At the Television Critics Association winter press tour, the History Channel announced a renewal for Project Blue Book, the UFO drama series from A+E Studios and executive producer Robert Zemeckis.
In its inaugural season, the show has averaged 3.4 million viewers in Live+3 measurement, and the network is number one in cable for Tuesday night prime time programming among total viewers. The sophomore season will be ten episodes long.
Project Blue Book is based on the experiences of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, an astronomer and professor who was recruited by the United States Air Force to investigate Unidentified Flying Objects and related phenomena. It was a clandestine operation that looked into thousands of cases, which serve as the source material for each episode. The show stars Aiden Gillen as Hynek and Michael Malarkey as Captain Michael Quinn, a character inspired by the real director of Project Blue Book, Captain Edward Ruppelt, who ran the program from 1952 to 1953. Also starring are Neal McDonough as General James Harding, Michael Harney as General Hugh Valentine, Laura Mennell as Mimi Hynek, and Ksenia Solo as Susie Miller.
“We are believers in Project Blue Book and so is our audience who has sparked a conversation about the hundreds of unsolved cases and our nation’s military response to UFOs that have remained relatively secret until now,” said Eli Lehrer, Executive Vice President and Head of Programming, HISTORY. “Zemeckis, A+E Studios and our extraordinary creative team have shaped a compelling narrative that is the perfect blend of historical authenticity and entertainment that inspires curiosity in our viewers to learn more. We’ve touched on a very relevant topic and look forward to a second season.”
Project Blue Book ran from 1952 to 1969, and was the third of three organized investigations of UFO incidents, the first two being Project Sign in 1947 and Project Grudge in 1949. Hynek was a scientific advisor to all three projects. During this time, he went from skeptic to cautious believer — that at least something unexplained was being observed.
Asked about what changes of opinion in a 1985 interview, Hynek said, “Two things, really. One was the completely negative and unyielding attitude of the Air Force. They wouldn’t give UFOs the chance of existing, even if they were flying up and down the street in broad daylight. Everything had to have an explanation. I began to resent that, even though I basically felt the same way, because I still thought they weren’t going about it in the right way. You can’t assume that everything is black no matter what. Secondly, the caliber of the witnesses began to trouble me. Quite a few instances were reported by military pilots, for example, and I knew them to be fairly well-trained, so this is when I first began to think that, well, maybe there was something to all this.”
Hynek’s work also included the creation of the “Close Encounter” classification scale, used to categorized the types of sightings and observations of UFOs. The scale was referenced in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which refers to a UFO event wherein a creature is present. Hynek served as an advisor on the film, and he has a cameo appearance at the end.
Project Blue Book served as the inspiration for another series, Project U.F.O., which ran from 1978 to 1979 on NBC.