For those who have been wondering how low NBC can go in this year of the wheels coming off its prime-time schedule, I direct your attention to "Confirmation: The Hard Evidence of Aliens Among Us?" tonight on the once-mighty Peacock Network.
"Confirmation" is a two-hour "reality" special featuring scary music, junk science, "re-creations" of aliens experimenting on humans and a narrator asking such questions as, "What is the alien agenda?" and "Could an alien race actually be conducting a large-scale abduction campaign?"
Wait until you hear the guy who says he's suffered multiple abductions describe how the aliens did a "sperm extraction" on him and then forced him to "crossbreed" with a female alien. And just in case you aren't convinced, the producers offer us one of their many fabulous re-creations showing the man strapped to the table screaming as he's "violated" by the aliens standing above him.
Oh, yeah, and we'll also get to see and hear about the 10 alien-human children the guy says he fathered. And all of this starting at 8, so the little ones can watch and be freaked out of their minds for the rest of their childhood by NBC's irresponsible and crackpot depictions of humanoid aliens sticking their long, creepy fingers into every orifice of the humans spread out on their operating tables.
The most maddening thing about "Confirmation" is the dishonest way it goes about making its case. The sleight-of-hand starts with the opening disclaimer: "This program contains eyewitness claims of UFOs and alien beings.
Whenever possible, actual footage is used to present these stories. In other cases, dramatic re-creations are utilized."
In the case of alien beings, the amount of "actual footage" of them shown during the two hours is zero. Put another way, "whenever possible" actually means never. It's all re-creations. Wouldn't it have been more honest to say so? Of course, but apparently no one cares much about honesty these days at NBC.
Then comes actor Robert Davi, who plays an FBI agent on NBC's "Profiler" drama, standing in a clearing of a spooky woods at night. Yes, you are supposed to think Fox Mulder of the Fox drama "The X-Files." This is "reality" being mangled and/or manufactured to fit a brilliant work of mythology for the Television Age.
"Are spacecraft from another world secretly visiting the Earth?" Davi asks. "Are thousands being kidnapped by an alien species and subjected to horrifying experiments? Outrageous claims, or could they possibly be true? Tonight, we'll search for confirmation, the hard evidence of an extraterrestrial visitation. We'll seek an answer to the question: Are aliens among us?"
Through the first part of the show, everything is framed as a question to give the appearance of an objective inquiry into what Davi calls the "facts." The producers even serve up a sacrificial lamb right out of the box to give viewers the false sense they are going where the facts lead, even if it means exposing a UFO sighting as a hoax.
So they start with one of the most preposterous sightings on record -- one that took place in Mexico and featured a giant saucer hovering behind a hotel. Any fool looking at the videotape of the sighting for 10 seconds could tell you it was a bad computer-match job. The proportionality and depth of the images are wrong, and the saucer moves like a plate spinning on the end of a stick -- the kind of trick that used to be featured in filler acts on the old "Ed Sullivan Show."
Once you hear a computer expert tell you it looks like a phony, you might start thinking the producers are on the up and up. But it's only a come-on.
They never totally shoot down another sighting or story the rest of the night. And, even if they did try for some balance in the words, it wouldn't matter. Television's primary language is pictures, and all those "re-creations" of aliens violating humans pile up after two hours to form their own great "truth" inside the viewer's brain.
There is "hard evidence" in this "reality" special. Call it "Confirmation: The Hard Evidence of How Television Is Debasing Our Culture."
What: "Confirmation: The Hard Evidence of Aliens Among Us?"
When: 8 to 10 tonight
Where: NBC (WBAL, Channel 11) Pub Date: 2/17/99