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From 1952 to 1969, the U.S. Air Force conducted Project Blue Book, in which they investigated thousands of reported UFO sightings.
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In 1978, Jack Webb (of Dragnet fame) decided to make a TV show about it. The show starred William Jordan and Caskey Swaim as the USAF investigators Jake Gatlin and Harry Fitz (Edward Winter replaced Jordan in the show's second half-season) who would go and investigate various reported sightings of UFOs in an attempt to either debunk them as something terrestrial or decisively prove that alien's from other planets really where visiting us. It began in February 1978 and returned in the fall of that year before getting axed mid-season, and ran for 26 episodes.

Often seen as a predecessor to The X-Files, though with no actual aliens in keeping with Jack Webb's penchant for keeping things real. All sightings investigated either had thoroughly earthbound explanations or were inconclusive.

It was the final series to come from Webb's Mark VII Ltd prior to his death a couple of years later.

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Not to be confused with Project Blue Book


Tropes:

  • Ancient Astronauts: The Title Sequence opens thus: "Ezekiel saw the wheel. This is the wheel he said he saw."
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The pilot had Jack Web himself narrate a good chunk of the episode. It also jumped around a lot more then subsequent ones, making it feel much more like an Anthology show.
  • Evolving Credits: The second season credit sequence was significantly changed from the first. Justified in part by the recasting of the "lead officer" slot, but the cast members weren't actually shown in the first season credits. The new credits include 40 seconds of spaceship special effects shots plus footage of the leads taking off in an Air Force fighter jet. It's all more suggestive of a science-fiction action-adventure show than a "just the facts" procedural.
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  • Gas Leak Cover-Up: Averted as one of the main goals of Project Bluebook was to actually prove the existence of extra terrestrials, something Jake often have to remind people accusing him of pulling these.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: "The ____________ Incident."
  • Inscrutable Aliens: Given that the protagonists never encounter the beings piloting the UFO's, their objectives are rather obscure, though unlike in The X-Files they're not portrayed as malevolent.
  • Quote Mining: At the end of the credits it's stated: 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 NATURAL SECURITY. They left out the reason; because the actual Project Blue Book concluded that these Unidentified Flying Objects had natural explanations and had nothing to do with any extraterrestrial life.
  • Replaced the Theme Tune: The show used a military-sounding march as the basis for its first season theme song, but switched to a more generic tune that might have fit any number of '70s action-adventure shows. Which was probably intentional, as the second season opening as a whole gives off a (somewhat misleading, as the show was really more of a "military procedural") science-fiction action-adventure vibe.
  • Roman à Clef: The stories were based on case files from Project Blue Book, but according to Edward Winter, there was a bit of a twist:
    Winter: As I understand the story, the Air Force finally got tired of looking at us, because they said "Anything your writers can dream up, we can find... There are over 12,000 cases in the Blue Book report." So instead of finding it first and then writing about it, they let the writers write it and then they go find one like it!
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: a lot of the reported UFO sightings the cast investigates turns out to be this. Others would invert the trope, with the investigators coming up with a mundane explanation only for a Reveal Shot to show that aliens were involved after all.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: According to the Title Sequence; however what the series shows is the exact opposite of what the real Project Blue Book concluded.

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