Date: Fri Jun 24 1994 00:00:02 Subj: ENCOUNTERS review TV WEEKEND: ENCOUNTERS THE HIDDEN T

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Date: Fri Jun 24 1994 00:00:02 From: Sheppard Gordon Subj: ENCOUNTERS review TV WEEKEND: ENCOUNTERS THE HIDDEN TRUTH (FOX) 06/24/94 N.Y. TIMES Apparently leery of everyday realities that might discomfort viewers, Rupert Murdoch's Fox Broadcasting is increasingly fond of diversions into the supernatural and paranormal. The evolving network had some success this past season with ``The X Files,'' a drama series featuring two FBI agents investigating cases that defy reason, and usually believability. Friday night at 8 p.m., EDT, the latest Fox excursion into paranormal phenomena can be found on a new magazine series (it was given a sneak preview in February) called ``Encounters: The Hidden Truth.'' This kind of exercise has by now settled into rigid format. An anchor, in this case John Marshall, very seriously chats with several reporters who, in turn, introduce and narrate their individual essays, often decked out with highly questionable dramatizations. Marshall is, appropriately, a combination of Robert Stack and Hugh Downs. A pro-forma disclaimer opens the show, noting that ``the following program deals with controversial subjects'' and that ``the theories, opinions and beliefs expressed are not the only possible interpretation.'' That said, ``Encounters'' rushes momentously into the surreal. This edition begins with Mary in New York, Joe in Boston and Colette in North Carolina, the three of them insisting that they have been repeatedly abducted by extraterrestrials. Joe says, ``I have had sperm samples taken from me and have held hybrid children,'' this while he is seen playing with his young son, who appears to be very much of old Planet Earth. Colette remembers she ``walked around with something inside of me.'' Mary says her extraterrestrial child was taken away from her and that ``there's a piece of me, my soul, out there.'' The reporter reminds us that ``no matter what you believe, these victims are convinced that their experiences are very real.'' Moving on, the program examines large, mysterious ``crop circles'' in farm fields around the globe, with an alienist expert concluding that one in Germany ``was not made by human beings.'' The reporter does interview one man who admits that his crop-circle find was a hoax, but he's passed over quickly to get to the yea-sayers, one of whom confides that ``the British army is very serious about this.'' Oh, those Brits! The final section focuses on reported UFO sightings by pilots, many of whom, it is alleged, were silenced or punished by the Federal Aviation Agency. Mention of possible death penalties is accompanied by a close-up of a high-powered rifle. Of course, it's conceded that there are ``many pilots who don't believe in UFO's.'' Dare we say most pilots? But then a sightings expert wonders ``how many other pilots are keeping it to themselves'' just to hang on to their jobs. You can't win in these speculation games. Viewers are invited to send comments or their own experiences to ``Encounters'' E-mail on Compuserve. An announcer says, ``The decision whether to believe or not is up to you.'' So is the decision whether to watch or not. I found the show helpful in inducing a profound snooze.

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