355,000 live plus same day viewers, its highest viewer haul since moving to Thursdays. What made that more amazing is that the show rose in the ratings while airing out of prime time, in its late-night exile slot. Its total, however, was still only half of what Discovery usually pulls on Thursdays, and it still failed to outdraw the similar Forbidden History, the obscure UK import airing on the little-watched Science Channel. Its latest episode had 400,000 viewers. Curse of Oak Island was up to 3.6 million viewers this week, while Secret of Skinwalker Ranch stubbornly remained at 2.1 million. Last Saturday, Ancient Aliens clocked 1 million viewers, while The UnXplained sank to 852,000. Overall, where we should have expected to see some ratings spikes as more people are trapped indoors watching TV, instead, everything is basically the way it always is, suggesting that these shows have a relatively inelastic audience.
NOTE: Due to Discovery moving the low-rated Rob Riggle: Global Investigator to an overnight time slot, my Friday blog post will be delayed until I have had a chance to watch the show sometime Friday morning.
It’s slow-going this week thanks to a dearth of interesting claims to write about, so I am going to take today off. After all, I wasted enough time this week slogging through Dark Fleet. But before I sign off for the day, I’ll report that the Nielsen figures for Saturday’s History Channel broadcasts find that the surge of audience interest in Ancient Aliens was short-lived. After a one-week hiatus, the show returned to fewer viewers, attracting just 1.08 million live plus same day viewers, down from 1.2 million for its last original episode. Similarly, The UnXplained lost about the same number as well. However, the number of younger Ancient Aliens viewers, those 18-49, continues to rise, hitting a 0.21 this past week. Older adults stopped watching, accounting for the overall decline in viewers, but young people are flocking to the show in numbers not seen since early in the show’s decade-long run. Meanwhile, The Curse of Oak Island remained steady at 3.5 million viewers, while The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch lost some ground, clocking 1.9 million viewers, the vast majority of whom were over the age of 50.
Wednesday Roundup: Robbie Williams Loves "Coast to Coast," "Ancient Aliens" Sees Ratings Rise, and More!
Coronavirus has blasted almost everything else out of the news, including what would otherwise be a big push to promote History’s new Secret of Skinwalker Ranch series, which aired its first episode last night. I have no interest in reviewing the show weekly since its paranormal investigation is beyond my area of interest. I will review the pilot episode and post either later today or tomorrow, since it aired too late for me to watch and review last night and still get up when my toddler wakes before 6 AM. I thought it was cute that George Knapp tried to piggyback on the show by running clips on his Mystery Wire paranormal news service from an unaired year-old interview with singer Robbie Williams in which Williams talks about loving Coast to Coast A.M. and George Knapp. Knapp also writes about Williams being a guest at Skinwalker Ranch (with Knapp, though Knapp declined to share that fact on Mystery Wire despite crowing about it in social media) to hunt for ghosts or aliens or whatever.
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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