Philip Coppens, the shaggy-haired speculator whose European accent and irrepressible enthusiasm for all things ancient and mystical made him a mainstay of the Ancient Aliens cable television series, died yesterday in Los Angeles following a brief battle with a rare form of cancer. Coppens had only recently finished filming interviews for the fifth season of Ancient Aliens when he sought treatment for an illness that was eventually diagnosed as angiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood or lymphatic vessel walls.
Coppens, 41, is survived by his wife Kathleen McGowan as well as a body of work that spans multiple nonfiction books, documentaries, and (as coauthor) one novel.
A word of explanation before I get into the heart of today’s review: I’ve received some questions and/or complaints about not reviewing America Unearthed on the day it airs. H2 airs both Ancient Aliens and America Unearthed on Friday nights, but I simply am not able to stay up until all hours composing reviews of these shows. Yes, I understand that the Onion’s A.V. Club can post reviews of programs within hours of airing, but (a) they only have to offer opinions, not research, and (b) they get paid to do it. I do my best, but I only have time to analyze one program per day, so America Unearthed reviews will continue to be posted a day after my Ancient Aliens reviews.
America Unearthed “Medieval Desert Mystery” (S01E02) begins with a dramatic reenactment of a couple of white guys dying in the desert in view of some Native Americans. We then cut to “forensic geologist” Scott Wolter in his laboratory reading a letter from a concerned viewer who claims to know of a stone in Arizona covered in medieval European runes.
The major snowstorm that hit the northeast on Thursday delayed my return to Albany by a day, and my travel nightmare improved little upon the discovery that all of the trains for the weekend were sold out except for yesterday’s late evening train. This train, of course, was hopelessly delayed by not one but three slow freight trains ahead of us that caused my train to slow to half its usual speed, thus doubling the time needed to make the journey. I managed to get back home with just twenty minutes to spare before a new episode of Ancient Aliens. Lucky me.
This week’s episode, “Aliens and Cover-Ups” (S05E02), falls much more heavily on the side of modern UFO studies rather than prehistoric extraterrestrials, and thus falls far beyond my usual remit. Therefore, you will forgive me if after my long and exhausting trip I just don’t have the energy to learn a whole new field of study (modern ufology) just to critique Ancient Aliens’ lies. My review is consequently a bit less detailed than usual.
I learned this morning that my Critical Companion to Ancient Aliens Seasons 3 and 4: Unauthorized his number 7 on the Amazon.com list of bestselling new archaeology books today. I’m thrilled to now be a “bestselling” Amazon author, if only briefly.
I also thought I’d share an interesting tidbit I came across. My father deals in antiques, and he found a miniature, 4-inch-tall iron maiden, complete with spikes, just like this one pictured below.
Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to write things. I try; goodness knows I do. Yet somehow, I only seem to manage to upset people. First Ben Radford became upset with me because I criticized his secondhand attack on a non-existent ancient astronaut documentary. Then Sonja Brentjes became upset with me for drawing what seemed to me a logical conclusion from published sources. Now Martin Kottmeyer is upset with me for my article “Alien Abduction at the Outer Limits” because he feels I misrepresented the Outer Limits alien he identified as the source for Barney Hill’s alien abduction claim.
Generally, I don’t discuss private correspondence on my blog, but since in an email to me Kottmeyer offered only a specific critique of my published work and no discussion of anything not already in the public record, I feel that his points are important enough to share with my readers to help us get to the bottom of the Hill abduction.
On last week’s Ancient Aliens, John DeSalvo mentioned in passing that “ancient Chinese kings” claimed that beings came “down from the sky” to give them various texts and information. As I mentioned in my review of the episode, I was not familiar enough with Chinese mythology to know what the heck he was talking about. I’ve been doing some research into this undeveloped claim to try to figure out what he was talking about, and I think I know.
Today, I have two Christmas topics to share.
First, in honor of the Christmas holiday, I want to say thank you to all of you who have read my blog, shared posts with friends, and offered comments. I am constantly amazed by the increasing number of people who have found my corner of the internet and have spent time here. I am also touched by the generosity of readers who have donated money or bought books to help support this web site and my work. I thank all of you with the deepest sincerity.
As Christians around the world prepare for Christmas Eve tonight, we can breathe a sigh of relief that we have survived yet another ancient astronaut catastrophe. You may have thought you were safe after the Maya apocalypse failed to happen on December 21, despite an endorsement from Ancient Aliens and its pundit David Childress. But another danger lurked. Erich von Däniken had darkly warned in his 2009 book Twilight of the Gods that yesterday, December 23, was to have been the day that the aliens returned to earth to deliver a “god shock” that would change the world!
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into America Unearthed, H2’s new program about the “hidden” history of America airing immediately after Ancient Aliens. The production values on the show are several steps above Ancient Aliens, with almost cinematic cinematography and high-end graphics; but the program relies heavily on obviously reenacted or scripted conversations in which forensic geologist Scott Wolter “investigates” ancient mysteries. Unlike Ancient Aliens, America Unearthed does not provide much by way of description or context since it lacks a narrator, making it very difficult to pinpoint at times exactly what the program is talking about and thus forcing us to simply go along with Wolter, facts be damned.
Note: Last night H2 debuted both season five of Ancient Aliens and the first episode of a new pseudo-archaeology series, America Unearthed. Because I am not a machine, I will have to review these separately. Today I will review Ancient Aliens’ premiere, and tomorrow I’ll give my thoughts on America Unearthed.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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