Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made over the years to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some shows that became cult classics, and others that sank into obscurity.
This month we hunt for Sasquatch and chase UFOs with the 1990s series “Sightings.”
- Aired from 1991 – 1998
- Aired on FOX, Syndication, The Sci-Fi Channel (Syfy)
For a good deal of my youth, I loved to read and learn about topics like Area 51, Roswell, and the Loch Ness Monster, and for a long time all I really had to go on was various books including Time Life’s “Mysteries of the Unknown.” So for someone with a genuine curiosity, “Sightings” was a gold mine. It presented an almost objective well of information that influenced believers to look beyond the seemingly normal and into hidden worlds we have no knowledge of. Worlds filled with frightening pseudo-science and paranormal activity.
The best way to describe “Sightings” is to imagine it as a paranormal “60 Minutes.” Rather than talking about the economy and politics, the show spent time profiling (then) extraordinary phenomenon like hauntings, poltergeists, UFOS, cattle mutilations, and much more out there paranormal topics like time travel, vampires, and zombification. I fondly remember tuning in every Friday to watch the latest episode and was always sucked in to whatever topic the newest episode covered, no matter how seemingly insignificant. I was only eight when the series premiered on FOX, and watching footage of space ships hovering in the sky flicking above the atmosphere absolutely blew my mind.
It didn’t just boggle the mind but it sparked the imagination. Like any other kid, the idea that there existed a beast like the Sasquatch or Jersey Devil was terrifying, but it also excited me. It made the world feel so much more vast and mysterious, and I always wanted to know more. My appetite for all things paranormal was insatiable for years, and even inspired me to rush to the library to find anything and everything about UFO sightings and ghosts. Before the digital age, all us “cryptophiles” had to go on were books and occasional TV specials that were really just filler programming when all was said and done.
“Sightings” brought to light a lot of topics that were normally skimmed over by regular news outlets, and were never explored until the internet became easily accessible. The show even went as far as featuring interviews with witnesses and victims of the assorted phenomenon, and thoughts and speculations about said phenomenon. As well, the show also discussed certain accounts and video footage with experts and skeptics, all of whom went to painstaking efforts to debunk various videos, and would proclaim whether they were doctored or genuine. This allowed the audience to ultimately decide “the truth” for themselves.
The series’ host, Tim White lent the show some credibility, sternly discussing every news item with a straight face, in a suit and tie with reporters and investigators buzzing in the background. There was always the sense of urgency implanted in every episode, and by god it allowed for some great entertainment that would evoke conversations. “Sightings” was a hit show for a while on FOX television, airing as 30-minute specials about one specific topic like UFOs and hauntings, before being converted into hour-long episodes that covered myriad topics.
It also inspired a slew of other paranormal shows that came and went in the decade. The series altogether lasted for five whole seasons with over 100 episodes total. It was later picked up by Syfy in 1996 where it flourished in syndication and as filler, before the show officially ended a year later. The show was so popular that it garnered its own series of speculative books, a limited clothing line, and even computer software. “Sightings” definitely made its mark on yours truly, as without the series, it’d have been a long time before I was able to view the iconic photo of the Loch Ness Monster, or the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot footage.
Who didn’t marvel at the video of the Phoenix Lights, or debate on what could have possibly constructed crop circles in various farms around the world? Sure, in the digital age, we’re able to learn much more (and faster) about most of what’s been featured on the series that has since been debunked, but that doesn’t detract from the inherent cult value of the show. It definitely helped nurture my love for the occult and the paranormal over the years, even if I’m much more skeptical today than I was in 1993.
It’s a funny circumstance how topics like UFOs and abductions, topics once mocked as fodder for attention-starved trolls, have been seriously legitimized by the US government in the last five years. Perhaps we’re due for a new “Sightings” for a new age…
Is It On DVD/Blu-ray? Sadly, the show wasn’t put out as season sets, but in small volumes of segments in 1996 that mainly covered areas like Hauntings, UFO Sightings, and Psychics. There hasn’t been much scuttlebutt about any season or volume sets being released on DVD, Blu-ray, or Streaming. But I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.