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'Fact or Faked' returns for a 2nd season

By Mark Rappleye

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, March 22 2011 2:39 p.m. MDT

Chi-Lan Lieu, left, Austin Porter, Bill Murphy, Devin Marble, Ben Hansen and Jael de Pardo meet in the "Situation Room" for "Fact or Faked."

Isabella Vosmikova, Syfy

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A new season of “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files” premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Syfy. The show follows a team of “experts” as they investigate various claims of paranormal phenomena, including ghost and other strange creature sightings, poltergeist activity, UFOs and other anomalies.

Team members include former FBI special agent and team lead Ben Hansen, lead scientist Bill Murphy, journalist Jael de Pardo, tech expert Devin Marble, photography expert Chi-Lan Lieu and stunt expert Austin Porter. Together they review video and photographic evidence of paranormal occurrences and decide which cases merit further investigation.

The show could be described as “Mythbusters” meets “Ghost Hunters” meets “The X-Files.” Investigation techniques and experiments are used that are similar to those on other paranormal investigation and investigative reality shows.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the show comes at the beginning of each episode as team members gather in their “Situation Room.” It is here they consider potential cases for investigation. Some of the videos contain disturbing images that could frighten sensitive viewers, such as children. However, for those who enjoy a good paranormal encounter, this is likely to be the hour's highlight.

From there the team splits up and investigates the top picks. In this season's premiere episode, two cases referred to as “The Real Battle of L.A.” and the “Queen Mary Menace” are investigated.

“The Real Battle of L.A.” is a case that stems back to 1942 when, only months after Pearl Harbor, an unidentified enemy aircraft was reported over Los Angeles. The military opened fire and a fiery “battle” ensued for several hours. The identity and origin of the craft, if there was one there, were never revealed to the public. These events inspired the recently released film “Battle: Los Angeles” starring Aaron Eckhart.

The only evidence the team has of the event is an old photograph from the night of the event that shows several searchlights aimed at an object in the sky with antiaircraft fire exploding around it.

The team performs some exciting and impressive experiments in an attempt to recreate the photo using nonparanormal means. The members also utilize some equally impressive equipment, including a set of special searchlights, a grenade launcher, shotgun and 50-caliber machine gun.

For the case of the “Queen Mary Menace,” the team investigates a video taken onboard the Queen Mary, a cruise ship now permanently moored in Long Beach, Calif. The video shows what appears to be a ghostly apparition walking along a ship hallway.

At first glance the evidence seems convincing, but some impressive experiments are performed to determine if the video is simply the result of an optical illusion. The team also decides to spend the night on the ship to further investigate its long history of paranormal activity.

While the team's experiments for both cases seem intriguing in concept and impressive in execution, the conclusions drawn tend to leave one feeling highly unsatisfied. In fact, it seems that the show's appeal is based primarily on creating suspense and ending on a cliffhanger for each commercial break.

Despite its faults, however, the show does offer clean entertainment, avoiding crude language and other inappropriate material, along with its heightened suspense and often scary sequences.

For viewers looking to spend an hour on mindless paranormal gimmicks with little to no payoff, “Fact or Faked” could be the show for them. However, other viewers should consider looking somewhere else.

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