In Search of… has to be near the top of my personal list of formative TV viewing experiences. The syndicated series covered all manner of topics under the expansive rubric of “strange phenomena,” which was quite the cultural obsession during the uncertainty and turbulent 1970s.
The legend of Dracula one week, Amelia Earhart the next, and UFO sightings the week after that — if there was a throughline to In Search of…, it was “shit with the potential to fascinate and terrify an impressionable grade schooler.”
The program’s slant was exemplified by its choice of host. While Leonard Nimoy had the stage presence and voice for the such a gig, it was hardly random chance the producer picked a person best known for playing a space alien governed by pure logic. Wildly improbably theories about King Tut and ancient astronauts seemed a little less ridiculous when spelled out by Mr. Spock himself.
I loved this stuff as a wide-eyed kid, and still retain a great deal of affection for it as a jaded adult. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it the keystone of my 1970s childhood, but it’s certainly one of its major load-bearing beams.
My good pal Matt Maxwell (go buy his books!) generously gifted me a DVD box set of the show’s entire run a few years back. I’ve dipped in and out of it since then, but haven’t been able to commit to a full-on bingewatch.
The problem I’ve discovered is that when I watch it during the daylight hours, the science-informed skeptic in me takes over and I spend the entire time rolling my eyes and shouting “what bullshit” at the screen. Should I watch it as I originally experienced it — at 5:30 AM on a weekend morning, sandwiched between The Muppet Show and The Herculoids — those fanciful accounts of the paranormal will bypass my rationality and dive straight into the primordial childhood creep-out cortex.
Look, I’m absolutely certain that ghosts don’t exist…but that’s also not an internal debate I want to have when I’m alone in the pre-dawn downstairs of an old and creaky house.
Rule #1 of late 1970s theme songs is “There is always a disco mix.”