I am a sucker for TV shows about unsolved mysteries. Historical mysteries, crime mysteries, astronomical mysteries, zoological mysteries, and even, on occasion, supernatural mysteries. I bring this up because I have been watching what is probably the best of these shows. “Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World”.

I like the thirteen episode series because it is the most straightforward and scientific. They cover a variety of subjects and have a lot of eyewitness stories but don’t spend much time on wacky speculation. They lets stories be stories and facts be facts. Sometimes they overlap and sometimes they don’t. Arthur C. Clarke will let you know when he has doubts.

I also like the style of “Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World”. Being that it was made in 1980 or so there is some solid film making. It was before the MTV age of fifty edits a minute and people talking over beds of music for no reason. They put a camera on a storyteller and let him tell a story with subtle camera movements and thought out reframing. They make it easy for you to pay attention.

I was a fan of the Leonard Nimoy narrated “In Search Of…” series when I was a kid in the 1970’s. That was a continuing series and therefore much more hit and miss that the Arthur C. Clarke one. “In Search Of” was much less scientific but not always so and was often entertaining in its wackiness. There was a one on past lives that made me laugh even when I was twelve. And I wish I could see the one about finding out if plants scream. Some mysteries are bigger than others.

For some reason the “In Search Of…” episode that I still love best is the spirit photography one. It’s filled with people in the 1970’s going around to all sorts of places and taking photographs in hopes of a ghost showing up in one. The people are so ernest too. They really think they are taking spirits’ pictures.

There are three brothers in the episode who use a Polaroid camera to take their photos. They go to a graveyard, take a pic next to a grave, wait a minute before peeling the Polaroid film, and then hope a ghost shows up in the photo. That looks like a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. If I ever go ghost hunting I want that same type of Polaroid camera. It seems the most appropriate.

The mystery type shows that I like the least are the U.F.O shows. They are all exactly the same. The same story over and over with no corroborating evidence. Yeah yeah, I know, the government is keeping all the evidence under wraps. Yawn. There has been no new information on any U.F.O. TV show since the 1970’s. The same crap over and over. I can’t take it. U.F.O.s go away.

Another thing I can’t take are some of these newer hour long unsolved mystery shows (and TV documentaries in general) with a lot of padding in them. When the show starts they give a preview of what they are about to show, as they go to commercial they give a preview of what is coming up after the commercial, and when they come back from commercial they recap what they’ve already shown you and give a preview of what’s coming up. It’s repetitive and annoying. I don’t need to know what you’re going to show me. Just show me.

I always liked the actual show called “Unsolved Mysteries” hosted by Robert Stack where viewers could call in and help solve whatever was unknown. There was a lot of crime stuff on that show that eventually got solved and they would hit you with an update in a later edition. Sometimes we got closure on their stories.

A fairly new type of show is the “Ghost Hunter” type show. A group of people go out with all sorts of equipment and try to find ghosts. Needless to say they never find anything. The only show of this type I like is the first season (2002) of the British TV series “Most Haunted”. It was a lean half hour of the host and crew mostly did nothing but scare themselves late at night. They never found any ghosts but it was entertaining. The next season the show became an hour long and was dull and padded. I think the show is still on the air today.

Yep, I’ve seen all these type of shows. All that conspiracy stuff that was in “The DaVinci Code” was old news to me. There had been quite a few shows about it. There were many more “The DaVinci Code” conspiracy shows after the book was a hit. None of them added much to what I already had seen but a couple were okay.

One day I hope to see a show where they finally find Atlantis. Wouldn’t that be fun?