Project U.F.O. (TV Series 1978–1979) Poster

(1978–1979)

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5/10
Disappointingly dull plots and dated production values
dave-4944810 February 2018
I so much wanted to enjoy this series again, having not seen it since its original UK transmission in the late 1970s. Sad to report, then, that it proved hugely disappointing...

An odd choice of premise given that the real-life Project Blue Book had been closed ten years previously and, if not officially discredited, had certainly faced serious challenges over its motivations and probity. In partial fairness, though, some episodes in the series depict the public accusing the team of a cover-up.

In general the stories are played out terribly slowly - often padded out with ponderous, purposeless shots of characters walking or driving past the camera or exterior shots of a helicopter. In the second season these were supplemented by "banter" scenes between our heroes which lacked any humour and did nothing to further the plot. In each episode scenes of the UFO's arrival are repeated a number of times in order to hit the standard 48-minute runtime. Cut out all the "waffle" and you'd probably trim ten minutes from each episode without losing any of the plot.

The acting from the two leads starts out as rather "stiff" and characterless but they improve slightly over the course of the the first season. Aldine King, as Gatlin's secretary, is awfully underused but much more interesting to watch!

William Jordan (as Gatlin) disappeared after the first season - presumably abducted by aliens. He was replaced by Edward Winter (as Capt Ben Ryan), leading to a more of a "spark" between the two lead characters. The second year saw production improvements such as more modern-sounding incidental music and sound effects and more "dynamic" camerawork.

The visual special effects are quite well realised in some episodes, taking into account the era the show was produced. That said, some camera focusing was poorly directed as it presents no impression of depth-of-field, rendering the use of small models rather obvious. And presumably the FX sucked up most of the budget as many of the visitors' ships in the first season emitted sounds that had been taken straight from 'Star Trek', produced a decade before.

It's difficult to recommend any particular episodes as they are all fairly consistent in plot.

The show is very rarely seen these days (in the UK I gather it was last broadcast by The SciFi Channel in the mid-1990s). But this isn't surprising and it's certainly no "lost classic". Overall this pedestrian work has little more than curiosity value - and did well to last its 26 episodes.
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You can find the episodes here
gnewell-22 May 2017
This has always been one of my favorite shows; and I loved the Jack Webb "just the facts" style. I remember sitting at home, watching this with my father, although I'm not sure why, as he didn't believe in UFO's or aliens. For several years I've searched for DVD's, or even VHS tapes of the episodes but to no avail. Not too long ago, I found this website, and lo and behold, here they were; all the episodes, in order. Enjoy them! (http://www.veoh.com/TV/collection/project-ufo)
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Confirmation of Existence of Project UFO series
ChristieWagner7 July 2012
Author kjq45 from United States, a fan of Jack Webb's "Project UFO", writes that "Some Universal Studios personnel claim this series never existed." I was a guest star on "Project UFO" under what was then my stage name, Christie Wagner, and I can assure that it definitely existed.

I wonder if the Air Force behind the scenes contributed to taking the show off the air? After all, on the 50th anniversary of Roswell, New Mexico's alleged extraterrestrial craft and personnel sighting and interaction, the Air Force issued a long disclaimer in the media that it was only a "weather balloon" which crashed with "dummies" inside it.

If the space alien phenomenon really didn't happen then it's a non-issue so why issue a disclaimer half a century later? That disclaimer alone, some would believe, confirms that it really did happen.

Christie Wagner
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10/10
Project U.F.O. Was a wonderful and PREDICTED SERIES by one of its guest Stars Maria Grimm
triad-213 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I was a guest star on one of the episodes & a year earlier had predicted that Caskey Swaim, whom I was dating, would star in a T.V. Series about U.F.O.'s. I wrote this down, dated it & it came to pass, down to the actual day in which he was cast. Later when they needed an Actress who spoke French, I was coincidentally available to Star in it & enjoyed working with my dear friend Caskey who is and was a truly original person and wonderful actor. He is from North Carolina and does a mean impression of Elvis and Brando---his two heroes. I loved the Show on it's own merits as I have had two U.F.O. Sightings in my own life, one in Casablanca Morocco, and one in Anaheim California, so I thought the Series had a lot of veracity. The effects were good for its time. My husband, Conrad Janis has a history of Starring & associating with series about U.F.O.'s i.e. Mork and Mindy and QUARK in which he Starred, (just released on video and it was only 8 shows, so Project U.F.O. deserves a D.V.D. release too.) Conrad also starred in an episode of My Favorite Martian, while I starred in a scary Kolchak called: 'Demon in Lace'----talk about 1 degree of separation. Conrad Janis both Stars and Directs our new film BAD BLOOD...THE HUNGER opposite Piper Laurie, myself and 10 Breakthrough young Stars, and we will be previewing the 2009 Release of our film sometime between Dec. 26th 2008 through Jan 6, 2009 at the H.D.B.H.FILM FESTIVAL @ the Fine Arts Theater, thus our association with Extra-Terrestrial, High concept Horror-Thrillers goes on. Write to the powers that be to get a D.V.D. release on Project U.F.O.
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6/10
I remember this series...
JoeB13129 March 2008
This series was based on Project Blue Book, and one of the former officers assigned to Blue Book was actually a technical adviser to the show.

The problem, of course, is that today, we know that Blue Book was an attempt at Public Relations by the USAF to show that they had a handle on this UFO thing when they really didn't, and that they frequently used the most ludicrous explanations for sightings they could think of. Usually, an officer who was assigned to Blue Book was someone who was at a career dead end, and the Air Force was happy to get out of the whole thing in 1969.

The problem with Jack Webb's concept is that he tried to treat it like one of his cop shows, but still create a little action. So you'd have this elaborate special effects sequence setting up the story, followed by some "prosaic explanation" (as famous UFO Debunker Phil Klass used to say) as to what they actually saw. OH, that was swamp gas? Really?

To be absolutely fair, they were right. 95% of UFO sightings can be explained as something that was misidentified by people. Still, that didn't make for very good drama. The Air Force even cooperated in this series, hoping it would be good PR, but it was anything but.
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The Mysterious Disappearance of Project UFO
kjq4514 August 2005
Project UFO was another fine Jack Webb production, but where did it go? Once aired, it never reappeared again. Everything from I Love Lucy, to Green Acres, at least ran on local UHF stations as reruns, but not Project UFO. If this series was struck on 16mm film to the TV stations, not one reel of it fell into collector's hands. The nation's biggest collectors claim to have never owned even one episode. Not available for sale on any format. Some Universal Studios personnel claim this series never existed. I remember seeing these films when they originally aired and believe they were very well done. Might they have been a little too well done? I would love to see them again.
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The USAF's rebuttal of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS
David Edward Martin29 May 2004
Much as Jack Webb's earlier DRAGNET acted as propaganda for the LAPD, PROJECT UFO was unadulterated propaganda for the USAF's Project Blue Book. Every week viewers saw what seemed to be a UFO. Every week the valiant Blue Book investigators proved that the witnesses were either deluded or con artists. UFOs were not real and this show was going to pound this into viewers' heads at every possible moment.

Particularly loathsome was the slanderous use a lookalike for prominent UFO investigator J Allen Hynek. The lookalike and his organization were proved to be actively creating fake UFOs as a money-raising tool.

Of course, at the time the film CLOSE ENCOUNTERS had crystallized the widespread public suspicion that the Air Force was either not interested in UFOs or worse was lying to the public. Even my then-brother-in-law, an Air Force captain, thought Blue Book was hiding something.

The USAF must have been giddy when Jack Webb offered to do a TV series based on Blue Book, with the USAF as the good guys and UFO buffs as the bad guys.

Caskey Swaim as Staff Sergeant Harry Fitz was particularly annoying with his cheerful devotion to disproving UFO sightings. It was almost endearing, his monomania for Geiger counter readings. Apparently all spacecraft are supposed to leak radiation..... No radiation, no spacecraft. I wonder if NASA knows this?

Of course audiences will only take so much of being told "your are idiots for believing this" before they tune out. So toward the end of the series, the audience actually got to see proof that a given UFO was real, evidence the USAF drones missed or ignored.

In the end, PROJECT UFO was akin to SCOOBY DOO. Remember, in the original series, there were NO supernatural forces, only conmen dressed up as spooks.
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An Interesting series
dodgepoweram27 March 2004
From what I understand this show was based on actual Project Blue book case files and tried to stick to the truth. Unlike "x-files" which was pure BS from begining to end. The sighting dramatizations were very interesting.

What I don't understand is where it disappeared to. When the investigators could not find an explanation for the sighting it was classified as "un-explained" which is the same as saying the sighting was for real. Jack Webb brought the same style to this that he used in "Dragnet". Overall it was pretty good.
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Jack Webb in outer space!
dtucker8610 October 2003
I always kind of felt sorry for Jack Webb, he created a cultural icon like Dragnet, first as a sensational radio series and then in two long running tv shows. How could he possibly top that? He spent the rest of his life trying to top Dragnet and couldn't do it. Project UFO was his last series before his death in 1982. Webb brought the same approach to this show that he used with Dragnet. He believed that viewers wanted realism and "just the facts". He used actual material from the files of "Project Blue Book". This was the study the United States Air Force did about unidentified flying objects and the reports of people who claimed they saw one. The study revealed that most of these reports were people being mistaken about what they saw or hoaxes. BUT there were about 10% of the case that COULD NOT be explained. These were the cases that interested Mister Webb and he brought them to life in this fascinating series that was cancelled far too soon. The two actors who were the investigating Air Force Officers were like Friday and Gannon in Dragnet, only they were investigating an "out of this world" mystery. The one I remember most was a young actor named Caskey Swaim. He had never really acted before and landed a starring role in this show. He did an amazing job as did Edward Winter. Do you believe in UFO's or life on other planets? If you did or not, this series was really interesting and entertaining. I wish they would put it back in syndication. One case I wish that they would have profiled was a case in Austrailia in 1978, interestingly this case happened when this series was on the air. It involved a young pilot named Frederick Vallentich who was flying a private plane over Bass Strait. He disappeared without a trace and no trace of him or his aircraft was ever found. Shortly before, he had radioed that he was being followed by a UFO and then he said that it was right on top of him! The ground controllers heard a strange metallic grinding sound and then silence! Vallentich's father said that he believed that his son had been abducted by aliens from another planet.
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Early X-Files
bcolquho23 July 2003
Project U.F.O., which was about Project Blue Book, is an early version of The X-Files. Unfortunately, this show, like Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and Battlestar Galactica, only lasted one season.

Too bad, it was really ahead of its time. I loved it when I was in high school.
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The Understandably Shortlived Incident.
Victor Field12 July 2003
"Ezekiel saw the wheel. This is the wheel he said he saw..."

In hindsight, Jack Webb - one of the most solidly grounded men ever to work in what Victor Lewis-Smith called the magic rectangle - probably wasn't the ideal man to executive produce a series about extraterrestrial sightings. But he did, and the result was "Project U.F.O.," which probably not coincidentally aired the year after Steven Spielberg introduced the concept of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" to the world.

Based on the United States Army's real-life Project Blue Book, the series followed two Army men investigating UFO sightings all over the United States, which we got to see at the beginning of each episode. (Just as "Friends" has "The One...", "Ellery Queen" had "The Adventure Of..." and both the Man and the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. had "The (Insert Title Here) Affair," so every episode was called "The (Whatever It Was) Incident.") But in addition to suffering from the same curse that seemed to blight just about every fantasy/SF show from the 1970s - it's amazing just how many of them look excruciatingly naff today - the series also suffered from Webb's clinical, matter-of-fact approach; the explanations were either disappointingly earthbound (planes, hoaxes, etc) or not provable one way or another. Result: Even more of a tease than "The X-Files."

Each episode ended with an on-screen note telling us that the real-life investigation concluded that UFOs didn't exist and thus were no threat to national security; but as "MAD" noted, NBC judged the series a threat to its audience and dropped it before the magazine could publish its spoof (which was a lot better - at least it had proper aliens!) This was the last series from Jack Webb's Mark VII Limited, though not the last series to feature the familiar drumroll and mallet-striking-metal sound at the end; "Space Ghost Coast To Coast" hijacked the latter for the Ghost Planet Industries logo. Fortunately, the resemblance ends there.
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Jack Webb's Close Encounters Project
SanDiego30 March 2003
Jack Webb's DRAGNET, ADAM 12 and EMERGENCY were such big hits that his Mark VII productions always had a few other series on the networks (mostly NBC) with various success. Project UFO was definately Jack Webb's baby and he was the one who did the talk show circuit to promote it. Besides his narration, the show followed Webb's trademark of stiff, unemotional acting that gave all his shows a semi-documentary look. His earlier shows introduced the day-to-day realities of police work, paramedics and emergency rooms long before Hill Street Blues and E.R. and without the soap opera scripts. Project U.F.O. was Webb's attempt to bring the then current hit film CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND to television via a straight forward telling of the real people who investigated UFO sightings (known as Project Bluebook, that title was eventually changed to PROJECT UFO because it sounded more interesting). A typical episode would open with a discovery of a burnt out portion of field where a UFO appeared to have landed and took off and the two investigators gathering evidence to support or dispute the premise that a UFO had actually landed. Sometimes the evidence pointed to fraud and sometimes there were no answers and sometimes it was left to the audience to come to their own conclusions. Since there wasn't an attempt to conclude that there actually were aliens the series was a bit dull, there was never any big payoffs. Think of M. Night Shyamalan's SIGNS if it had ended a half hour sooner and that would pretty much sum up Project UFO. Perhaps M. Night Shyamalan was a fan of the series and wanted to do a better version and that's where SIGNS came from.
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I only remember the intro. Something like:"Ezekiel saw the wheel..."
whitepatrick25 April 2002
That, and they always drove around in a crummy blue Air Force-issue Dodge or Chevy car. I was 9 or 10 when it was aired. I loved it at the time. I'm sure if I saw it now, it would suck!
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Project UFO: -- No X-Files-- No UFO cults -- fun 70's tv!
shaneyfex6 December 2001
After reading the comments on the IMBb site related to the 70's tv series 'Project UFO', I'd wonder if they saw the same show. The Project UFO characters were US Air Force officers investigating UFO sightings. Much like a Project Blue Book tv series(they just didn't want to use the name). X-Files is something completly different, it's a show about two FBI agents that investigate real wierd cases, and once in a while you'll see a captured UFO/alien or a UFO/alien related plot. But nothing right to the point about UFO sightings like 'Project UFO'. A typical X-File episode is about a strange monster/person living in the ducts of a building with slime and newpapers all around him -- sewer monsters -- bad government medical experiments -- strange government experiments that look like their aliens but turn out to be mutations or something of that nature. Mulder is a huge UFO fan and believer but X-Files is a modern Kolchak:The Night Stalker. I'm not putting down religion, but the entertaining Project UFO is a Harve Bennett Project Blue Book tv series and has nothing (other than a Nun sighting episode) to do with religion or UFO cults. It has to do with the US Air Force investigating UFO sightings -- It was just aired 11/01 on the TV Land Network (USA), it was a great episode called 'Sighting 4011:The Doll House Incident'. It starred David Hedison (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea), Marta Kristen (Lost in Space) and had an excellent plot with a full scale UFO! It (Project UFO) was no 'flag waving' government sponsered show;some cases were classified 'unexplained', not all explained hoaxes, it was a try at making money by Harve Bennett the king of 70's schlock tv. I guess TV1 in Australia has been airing the series and people sell VHS tapes of it on e-bay.
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Not bad, but I was about nine years old at the time....
richardmaitla8221 August 2000
I remember this show, particularly one episode which ended with the two agents at the top of some observation tower with a large white UFO floating away from them. As I recall the FX were actually OK, and the whole thing had quite a cool Close Encounters-type feel to it. Certainly a predecessor to the X-Files, Sci-Fi channel or somebody could re-run this and cash in.
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More Scooby-Doo than Mulder & Scully
Leeandkate19 July 2000
Pretty formulaic episode structure. Typical 70's TV Guest-of-the-Week sees UFO, faintly homoerotic Air Force duo arrive to investigate, quickly debunk claim, and that's it. Brief twist at the end - often revealed only to audience, not characters - suggests maybe the UFO was real.
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The original X-files
xman19747 September 1999
Does no one else remember this show? I used to watch it when I was in 2nd grade. It lasted for one season and was about these two Air Force guys assigned to investigate UFO sightings. Sometimes they would prove it a hoax and other times it would turn out to be real. From what I can remember (and it has been awhile - I have NEVER seen this show in reruns) the acting and the scripts were not too good. And unlike the X Files, the U.S. governement in this show was truthful and honest.

The creator of X-Files credits Kolcheck: The Night Stalker for inspiration but I am wondering if he saw a few episodes of this somewhere along the way and just forgot it like the rest of the world.
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