Screens: NBC Universal

Time Flies When You're Having Fern

The In Search Of... Marathon Diary leaves (sorry!) (not sorry at all!) no paranormal stone unturned.

I loved In Search Of... as a kid. I prayed for baseball rain delays, time Channel 9 tended to fill with supernatural Nimoystigations (and occasionally some Buster Keaton clips; whoever they left in charge of weekend emergency programming over there in the late '70s is my people). I associated Leonard Nimoy primarily with that show, not with Star Trek: TOS, and when he passed earlier this year, it's In Search Of... I immediately thought of -- his Carl Sagan-esque turtlenecks and tone of friendly authority.

Just a few weeks later, my birthday arrived, and with it a brick of DVDs: The Compleat In Search Of..., compliments of my esteemed sibling Dave Bunting. Did he make a solid investment? Let's find out.

"Other Voices"

What a strange choice for a series premiere, even for this series. I held out a vain hope even after repeated shots of greenhouses and close-ups of leaves, accompanied by a mournful Casio, that "Other Voices" would be about phone calls from the dead. Alas, it's about something even more incredible and ridiculous -- and utterly, hilariously '70s -- namely "the astonishing possibility that plants can communicate."

It's neither of those things, and I don't understand why you'd lead with it if you want anyone to watch your little parascience program, but so much of ISO's appeal lies in Nimoy's ability to lend credibility to the most ridonk theories and beliefs; leading with a topic that will require all of Nimoy's powers of gravity to put it over makes a certain sense.

He doesn't quite succeed, however. It's rather shocking to see noted polygraph expert Cleve Backster -- a consultant in the Jeffrey MacDonald case, among others -- as the public face of the listening-to-ferns movement. But it's not very watchable.

The "Sir Or Madam, I'm Afraid You're Full Of Shit" Moment Cutting an ISO staffer to see if a plant exhibits a pain reaction.

"Strange Visitors"

I...don't think I know what "Strange Visitors" is about in the general sense. The idea is that "America's Stonehenge," Mystery Hill, was built by seafaring Dru...ids? I don't know. I may have been laughing too hysterically at the description of Hans Holzer as "a noted author and student of antiquity." Look, I love Dr. Holzer. He wrote approximately seven bazillion books on ghosts and the paranormal, and as a kid, I read five and a half bazillion of them. He's a producer on ISO. But let's not put lipstick on a ghost pig, shall we?

The topic is baffling; the way it's presented is a captivatingly unattractive time capsule, starting with the aggressive Casio tootling that accompanies every bit of B-roll and continuing on to this gentleman's...is it still a comb-over if it goes every other prepositional direction as well?

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The "Sir Or Madam, I'm Afraid You're Full Of Shit" Moment Dr. Holzer's confident assertion that Mystery Hill was erected by the Minoans of Crete. Ohhhh, THOSE Minoans.

"Ancient Aviators/Ancient Flight"

How did gigantic, ancient etchings in the Peruvian desert come to be? ISO is more interested in the "for whom" part of the equation, positing that ancient civilizations actually could fly, long before the Wright brothers or even Da Vinci's sketches -- that the myth of Daedalus and Icarus isn't actually a myth, but a historical account of beta-testing gone awry, and these massive works were for the enjoyment of these ancient aviators, like the Burma-Shave billboards of BCE. Or they were landing strips for UFOs.

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I don't buy it -- of course these massive carvings were meant for airborne eyes, specifically whatever gods these civilizations worshipped -- but the problem with this episode is the build, not the believability. (Or it's the viewer. I'll give almost any paranormal topic a chance, but I can't make myself care about UFOs.) Accompanied by very insistent synthing on the soundtrack, a modern-day glider aficionado floats among lens flares for what seems like 10 minutes. The footage of Cape Kennedy, an abandoned NASA launch site already getting colonized by weeds and rust nearly 40 years ago, is pretty cool, but the sense is that they didn't have quite enough material to fill the 23 minutes.

The "Sir Or Madam, I'm Afraid You're Full Of Shit" Moment Mathematician Maria Reich had, as of airtime, spent half her life "living in an adobe hut" and trying to puzzle out the meaning of the design. How's it going, Professor?

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Yeah.

"The Bermuda Triangle"

I wouldn't call the "evidence" presented here super-convincing, consisting as it does primarily of men's men with lifetimes of experience in air-traffic control and maritime travel, who can explain almost everything about either, saying that they can't explain anything about whatever Triangular incident. "I haven't shown an emotion since 1954, so when I tell you this freaks me out: trust." Okay?

But it's a good episode, the first one that "feels like" the somewhat creepy ISO I remember. Back then, if I wanted to know more about the topic, I'd run upstairs and bury myself in the relevant volume of The World Book. Now, we have the internet, but the effect is the same -- and there's something about ships and planes vanishing without a trace that sends a tiny tingle up the spine, even when Wikipedia swears the boat in question sank because nobody ever cleaned the sulphur chambers and not because the Bermuda Triangle hated/ate it. The best ISOs are the ones that have you yelling into the next room, "Hey, did you ever hear that [blah blah outlandish claim]?" and then disappearing down a rabbit hole of related links.

It's also a showcase for one of the show's hidden strengths: yeah, you can't beat the Carter-era visuals, but the show's a solid listen as well. I spent much of this one working on a craft project and not watching, but as a podcast, it does pretty well.

The "Sir Or Madam, I'm Afraid You're Full Of Shit" Moment The story about the alleged "emotional response" to a strange caller on a radio show turns into a shaggy-dog affair without much payoff.

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Also in Sarah's In Search Of Marathon Diary

Sarah D. Bunting and Spock investigate the paranormal, from Atlantis to Z.

  1. Time Flies When You're Having Fern
  2. 'Many People Do Not Believe In Bigfoot. But A Lot Of People Do.'
  3. You Know, For Kids
  4. More Like 'Voo-Don't'
  5. 'The Glow Of Ancient Knowledge Has Faded'
  6. Bad Moon Rising
  7. Model Citizens
  8. A Spock Among The Tombstones
  9. At A Glacial Pace
  10. 'It Comes From Average Americans'
  11. Sword Subject
  12. 'An Important Experiment Involving Her Pet Kitten'
  13. 'But It Turned Out To Be Just A Boulder'
  14. In Which The In Search Of... Casio Freaks Out About Beachgoer Safety
  15. I Double-Dog Virginia Dare You
  16. The Artist's Way
  17. 'I Thought California Would Be Important, As Well As The Midwest.'
  18. The King And Aiiiii Yi Yi
  19. The Re-Enacted Cut Is The Deepest
  20. Between The Moon And New York City
  21. 'A Smorgasbord Of Death'
  22. 'Just Bliss Out, And Fantasize A Lot, And Wear Rainbows'
  23. 'Running, Conniving, Debauching'
  24. 'Oh, The Humanity'
  25. ...And His Cat, Venkman
  26. 'One Of The Most Disgusting Specimens Of Humanity'
  27. Too Bad In Search Of... Couldn't Make This Cape Disappear
  28. The In Search Of... Marathon Diary Returns To Where It All Began
  29. Get Out Your Aura Goggles; It's Time For Another In Search Of... Marathon Diary!
  30. Anyone In Search Of A Jericho Diorama Made Of Necco Wafers?
  31. The In Search Of Marathon Diary Celebrates The Circle Of Life
  32. 'Has Anyone Seen The Remote? This In Search Of Season Is Awful.' - Nosferatu.
  33. The In Search Of... Marathon Diary Is The Devil You Know
  34. The In Search Of... Marathon Diary Crackpots Its Last

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