Project U.F.O. is an American television series which ran on NBC from 1978 to 1979.
Running for two seasons of 13 episodes each, the show was based loosely on the real-life Project Blue Book. The show was created by Jack Webb, who pored through US Air Force files looking for episode ideas.
The show features two US Air Force investigators with the Foreign Technology Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, charged with investigating UFO sightings. The first season starred William Jordan as Maj. Jake Gatlin alongside Caskey Swaim as Staff Sergeant Harry Fitz. Swaim, who had never had any significant acting experience before landing the role, added diversity as a Southerner with a pronounced accent. In season two, Jordan was replaced by Edward Winter as Captain Ben Ryan. Aldine King (“Libby”) was another regular. Dr. Joyce Brothers appeared in two episodes.
In the pilot episode, Gatlin informed the newly assigned Fitz that, since it is impossible to prove a negative, their job was to prove that each UFO sighting was real, by researching and disproving possible alternate explanations. Gatlin also told Fitz that he himself had once seen “something I can’t explain” while flying as an Air Force pilot, which led to his interest in Blue Book.
In retrospect, Project U.F.O. anticipated many of the themes of The X-Files, which aired 14 years later, but without the latter show’s romantic subtext or its anti-government (or, for that matter, its anti-alien) paranoia. As with Blue Book, many of the UFO sightings on Project UFO turned out to have conventional explanations. Some, however, were left unexplained, and suggestive of alien contact. By the second season, the investigators had themselves experienced a UFO sighting.
In an odd reversal of the Scooby-Doo dynamic, the series eventually settled into a pattern in which the investigators would spend most of the hour uncovering some conventional explanation for a UFO sighting, only for the last five minutes to reveal that UFOs (or some similarly unexplained phenomena) were involved after all.
See also Project Blue Book, a 2019-2020 TV series.
The season one opening montage showed flying saucer diagrams and schematics, while a minor-key version of “Ezekiel Saw the Wheel” played. A voice-over (narrated by Webb) then spoke:
“Ezekiel saw the wheel. This [UFO diagrams] is the wheel he said he saw. These are Unidentified Flying Objects that people say they are seeing now. Are they proof that we are being visited by civilizations from other stars? Or just what are they? The United States Air Force began an investigation of this high strangeness in a search for the truth. What you are about to see is part of that 20-year search.”
Notable was the extensive use of miniatures for the UFOs by Brick Price Movie Miniatures (now Wonderworks), usually cobbled together from off-the-shelf model kits.
Placed at the tail end of the ending credits of a majority of the episodes is this disclaimer, superimposed over the official seal of Department of the Air Force:
“The United States Air Force, after twenty-two years of investigations, concluded that none of the unidentified flying objects reported and evaluated posed a threat to our national security.”
Except for runs on the United Kingdom’s Sci-Fi channel and the Australian cable network TV1 in the early 1990s and TVLand in the US (which ran 1 episode as part of its Ultimate TV Fan hour), this series had not been aired since its original network run by August 2010. Mark VII had creative control over the series and originally held the copyright, but the rights to this series were uncertain as of August 2010. In Italy, the first season of the series was shown on syndication in different Italian districts (for example Video Firenze for Tuscany), with Tony Fusaro as the dubbing voice of the narrator in the opening credits. This series was also shown on Indian state run television network Doordarshan (DD) around 1985.
Project U.F.O. Series
Series 01 (1978)
Episode 01: Sighting 4001: The Washington D.C. Incident.
Episode 02: Sighting 4002: The Joshua Flats Incident.
Episode 03: Sighting 4003: The Fremont Incident.
Episode 04: Sighting 4004: The Howard Crossing Incident.
Episode 05: Sighting 4005: The Medicine Bow Incident.
Episode 06: Sighting 4006: The Nevada Desert Incident.
Episode 07: Sighting 4007: The Forest City Incident.
Episode 08: Sighting 4008: The Desert Springs Incident.
Episode 09: Sighting 4009: The French Incident.
Episode 10: Sighting 4010: The Waterford Incident.
Episode 11: Sighting 4011: The Doll House Incident.
Episode 12: Sighting 4012: The Rock and Hard Place Incident.
Episode 13: Sighting 4013: The St. Hillary Incident.
Series 02 (1978-1979)
Episode 01: Sighting 4015: The Underwater Incident.
Episode 02: Sighting 4017: The Devilish Davidson Lights Incident.
Episode 03: Sighting 4016: The Pipeline Incident.
Episode 04: Sighting 4018: The Incident on the Cliffs.
Episode 05: Sighting 4019: The Believe It or Not Incident.
Episode 06: Sighting 4022: The Camouflage Incident.
Episode 07: Sighting 4020: The Island Incident.
Episode 08: Sighting 4021: The Superstition Mountain Incident.
Episode 09: Sighting 4023: The I-Man Incident.
Episode 10: Sighting 4024: The Scoutmaster Incident.
Episode 11: Sighting 4026: The Atlantic Queen Incident.
Episode 12: Sighting 4025: The Whitman Tower Incident.
Episode 13: Sighting 4014: The Wild Blue Yonder Incident.