My website and my email address are my name, so I’ve always wondered how people can confuse me for the stars of the History Channel. I’ve had people mistake me for Giorgio Tsoukalos and Scott Wolter, but today was a first: I received my first email mistaking me for Jim Vieira! The confused letter-writer asked Jim to look into a particular “giant” report from her hometown that she remembered from Coast to Coast AM years ago because she’s infuriated that the government is “burying” the truth about a case she could find no more information about. She thanked Vieira for his TV show and concluded: “I appreciate the work you are doing. It must be great to do something you love.”
Sadly, that was much more pleasant that the rest of the past 24 hours. After posting my review of Paul Roland’s Curious Case of H. P. Lovecraft, I received a sternly worded note from the publisher of the book, Plexus, which I am now ethically bound to disclose, in which the company expressed its displeasure that I “felt” I had to acknowledge our prior correspondence in my review. The company feels that I misrepresented our email exchange and requested that I remove the final four paragraphs of my review or modify them to acknowledge that Plexus at no time attempted to influence my review. (I did not think I had implied that they did.) They also felt it was unfair of me to describe the message Paul Roland sent to me via the publisher as “unsolicited contact” because Roland did not directly communicate with me but sent the message through a third party. I explained to Plexus that they did nothing wrong, but that in America it is conventional for reviewers to avoid contact of any kind with the authors they review before their reviews are published. (For example, I wrote and submitted my review of Scott Sigler’s Ancestor prior to interviewing him about the book so that there would be no potential influence, even though the two pieces ran side by side.) However, due to Britain’s notorious libel laws, there isn’t a lot I can do, so I have reluctantly added a disclaimer to the review clarifying that Plexus did not behave unethically.
So, while I am pissing people off, I might as well go all in: Yesterday I had a telephone audition with Left/Right Productions for a television program on ancient ingenuity that a casting director for the production company had contacted me about earlier in the week. According to the production company, H2 is looking for a new flagship series with a dynamic host who can become the “face” of the network. The production company wants to provide them with that face. (I guess that means that Scott Wolter and Giorgio Tsoukalos will see their stars dim.) It was the shortest audition I’ve ever had. The audition lasted a total of 3 minutes. Needless to say, I will not be getting the job.
The casting associate I spoke with told me that the production company is planning to pitch a new series to the H2 network with the concept of looking at ancient achievements in engineering, science, etc. in order to explore and discover how they were done. I’m sure you can already see two reasons that this would not result in a TV program for me, even before the casting associate suggested that aliens and Atlantis might be an explanation for ancient genius on their show, “where relevant.”
My first question was to ask how their proposed program differs from Ancient Impossible, which already airs on H2, but hails from a different production company. According to the casting associate, she had no idea and wasn’t familiar with Ancient Impossible. I also asked the casting associate if the production company had done any research on me at all, such as reading anything on my website. No, they had not, and the flattering email about how much they enjoyed my work wasn’t based on actually reviewing any large amount of my work. Neither she personally nor the production team were aware that I review H2 shows, that I am critical of them, or that A+E Networks threatened to sue me last year on behalf of H2 star Scott Wolter’s alleged intellectual property. Obviously, I’m not hiding any of this, and I felt it was important to disclose the information before spending hours or weeks waiting for them to discover it.
The moment I mentioned my past interaction with A+E Networks, the casting associate’s tone changed, and she hustled me off the phone in less than 30 seconds without even the cursory “we’ll be in touch.” But just to avoid lawsuits: She acted professionally the entire time and way pleasant on the phone.
It’s one of the ironies of my position that the only reason I am getting inquiries from television shows is because I write reviews of current fringe history programs, the most popular feature on my website and the engine that drives traffic to me. At the same time, being critical of corporate products also disqualifies me from producing other products for those same corporations. This creates a perverse incentive to lie for cash in order to get in the good graces of amoral corporations that honestly could not care whether their documentaries are good or true so long as they make money. And the programs that make money do so because of the choices these same corporations make about what to show and how to market it. In other words, their patronage of crazy ideas creates a mutually reinforcing network of crazy ideas that in turn generates larger audiences for those ideas from people who see the ideas on TV and come to accept them, at least until fatigue sets in and the merry-go-round stops, as it largely has for ghost-themed shows.
My talent apparently is for killing TV shows and segments. I’m the Ted McGinley of fringe TV. After talking with me, Destination America decided not to go ahead with their archaeology documentary series. After the Science Channel talked with me about a documentary on the alleged Smithsonian conspiracy to cover up giants, they seem to have dropped that segment. I’ve also had segments involving me killed on National Geographic, History, History Canada, ITV, and the BBC. Now it looks like the “ancient ingenuity” series will be undergoing some retooling to make it different from Ancient Impossible.
Finally, there is this: If H2 really is looking to find a new face for their network, then Scott Wolter better make good use of all the government-funded goodies he’s currently getting. For a man who claims that the United States government, as well as parts of the Minnesota government, are actively trying to destroy his career, he isn’t shy about using government-funded forums. According to an article from KEYC-TV, the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, paid for by Minnesota tax dollars to promote “high-quality arts experiences,” paid the Blue Earth County Library System to bring Scott Wolter to the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato last night to give a talk about his fringe theories and promote his television show. Hilariously, the article (attributed to anchor Mitch Keegan but taken verbatim from a notice on the county website, which is not accessible as of this writing but visible on page 8 of this newsletter) describes Wolter as a “world renowned forensic geologist” and the inventor of “a new science called archaeopetrography.”
The justification for Wolter’s visit was that he is prima facie credible because he’s on TV. Didn’t Blue Earth County get the memo that there’s a conspiracy to suppress the truth?
So, what I’ve learned over the past day is simple: To succeed, I need to lie through my teeth, embrace hypocrisy, withhold as much information as I can get away with to make myself look good, offer praise to our corporate masters, accuse everyone of conspiring against me, and treat the audience like children who can’t be trusted with all the facts. It’s a guaranteed path to success!
11/14/2014 06:16:57 am
This, in a nutshell, is why I'm Jason's fan.
11/19/2014 08:04:38 am
Rev. Phil Gotsch
11/19/2014 03:58:30 pm
11/14/2014 06:23:46 am
Well, I wish I could say I was surprised and sorry for the loss of your chance to host a show, but I think we all understand it was just a pipe dream anyway. It'll never cease to be entertaining how these production companies, and the occasional misguided fans, can be so utterly dense as to who you are and what you do, though.
11/14/2014 06:35:46 am
"For a man who claims that the United States government, as well as parts of the Minnesota government, are actively trying to destroy his career, he isn’t shy about using government-funded forums."
11/14/2014 06:40:27 am
TRUTH AND THE TRAVELLER (Aesop)
11/14/2014 07:16:04 am
Raw ass dose of reality right there.
11/14/2014 07:39:29 am
Aesop is one of the top ten literary badasses of the ancient world. Though certainly ranking below, say, Hesiod or my current obsession, Enheduanna. (Look her up; she be like: "I just composed hymns for all the Mesopotamian cults, systematizing the mythos of our civilization in the process. Ain't no thing. Oh, and I also invented devotional poetry just so I could bring divine wrath down on my political enemies.")
11/15/2014 04:32:36 am
Only Me wrote: "This whole affair reminds me of Pandora's Box. The craziness of fringe ideas have been unleashed, but the one thing of value, truth, was left in the box. Keep prying open the lid, so everyone can get a peek at what's inside."
11/14/2014 07:29:34 am
11/14/2014 07:33:07 am
He's right, you know. You can't punch holes in something that doesn't exist :)
11/14/2014 08:15:17 am
Scott's still complaining about "dedicated websites and blog sites...attacking everything we do"? This from the man who explicitly attacks government, the Smithsonian Institute, academia and his critics during his radio interviews, podcasts and on his show.
11/14/2014 09:11:46 am
It must irk him that my website is not actually "dedicated" to attacking him but treats him alongside the entire circus of fringe history, from ancient astronauts to Afrocentrism to gigantology.
11/14/2014 09:13:50 am
Though it could use more Afrocentrism, I my opinion :P
11/14/2014 10:57:56 am
I suppose, in his mind, his inclusion in such "august" company is enough to constitute dedication.
11/14/2014 07:52:48 am
Look on the bright side. TLC recently cancelled "Honey Boo Boo". I am sure that if you lived in a trailer and exploited your children you would be contacted about a replacement for that show.
11/14/2014 08:01:27 am
As someone who is accused of shilling all of the time I know how hard it is to promote facts over the "generally understood" fictions that abound in the world.
For those of us who grew up in the 1950's&60's, it was Bill Burrud who epitomized this form of television. He coined the 'Traventure' for his travelogues and adventures. With a photogenic face and smooth narrative style he would take us on adventures that might be light on facts but full of great photography (well for 1950's black and white television).
11/14/2014 09:46:15 am
11/14/2014 09:57:34 am
I was going to quote Star Wars and say, 'It's a trap!' but clearly it wasn't, just merely a big executive who claimed not to know the blogs you post, which they did, they just didn't think they'd make money. They wouldn't have called you if they didn't know exactly who you were. Go work for another network. Then years later they might make you an offer.
11/14/2014 11:12:05 am
I should audition. I've been told I have a voice for radio, but that my mannerisms are "exhausting", "suspicious", and "like a character from a Coen brothers movie".
11/14/2014 12:17:44 pm
These production companies are quite interesting. When you don't say what they want to hear (essentially the lies you mentioned in your closing comments, Jason), they tend to drop you like a hot rock. I've been there myself with two production companies. Apparently not finding demons under every doorstep and insisting on psychological and medical evaluations of claimants doesn't sit well with fringe programming. It isn't simply a problem with networks, but the companies producing such tripe, as well as a viewership more interested in entertainment (even if complete fiction) than substantive investigation. Excellent blog post, Jason.
11/14/2014 01:07:32 pm
"So, what I’ve learned over the past day is simple: To succeed, I need to lie through my teeth, embrace hypocrisy, withhold as much information as I can get away with to make myself look good..."
11/16/2014 09:09:07 pm
They did a fantastic program dismantling Graham Hancock's nonsense, as well. I think he sued them over some incredibly minor mistake, won, and was allowed to then say he'd sued the BBC to shut up about him.
11/15/2014 10:21:49 am
Jason, I consider your observations following your audition to be par for the course. You've already written about past guests on Ancient Aliens and America Unearthed being unhappy with how they were presented. You've even revealed how the production crew for AU withheld information from Scott Wolter, to get a visceral reaction from him for heightened drama.
11/15/2014 10:31:32 am
I would agree with your assessment Only Me, the only program I have worked on that was like these shows that Jason reviews was one of the Halloween Ghost Hunter live specials ( I was a tape and playback operator using a EVS system as we use in live sports) and we did a hell of a lot of playing footage off tape for something that was supposed to be live and a lot of the dialogue was scripted, in a very loose sense, but scripted and done with multiple takes picking the best on for the "live" broadcast. The broadcast itself was on about a five minute delay from really being "Live"
11/15/2014 10:47:29 am
I should add that the episode was the infamous Ft. Delaware episode and to the best of my knowledge and everyone else who was on the truck with me the producers had nothing to do with Grants jacket being tugged.I am not saying it was not but that if it was staged it was not made privy to everyone involved in the shoot that evening.
11/15/2014 05:17:04 pm
That jacket tug was almost as bad as this:
11/15/2014 12:29:39 pm
Let's just be blunt: Reality TV is union-busting
Not the Cote de Saint Germain
11/15/2014 02:21:38 pm
Oh, I realized that long ago. The broadcast networks produced a flood of reality shows in the early 2000s, in the wake of Survivor's initial success, as much because they were cheap as because they were popular. After two or three seasons, they realized that not all reality shows would draw the ratings they wanted, even when taking the lower costs into account, and they started to be a bit more selective.
11/15/2014 02:37:40 pm
I agree with NtCSG. Moreover, one of the reasons for the rise of reality TV was an actor strike happening around that time (or was it a writer strike?) and the networks needed to find something cheap and non-union to make up for absence of new shows.
11/15/2014 02:41:04 pm
I was indeed a writers strike and the networks wanting to try to recreate the success of American Idol.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
11/15/2014 05:00:54 pm
(I mis-signed my name last time and became "Not the dimension of Saint Germain").
11/15/2014 05:18:24 pm
It affected unscripted programming. By making TV turn to it.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
11/15/2014 07:55:16 pm
How would it have made networks turn to reality shows if it only affected commercials?
11/16/2014 03:12:18 am
Sorry, I missed "commercial". There definitely was a strike involved, however. I don't remember which one, like I said.
Rev. Phil Gotsch
11/16/2014 11:26:12 am
ALL TV shows -- good, bad, best and in between -- are produced and provided to try to attract and hold the attention of a viewing audience …
11/20/2014 12:52:53 am
Hey, Ted McGinley! I just want to say thanks for being the voice of reason. "I want to believe", but I also want the truth. Keep up the good work.
12/13/2014 04:08:26 pm
"To succeed, I need to lie through my teeth, embrace hypocrisy, withhold as much information as I can ... It’s a guaranteed path to success!"
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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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