Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 27th, 2006
As a comment to my review of the “Sci-Fi Investigates” program, one of the program’s four investigators, Richard Dolan, sent in a comment to my blog. I wish to bring his insights to a higher level of blog-awareness by posting it separately today.
Richard M. Dolan
I’d like to extend my greetings to everyone and just say that I often enjoy reading the entries in here. I agree with other commentators that the absence of John Keel on this show was very unfortunate, as was the absence of Loren Coleman.
I asked the producers about getting Keel on the show, and they told me he wasn’t talking to anyone these days. I then took the step of personally writing to him (through his publicist), and got nowhere. John Keel just isn’t talking to anyone these days, and unfortunately as I understand it, his health has recently become a bit problematic. I also would very much have liked to have Loren on the show. (Loren, you may remember meeting me a few years ago at a conference, and for my part I very much enjoyed the experience. I have a very high regard for your work.)
One of the above commentators put it fairly accurately: this is television. The fact is that television can make investigations pretty challenging, to say the least. The timetable to do countless interviews and shoot countless scenes is always tight. And there is little to no flexibility to change strategy once it’s been decided upon.
Most significant, though, are the demands placed by the medium of television in a contemporary commercial market. In other words, as everyone here undoubtedly must realize, the show must have broad visual appeal. So that simply interviewing witnesses and reviewing theories – which is really the track that many of us would want to undertake – is only going to go so far, since the Sci-Fi Channel wants to reach a broader audience than the cryptozoological research community. Why else have Rob Mariano dive into the Ohio River? Why else have some of the investigators visit the old TNT site? There’s certainly no chance of finding the long-vanished (from Pt. Pleasant, anyway) Mothman. Rather, such decisions stem from the demands of modern television.
Having said this, as one of the investigators on the show, I maintain that there was still value in speaking to some of the original witnesses who were there in 1966 and 1967, as well as some of the other knowledgeable locals. I feel that they were treated with respect and that their accounts were portrayed fairly.
I also don’t think that the show mocked the phenomenon. Yes, Rob Mariano was very upfront about his attitude in this. Again, think: TV. For my part, I did my best to understand what the witnesses from 40 years ago were experiencing. Personally, I feel that there was a genuine mystery that was going on, and I also think that the show conveyed some of that mystery.
A final note: Debbie Dobrydney is indeed a crime scene investigator with the State of Connecticut. Not an actress. She’s also smart and totally professional.
The cover of Richard Dolan’s most recent book.
P.S. To reinforce what Rich Dolan is saying here about John A. Keel, Keel is not as available as some people feel to actually appear in documentaries (although his work in capturing and then semi-fictionalizing Mothman events could have been analyzed by “Sci-Fi Investigates” a little bit more overtly). Keel had to cancel most of his involvement in the 2002 movie publicity tours, and that’s why the studio turned to me. In more recent years, Keel’s many health concerns have caused him to become a near-recluse. I can understand why the program could not get him for the program, although perhaps some footage of Keel or even a photographic image could have been used.
Here’s a tidbit that even Rich may have been unaware of: “Sci Fi Investigates” was to fly me (Loren Coleman) to Point Pleasant to be interviewed for the program in July 2006, but my trip to West Virginia was delayed and delayed. That is until I was finally contacted and told the producers would not be flying me down for an interview or any involvement with the program. The producers, well, seemed rather unprofessional in how this was handled. I can take a no, but it’s rather difficult to keep a weekend or several of them open for a promised freely-given interview and then being told, after the fact and without much elaboration, “Sorry, the program went in another direction.”
I want to especially thank Rich for his important insights from inside the “Sci Fi Investigates” program. Rich encompasses the Fortean point of view every week, which is one of open-mindedness and skepticism, without going overboard into being a flaming “true believer.” This is a hard role to fill, indeed, the way this show is constructed, as the celebrity’s point of view, that of Boston Rob’s raw ridicule, seems to be the stance that is most highlighted at the end of the day.
Richard Dolan also speaks to a large part of what I take for granted, but did not mention much in my critique, about this episode – this is television, this is entertainment, and the show must work within the constraints of its programming objectives. I understand television production (having been, since 1969, on both sides of the camera – from pre- to post-production). It merely sometimes seems as if there’s something a little off with the design and execution of “Sci Fi Investigates,” in spite of the good people (and I include all four investigators – I do personally like Rob Mariano) involved.
But in the end, it is television – that’s for sure.