|Also known as||Project Blue Book (in some countries)|
|Created by||Jack Webb
Harold Jack Bloom
|Directed by||Donald L. Gold
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||26 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Gene Levitt
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Mark VII Limited
|Distributor||CBS Television Distribution|
|Original run||February 19, 1978 – July 19, 1979|
Project U.F.O. is a late 1970s NBC television series which lasted two seasons, from 1978 to 1979. Based loosely on the real-life Project Blue Book, the show was created by Dragnet veteran Jack Webb, who pored through Air Force files looking for episode ideas. This was the final show produced by Webb's Mark VII Limited, but in the case of this show it was produced in association with Worldvision Enterprises (now CBS Television Distribution); this was the only Mark VII production not produced with the two other studios closely associated with Mark VII -- Warner Bros. or MCA TV / Universal Television.
The show features two U.S. Air Force investigators with the Foreign Technology Division at Wright-Patterson AFB, charged with investigating UFO sightings. The first season starred William Jordan as Maj. Jake Gatlin alongside Caskey Swaim as Staff Sgt. Harry Fitz. Jordan was a rather nondescript leading man, while Swaim, who had never had any significant acting experience before landing the role, added diversity as a Southerner with a pronounced accent. In season two, Jordan was replaced by Edward Winter as Capt. Ben Ryan. Aldine King ("Libby") was another regular. Dr. Joyce Brothers appeared in two episodes.
In the pilot episode, Gatlin informed the newly assigned Fitz that, since it is impossible to prove a negative, their job was to prove that each UFO sighting was real, by researching and disproving possible alternate explanations. Gatlin also told Fitz that he himself had once seen "something I can't explain" while flying as an Air Force pilot, which led to his interest in Blue Book.
In retrospect, Project U.F.O. anticipated many of the themes of the X-Files, which aired 14 years later, but without the latter show's romantic subtext or its anti-government (or, for that matter, its anti-alien) paranoia. As with Blue Book, many of the UFO sightings on Project UFO turned out to have conventional explanations. Some, however, were left unexplained, and suggestive of alien contact. By the second season, the investigators had themselves experienced a UFO sighting.
In an odd reversal of the Scooby-Doo dynamic, the series eventually settled into a pattern in which the investigators would spend most of the hour uncovering some conventional explanation for a UFO sighting, only for the last five minutes to reveal that UFOs (or some similarly unexplained phenomena) were involved after all.
The opening montage showed flying saucer diagrams and schematics, while a minor-key version of "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel" played. A voice-over (narrated by Webb) then spoke:
- "Ezekiel saw the wheel. This [UFO diagrams] is the wheel he said he saw. These are Unidentified Flying Objects that people say they are seeing now. Are they proof that we are being visited by civilizations from other stars? Or just what are they? The United States Air Force began an investigation of this high strangeness in a search for the truth. What you are about to see is part of that 20-year search."
Notable was the extensive use of miniatures for the UFOs by Brick Price Movie Miniatures (now Wonderworks), usually cobbled together from off-the-shelf model kits.
In some countries, to avoid confusion over the similarly titled show UFO, the show was known as Project Blue Book and had a different title sequence, one much more similar to The X-Files TV show that it inspired.
The episodes ended with this disclaimer:
- "The U.S. Air Force stopped investigating UFOs in 1969. After 22 years, they found no evidence of extra-terrestrial landings and no threat to national security."
The phenomena came to be referred to, as of 2014, as "unidentified aerial events," or "UAEs," but this term had not been coined by the time the series began production.
Except for runs on the United Kingdom's Sci-Fi channel and the Australian cable network TV1 in the early 1990s and TVLand in the U.S. (which ran 1 episode as part of its Ultimate TV Fan hour), this series had not been aired since its original network run by August of 2010. Mark VII had creative control over the series and originally held the copyright, but the rights to this series were uncertain as of August of 2010. In Italy, the first season of the series was shown on syndication in different Italian districts (for example Video Firenze for Tuscany), with Tony Fusaro as the dubbing voice of the narrator in the opening credits. This series was also shown on Indian state run television network Doordarshan (DD) around 1985.
- Project U.F.O. at the Internet Movie Database
- Project UFO at TV.com
- The Project U.F.O. Page (unofficial fan page)