“Ezekiel Saw The Wheel. This is the Wheel He Said He Saw.”

So goes the intro to Project UFO, a show from 1978 about Air Force officers investigating flying saucers, based sort of on Project Blue Book.

(For added fun, imagine the lyrics to that theme song, as invented by a six-year-old Andrew Weiss and confessed over Twitter: “Project-dum-dum-UFO/Wherever you go/There’s a UFO!”)

I was totally stoked for this show when it came on, and still vaguely remember some of it. Sadly, even this era of making sure that anything on TV is preserved on DVD has not resulted in PUFO being available for purchase or rental.

Strangely, it also isn’t available for download, even in the shadier sections of the Internet. All my searches for poorly-digitized fifth-generation copies had been in vain…until recently. Not long ago, out of nowhere, a torrent of the first episode showed up, with a handful of seeders! I grabbed it and it slooooowly made its way over several days to 68%, where it stopped. It seemed destined to stay there until yesterday, when suddenly it finished up in one glorious burst of speed!

This morning I watched it and…oh man, that is one hell of a show from 1978 created by Jack “Dragnet” Webb. It is

so

very

sloooooooo

oooooooooo

oooooooooo

ooooooooow.

This thing should be called Project ZZZ. Every single scene goes on for far too long, lingering over pointless reaction shots and extraneous dialogue. There’s a scene where Air Force jets are being scrambled that takes, I am not exaggerating, over two minutes to get pilots from the ground and into the air. Here they are running to the planes! Here they are climbing in! Now strapping in! Now taxiing! Now taxiing some more! Here’s the pilot! Still taxiing! And so on.

The plot of this first episode is pretty simple. There are a bunch of possibly related UFO sightings. A farm couple in Kentucky see one a them Martian aerioplanes, some dude driving his car encounters a light that comes straight at him, and a southern belle in Virginia sees a UFO actually hover in her front lawn. In addition, an Air Force pilot encounters a UFO despite it not showing up on radar and crashes to his death as a result. These incidents are slowly, ever so slowly, investigated by our protagonists, Maj. Jake Gatlin and Sgt. Heehaw Dixiecracker, who spouts southern-fried aphorisms and is actually named Sgt. Harry Fitz, which is even funnier.

So anyway, they look into the “high strangeness” and come to this conclusion: it was all a temperature inversion, a weather condition that can cause sound and radio waves to be reflected and reach further than usual, but not light. The officers determine that the inversion reflected light, which is what the Kentuckians and pilot saw. The guy in the car, though, saw something moving. That was clearly ball lightning.

As for the woman who actually saw a spaceship (as well as some kind of robot or something that communicates with her telepathically), there’s no radiation traces in her front yard. So it clearly wasn’t there. Their explanation doesn’t go much further than that.

Don’t think that I won’t watch more Project Temperature Inversion UFO if I come across it! Maybe it is soul-grindingly slow. Maybe Jack Webb’s stony narration and the mediocre acting give a sense of whatever the opposite of gravitas is to the proceedings. It’s still something of a hoot, and I want to see the one I remember with the horse aliens. HORSE ALIENS.

UPDATE:

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3 Responses to “Ezekiel Saw The Wheel. This is the Wheel He Said He Saw.”

  1. Andrew Weiss says:

    I have a bootleg VHS with some episodes on it around here somewhere, though I’ve never worked up the motivation to watch it.

    I should check to see if it has the one episode I clearly remember from back in the day, where some alien gangsters hold a woman’s husband for ransom.

    (SPOILER ALERT: The alien gangsters are actually humans wearing masks.)

  2. Sean says:

    This is what TV in the 70’s was. Hell we were so hunry for sci-fi this was a amazing when it came out. Kids today are spoiled.

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