(No, no, and no: I’m not going to trouble you with my own theories on the matter!)
The humblest truth – as I see things – is that something has been happening in our skies for centuries. While the jury is out on whether or not these unidentified aerial phenomena are saucers, beings, or something even less conventional, there’s no escaping the fact that witnesses have been reporting them to authorities largely with the hope that whatever was seen can be sufficiently ‘explained away.’ Few of these folks are seeking celebrity status. In fact, probably even fewer of them escape any form of fortune or glory by merely reporting an encounter of such benign prospects. It’s sad that – culturally – we’ve chosen to ridicule so many who are just doing what they perceive to be the proper course of action in the event of seeing something up there, and maybe they would all be better off for having witnessed nothing of the sort. We can be a cruel, cruel people.
But because sightings persist, television programs both fictional or otherwise have sought to plumb the depths of the subject. One of the better shows as of late has been UFOs (2021-2022), a charming mix of drama and comedy that perhaps doesn’t tease the prospect of authentic disclosure the way that Fox TV’s long-lasting procedural juggernaut The X-Files (1993-2018) successfully did. Tonally, it may swim in the same waters sparingly; yet the true difference here is in how UFOs never quite strives to reach for definitive answers, instead aiming for that sweet spot where characters matter more to each other than they remain committed to pulling back the layers of mis- and disinformation bureaucracies have buried such topics under.
Besides, the truth in here – in the human heart – might be as equally complex as anything found out there.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the TV show’s IMDB.com page citation:
“A light-hearted comedy/drama centered on Didier Mathure, a brilliant space engineer whose aspirations are shattered when the rocket he’s spent a decade building explodes on take-off.”
I’ve often pointed out that IMDB.com’s synopses fail to hit the mark almost as often as they come near it, and that’s definitely the case here: UFOs’ first season is really only launched with that smidgen of information the website has provided, and the real substance of the drama and comedy involved in the life of Mathure (played by Melvil Poupaid), his family, and his associates is vastly more complex than is any driving conspiracy at the heart of the program. (Yes, yes, yes: there is one, and it’s occasionally handled with great depth.) Suffice it to say that if you come to the show looking for the ‘monster of the week’ variety of storytelling that makes up so much of genre entertainment, then you’re going to be disappointed. This, my friends, is a show about its characters and how each of them deals with one another as well as the fantastic mystery binding them together.
As I said above, what makes UFOs different is that the fact that these sightings and the light conspiracy that stems from them really are only used as the construct to explore an otherwise fairly orthodox small screen comedy. Mathure is assigned a group of teammates who clearly don’t see the world (much less science) the way he does, and the scripts rather smartly set these eccentrics working against the organizational status quo as well as occasionally putting them at odds with each other. When doubling down on deconstructing a flying saucer event only produces more questions than it does answers, Mathure starts to wonder why solutions are elusive, how mysteries only seem to widen, and just what a shadowy French military officer might be trying to conceal.
To UFOs’ strength, the show juggles a good deal of topics that have found some decent but curious exposure within the field of UFOlogy. Not content to explore sightings alone, these stories touch on elements of missing time, men in black, and the emotional aftermath some abductees explore once they’ve been delivered some message from our supposed galactic betters. There are many, many balls being juggled in the scope of the show’s twelve-episode season – along with some very solid character developments handled wonderfully by the central cast – and I was pleasantly surprised with just how well it all congealed in the season finale.
UFOs: Season 1 was produced by BE-FILMS, Montebello Productions, Umedia, and uFund. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the reliable folks at Kino Lorber. For those needing this information spelled out succinctly, this is a French-language production with English subtitles. As for the technical specifications? This is a smartly produced television program, and the sights and sounds are extremely good consistently. Occasionally, there’s a special effect here and there; while not par with anything theatrical, they still do not distract from the overall aesthetic of the program. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? Gasp! There’s not a single one of them, and – yes – even something modestly assembled would’ve been a nice supplement.
Though I’ll admit that UFOs: Season 1 had a few slow episodes in the middle – when allegiances were slowly shifting and a series of new developments were underway – the plotlines all converged very nicely, setting the stage for many of its characters to be in markedly new positions (and predicaments) for what appears to be a second season. While performances are all pretty good, I did find a few of the characters handled a bit unevenly, but because this is a French-language production (and I’m watching via English subtitles) I can’t help but wonder if some of the disconnect might be little more than some losses in translations. I’ve often remarked that translating comedy is, arguably, one of the hardest jobs imaginable; and some of UFOs smaller moments might be suffering a bit with this experience.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MHz Choice and Kino Lorber provided me with a complimentary DVD set of UFOs: Seasons 1 & 2 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.