History Channel to Launch New "In Search Of..."; Plus: Scott Wolter Marks Three Years Since End of "America Unearthed" with Radio Interview
The History channel has greenlighted a ten-episode revival of In Search of… starring Zachary Quinto, taking over the hosting role originated by Leonard Nimoy in the 1977-1982 original. Quinto was selected because he, like Nimoy before him, played Mr. Spock in Star Trek. In announcing the decision yesterday, the network said that the revived series would explore “dynamic” subjects “such as alien encounters, mysterious creatures, UFO sightings, time travel and artificial intelligence.”
Given that this is the History channel, the home of Ancient Aliens and The Curse of Oak Island, I can’t say that I hold out much hope that the new series, whose title changes from In Search of… to In Search Of without the suggestive ellipses, will offer anything new about these well-worn subjects, nor that they will treat them as anything more than titillating fodder to feed the perpetual mystery machine that is paranormal television programming.
The network cited the success of Ancient Aliens as a key factor in its decision to commission another series scraping the bottom of a well-worn barrel of ancient mysteries already covered on the aforementioned series. “To this day, the investigations conducted in this series remain relevant and a source of public obsession,” History vice president of programming Eli Lehrer said. “Now with Zachary’s passion and prevalence in the science fiction genre, the groundbreaking series is back for a new audience.” This is the second time in recent weeks that Lehrer has cited popular interest in space aliens and conspiracies as the driving force behind programming decisions made at the network. He previously said the same thing about Templar conspiracies, suggesting that History’s executive suite hasn’t quite worked out the connection between the drivel they broadcast and public awareness of history. If you don’t educate the public, it’s no wonder they express “interest” in the crap you make available.
Quinto said that he was “excited” to be revisiting the earlier In Search Of series with “advancements in science and technology” to help him reach the same inconclusive non-answers. “HISTORY is the perfect home for this unique and compelling series,” Quinto said, truthfully. More truthfully: I doubt he said any of it. It reads like something that the PR team asked him to sign off on.
The network omitted any mention of the earlier revival of In Search of… on Fox, hosted by Mitch Pileggi at the tail end of the X-Files phenomenon, in the fall of 2002. They also omitted to mention that the History Channel, and before that, parent network A&E, attracted its original audience of paranormal enthusiasts in large measure due to repeats of the first In Search of… series, which made A&E and then History cable’s home for paranormal and fringe programming in the 1990s, setting the stage for today. A&E even commissioned a sequel series, Ancient Mysteries, starring Leonard Nimoy because of the success of In Search of… reruns.
The History channel demonstrated its commitment to quality by wrongly stating in its press release that the first In Search of…, which launched in 1977, was hosted by Rod Serling before his death. Serling died in 1975. He had hosted In Search of Ancient Astronauts and its two sequels, a series of TV movies that inspired the creation of the series, which he was originally intended to host, but he was never the host of the In Search of… series. It’s probably worth mentioning that both Ancient Aliens and In Search of… got their starts as adaptations of the same book, Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods, before branching off into all-purpose investigations of anything vaguely “mysterious.”
A+E Networks, the parent of the History channel, must be truly desperate for the new series to have positive press. They actually sent me the press release and promotional materials yesterday morning, at the same time the rest of the media received them. Either all is forgiven after that time they tried to sue me over my book criticizing America Unearthed, or else they really want the word out everywhere.
Speaking of the desperate search for new TV series… The former star of America Unearthed, a show that aired on History’s defunct sister channel H2, Scott Wolter said on his blog Sunday that he would like to host a globetrotting show unearthing ancient mysteries from around the world. The next day, he appeared on AM950 radio’s Matt McNeil Show to talk about “life after America Unearthed,” a program that went off the air three years ago today.
In the interview, Wolter revisited claims he made on the show as far back as 2012, using most of the same words and the same bullet points that routinely uses in describing the episodes of his series. McNeil, however, is nearly as bad as Wolter, claiming that new discoveries about history are only accepted if “big universities” like Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Oxford are involved in their discovery. He asserted that cable television shows provide equally valid scientific analysis and should be accepted based on the data broadcast on air. Basically, he thinks Scott Wolter’s claims should be accepted because he thinks what he saw on screen was suitably scientific compared to the opaque scientific work found in journals. McNeil even suggests that “academic resentment” is preventing Wolter from being hailed as a paradigm-busting titan of science.
The pair also discussed Wolter’s key hobbyhorse, the Kensington Runestone, a Victorian hoax purporting to be a medieval Norse tablet, tied to the opening of a visitor’s center at Rune Stone Park in Minnesota. Wolter said that “people” (meaning scientists, historians, etc.) are “fearful” of the Templars and refuse to admit that only the Templars had the means and the resources to carve the Runestone. He adds that scholars have “fear in their hearts” that the Templars might not have been orthodox Roman Catholics, because I guess somehow universities are just chock full of true believers in orthodoxy, which is why Fox News is on such a tear about how atheist liberal professors are turning students’ minds to mush. Wolter adds that he believes that the Templars’ ideology was “compatible with Native Americans’ [ideology].”
You can tell that this is Minnesota radio, however, because McNeil simply assumes that listeners are familiar with the local runic curiosity, and know its backstory. You’re not likely to find that outside of Minnesota. He also lets slide Wolter’s claim that Kensington, Minnesota, where the stone was found in 1898, is the exact geographic center of North America. According to a 1928 U.S. Geographical Survey calculation, that honor actually falls to Rugby, North Dakota, though a more recent claim—made by an academic no less!—put the location at Center, North Dakota. Either way, it’s not Kensington, Minn.
Wolter concluded his discussion of the Rune Stone and Templars by saying that he believes that the only way one can accept his claims as true is to turn off one’s critical filters and to “realize you don’t know everything and to let this information come to you.” I’ll leave it to you to insert your own jokes. He added that no one outside of the fringe community truly understands who the Knights Templar really were. He claims that the medieval order is grossly misunderstood, and that academic treatments of them are incorrect and incomplete because they do not include Native American religious influences. He claims that Native Americans have told him that the Templars are their blood brothers.
“How come we’ve never heard that before? How come academia hasn’t gone down that road?” Wolter asks, apparently unaware that his friend David Brody spilled the beans two months ago and accidentally revealed that the Native American who supposedly admitted all this is a young man who was referring to twentieth century fringe history books, not to preexisting oral traditions.
He closed out the interview with a discussion about why “respect” is for him the most important virtue in any interaction—a common theme from a man who feels that opposition to his incorrect claims is automatically a personal insult—and he rehearsed his history of playing football in college and for a semi-pro team, another key pillar of his personal myth. This tied in to the official reason for his appearance, promoting a charity ball game.
He finished out the interview by teasing, for the third year in a row, a future book or television project which he alleges will be tell “the greatest story I’ve ever been involved in, and that includes every episode of America Unearthed.” As has been the case for three years, this involved no details and had no firm release date, only a vague request to “stay tuned.”
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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