Tag Archive: In Search Of Tv series


Currently housed in a Tudor-style mansion in Manhattan, The Explorers Club is a real place with a legacy of adventurers among its ranks.  Parodied in The Freshman, the club is a meeting place established in 1904 for the purposes of promoting scientific exploration around the planet, and it does host an annual dinner with unusual flair.  A table can cost you $100,000 and features food including tarantula and other exotic animals that would be a nightmare for animal rights advocates, not to mention the taxidermy displays (Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was filmed there).  Honorary members include the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, John Glenn, Sir Edmund Hillary, Buzz Aldrin, and the club has bestowed its highest award to notables including Mary Leakey, Jane Goodall, Robert Ballard, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Not quite a secret society, the members have circumnavigated the world, flown, sailed, driven, and walked across each continent in search of the next discovery, returning back to the club to share the stories of their accomplishments.  In one of his last projects before his death in 2003, journalist and noted personality George Plimpton (himself a member) collected 51 first-hand accounts of these journeys from the club’s ranks and published them as As Told at the Explorers Club: More Than Fifty Gripping Tales of Adventure, available now in a new edition from Lyons Press.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After World War II, in essence a world stunned with death and destruction emerged to try to forge its way into the future after one of the planet’s most trying challenges.  Inspiring tens of millions was the true-life voyage of Norway’s Thor Heyerdahl, a pioneer made of the same mettle as Shackleton and Hillary.  Heyerdahl was a student in Oslo who spent a year in Polynesia, where he developed the idea that peoples like the ancient Incas could have traveled across the Pacific Ocean and settled the area easier than saling from the west.  After a decade trying to prove his hypothesis, Heyerdahl assembled a team of six men, five Norwegians and a Swede, and built a balsa raft consistent with parts and construction the Polynesians would have had available centuries before, which he named Kon-Tiki after an Incan sun god.  His challenge?  To complete the voyage from South America to Polynesia without assistance from modern technology.

Heyerdahl’s 1948 account of the voyage, Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft, became one of the best-selling books of all time (selling more than 56 million copies), his 1950 documentary of the voyage, Kon-Tiki, earned an Oscar, and an impressive 2012 theatrical adaptation, also named Kon-Tiki, was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film.  Both of these films are now streaming on Amazon Prime.

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last Odyssey

Fans of James Rollins novels will be happy to hear the 15th novel in his Sigma Force series has arrived.  Billed as a thriller, The Last Odyssey finds Rollins piecing together obscure and fantastical elements from the writings of Homer with his fictional version of an Illuminati.  Think Knights Templar, the Holy Grail and other lost artifacts of lore, Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code or the secrets of Nicolas Cage’s character in the National Treasure movies.  Rollins pulls in Leonardo da Vinci as a character, but his ideas are something more out of Erich von Däniken’s pseudohistory and pseudoscience or Leonard Nimoy’s In Search Of–taking some of the most unlikely and untenable of possibilities from real history and connecting them together into an action/adventure story.

Coincidence after coincidence, characters there at the right time every time with knowledge of the most obscure data point necessary to move the characters to the next locale–for fans of Rollins’ brand of storytelling, it just doesn’t matter.  The zanier the ideas the more they come back for more.  And they’ll likely be pleased with this next installment.

The novel starts off well, with a promising opening act.  Rollins presents a group of people who uncover a medieval ship inside a far-away Greenland iceberg.  It contains Renaissance era and even ancient artifacts, items you might find in a roleplaying game or video game story like Assassin’s Creed or Tomb Raider, and you get the feeling this will be a romping fantasy quest.  The reader is teased with the concept of the Earth opening up with Ray Harryhausen or Clash of the Titans adventure via a glimpse of a mythical creature and extrapolations of ancient technology in the form of automaton robots.  But is that really what is going on?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Previewed with an elaborate display at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Project Blue Book at last has made it to television as the latest supernatural TV drama.  It got off to a slow start with its premiere episode this week, but it has potential, beginning with the performance of the series lead, Irish actor Aiden Gillen.  Gillen, known for roles in The Wire, The Dark Knight Rises, Game of Thrones, and Bohemian Rhapsody, plays real-life Dr. Allen Hynek, a college professor brought into the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book program to help debunk the existence of UFOs beginning in the 1950s (he would later be a technical advisor on Close Encounters of the Third Kind–he actually coined the term “close encounter”).  Gillen plays the role like the lead in a John La Carré novel, and he’s a ringer for a younger Gary Oldman (think Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy).  He is partnered with British actor Michael Malarkey as Captain Michael Quinn (an amalgam of several figures from the history books), the skeptic charged with quashing any idea that UFOs exist under the orders of General James Harding, played by Neal McDonough (Captain America: The First Avenger, Walking Tall, Star Trek: First Contact, Arrow, Quantum Leap).  

A twist for the series is its effort to show a non-fiction side to The X-Files motif.  It’s one of History Channel‘s rare efforts (along with Vikings) to get back to its educational roots.  This includes a smartly added In Search Of -inspired coda citing specific data points used as background for the episode.  And it has a big name attached to it–Robert Zemeckis–as executive producer.  The two women leads may pull in even more viewers–Laura Mennell (The Man in the High Castle, Haven, Watchmen) as Hynek’s wife, and Ksenia Solo (Lost Girl, Orphan Black, Black Swan) as a newcomer to Hynek’s neighborhood.

The production looks good, a typical Vancouver production with a moderate budget, but what’s there is quality–something in the vibe of Wayward Pines.  So look for plenty of good vintage nostalgia–some pretty 1950s cars, a solid wardrobe from costumer Carla Hetland (In the Name of the King, Butterfly Effect, Garage Sale Mystery) and a believable era from the past put onto the screen from production designer Ross Dempster (Wayward Pines, Lost in Space).

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Sometimes the inbox offers up something really exciting and fun.  Today the HISTORY channel greenlighted ten episodes of the unscripted series In Search Of, hosted and executive produced by Zachary Quinto, who audiences all met in the series Heroes, and now everyone knows as the actor who played the parallel universe (“Kelvin Timeline”) version of Mr. Spock opposite Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock.  The original In Search Of… was your humble Editor’s own first introduction to Leonard Nimoy as a kid in the 1970s.  The series was a weekly show between 1977 and 1982, first briefly hosted by Rod Serling, but it became synonymous with Nimoy’s one-of-a-kind narration.  In 2002 Syfy Channel tried to reboot the show with our favorite FBI director actor Mitch Pileggi as the host, but that was short-lived.   Inspired by the iconic 1970s’ franchise, the new series will examine unexplained phenomena from all over the world.  As HISTORY stated in its press release: “UFOs and paranormal mysteries remain relevant as the Pentagon recently acknowledged a secret UFO program which investigated sightings of UFOs from 2007 – 2012.”

The Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, Atlantis, Amelia Earhart, Easter Island, the Loch Ness monster, Stonehenge, the Mayans, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the sinking of the Titanic and Lusitania, the Shroud of Turin, D.B. Cooper, and the Holy Grail.  If you were a kid in the 1970s, the odds are you learned about all of these from Nimoy on this series.  The mix of mythology and lore and fact and fiction with the authority of Nimoy prompted me to check out books on the subjects from my local library to investigate further about which stories seemed plausible and which didn’t.  An updated instrumentation or at least a new recording of the classic theme song will be a must for fans of the original show.

“I am so excited to be reimagining ‘In Search Of’ and exploring new questions and phenomena with all of the advancements in science and technology from which we have benefitted in the past forty years since the original series first aired,” said Quinto.  “In the spirit of my late dear friend Leonard Nimoy, we intend to honor and perpetuate his endless curiosity about the world – and universe – in which we live.”

If you missed the series, just watch this classic episode from Nimoy, In Search Of… Bigfoot:

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For fans of a good fantasy fix, you can hardly find a more exciting adventure and weekly romp than TNT’s The Librarians.  For four years The Librarians have continued the world of the Warehouse 13-esque, made-for TV movie series going back to 2004, made popular by star Noah Wyle (Donnie Darko, Mark Felt, Falling Skies, ER, A Few Good Men) as Librarian adventurer Flynn Carsen.  Season 4 is coming this back to TNT this Fall (and to Syfy in the UK), and will feature guest stars John Noble (The Lord of the Rings, Fringe, Sleepy Hollow, Forever) as Monsignor Vega, a Vatican bishop who is secretly the head of the Heretical Order of the Shadows bent on destroying the Library, and Rachel Nichols (Continuum, Star Trek 2009, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Conan the Barbarian) as Nicole Noone, Carsen’s original Guardian originally thought to be dead.

While you’re waiting for the TV series to return, a new monthly comic book series will provide fans with an excellent continuation.  Published by Dynamite Comics, The Librarians, Issue #1, has the look and feel of an episode of the series, complete with the great banter between the Librarians the show is known for, the quirky characters protecting an even more bizarre Library full of secrets, magic, and the rarest artifacts hidden from the rest of us in the real world.

   

In the first issue writer Will Pfeifer (Aquaman, Hellboy) and Brazilian artist Rodney Buchemi (Uncanny X-Men) take The Librarians and readers to a classic source of the strange and paranormal, TV’s In Search Of… series that starred Leonard Nimoy.  Because it’s The Librarians version of that series, this issue is not about Nimoy and the series creators per se, but it’s similar enough that fans of the series will follow all the references, and–for those that need it spelled out–the first issue is titled “In Search Of… Chapter 1.”   Carsen, Caretaker Jenkins (John Larroquette), Colonel Eve Baird (Rebecca Romijn) and fellow Librarians Jake Stone (Christian Kane), Cassandra Cillian (Lindy Booth), and Ezekiel Jones (John Harlan Kim) set out to find the killer of the creator of the paranormal films, Solomon Schick, after he is murdered at a local film festival.

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Nimoy in search of

Unlike many diehard Star Trek fans, my first fascination with Leonard Nimoy was not with Mr. Spock.  Neither was it like my parents’ generation who knew him from countless TV appearances in various supporting character roles, like Dragnet, Sea Hunt, Combat!, The Twilight Zone, and Rawhide.  Sure, my family watched Star Trek both in its original run and early reruns.  But as a little kid in the early 1970s my first encounter with Leonard Nimoy was as host of the unexplained mystery series In Search Of…

I’m pretty grateful for that series.  As a kid in my school ecology club with an interest in archaeology and anything related to science and history, I wasn’t that interested in standard school lessons in those subjects.  In Search Of… discussed ancient and not-so-ancient mysteries that never got discussed in school.  And the show addressed these mysteries with no pretense that the theories presented weren’t mainstream–that was the point of the program.  But what each episode had in common was the ability to create a sense of wonder about the world around us–not just the natural world, but myths and legends shared by peoples across the globe, and mysteries that have circulated by man for thousands of years.

In Search Of titles

After several hours of re-watching many of these shows on subjects from Lost Civilizations to Extraterrestrials, Magic and Witchcraft to Strange Phenomena, and Missing Persons to Myths and Monsters, it is readily apparent that science has changed some, but not necessarily a lot, in the past 40 years.  When it comes to theories about Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Nazca lines, UFOs, E.S.P., Noah’s flood, the Bermuda Triangle, and Amelia Earhart, most scientists still discount outlandish theories about the mysteries or conspiracies about any of these topics.  And yet there will always be those fringe few who believe something else.  In that vein, In Search Of… was a kind of precursor to The X-Files.  In fact, a 2002 brief revival on the Sci-Fi Channel featured The X-Files co-star Mitch Pileggi as host.  Is the series dated?  Only for the picture quality and the series’ eerie, synthesized soundtrack.  But for me, the soundtrack, and the great theme song, are essential parts of the show.

What fans of the series remember most is Leonard Nimoy.  If anyone else had hosted the series it may not have made it to 146 episodes.  But that distinctive voice narrates us through all these interesting ideas, these amazing subjects.  Does it matter if they are easily debunked?  Not a bit.  With my family it prompted conversation, and no doubt my own critical eye came from asking questions when something seemed too farfetched to be possible.  “No way!”  “Really?”

In Search Of DVD set

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