Thursday, July 22, 2010

FACT OR FAKED - Burning Rubber; Hyperjump (Series Premier)

SyFy - Original Air Date: 7/15/10

"Former FBI Agent" Ben Hanson leads a team of investigators (including Jael from Destination Truth) and experts as they evaluate footage sent to them and try to determined whether its Fact or Faked. The show starts with the group gathered together looking at weird footage: shadow figures in the woods and a bedroom, an alien in someone's bedroom, and figuring out which bears more investigation. In this part of the show, the group shows some good critical thinking skills, dismissing some as manipulated, others as possible puppets, and finally zeroing in on two cases: one where a car seems to drive right through a fence to escape a pursuing cop in Georgia, and another of mysterious lights over Arizona.  The group splits into two teams and goes to investigate.  The "ghost car" team checks with witnesses, finds the scene of the chase, and then recreates it -- at each step, ruling out paranormal happenings (such as the car moving amazingly fast).  Finally, they set up some scenarios for driving "through" the fence.  They do manage to jump a car over the fence, but not without damage.  Then they hit on the idea of loosening some of the fence fasteners -- which the officer reported during the case.  Doing that allows a speeding car to drive right through; the fence flexes and then swings back down, perfectly intact -- just in time to foil the pursuing cop.  One very lucky perp.

The second segment deals with lights appearing at dusk over an Arizona mountain range.  While these lights look to me like the Phoenix Lights, which UFOs Over Phoenix conclusively proved to be military flares, the crew dismisses the flare theory.  They play some flare footage which does not look comparable (though it's the wrong angle and distance), and the witness says the Air Force said they weren't dropping flares on the night in question. Sadly, the team does not seem to call the military to double check that (and we know that the military sometimes makes mistakes in such cases, or denies "secret" flights).  They then try to recreate the lights using lasers reflected off of glass and lights attached to balloons.  Their results, while interesting, do not match the video.  They then set up night cameras and poke around in the dark for a while (seemingly required for any investigation show - though conducting ground searches at night seems like a foolish idea to me).  And they do catch some "strange lights" in the sky on video.  Though one looks like an atmospheric phenomenon to me, several others are genuinely odd.  Unfortunately, the program doesn't show enough of the footage surrounding the sightings to get a proper context.  Mysterious, yes, but certainly not the lights they were investigating.  Calling in an aviation or space expert would seem to be in order, but they don't do it.  They claim the footage supports the idea of new UFO sightings over Phoenix.  (Note that UFOs are merely unidentified, not "aliens.")

To me, though, the original footage -- which the program never seems to show enough of to gain proper context -- looks like a "string" of flares being dropped, lighting up, and then going out one by one in the order they were dropped.  If not the military, it could have even been fireworks dropped by a private plane as a prank.  I have no evidence for this, but my scenarios (military or private) seem a far more reasonable explanation than the "hyperjump" being claimed for the mystery lights.

My fear with this show -- and other shows in the paranormal investigation genre -- is that we'll get results that are skewed away from science and toward retaining viewers every week. (I've seen similar problems in MonsterQuest, Ghost Hunters, and other programs.)  Viewers want to believe, and they may get bored with "we found nothing unusual" week after week.  Thus, I am concerned that each week on this program we may get one debunked case, and one "real" case -- and on the "real" case, the team will just stop looking/investigating/probing before they should.  It would be nice if this show were the Mythbusters of the paranormal.  Instead, it's likely to be more like Destination Truth without the interesting personalities.

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