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Too Old For CZ TV?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 17th, 2006

I have a short personal story to share today.

Loren Coleman

It is a tale of pondering whether cryptozoology television is merely for the young. And even if the answer is yes, are corporations missing out on something in reinforcing that trend?

First, I’m a little biased. That’s why it’s personal, of course. I’m 58, and yet feel like I’m 23 and sometimes even 12 years old, when I’m talking about or investigating cryptozoology. I have been in this field for 46 years. I know it keeps me young. Perhaps corporate folks don’t know this about cryptozoology?

As many of you know, I’ve been on television a good deal in my life. When I went on my local Decatur news station for my first interview about Bigfoot, in 1969, I didn’t realize it would be the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the small screen. But it has been.

Indeed, I was what is called in the business, a "quick study." Even though I grew up the shy intellectual, I found I wasn’t an introvert for long in front of crowds or the electron lens. It appears my winning smile, quick-witted knowledge-based sound-bites on cryptozoology, and baby blue eyes were all camera-friendly. (Yes, I am modest, lol, too.) I was ask to show up and to come back to talk of cryptids again and again.

My resume is hardly complete these days, because I can’t keep up with all my appearances. But you get the idea. I have been on NBC-TV’s "Unsolved Mysteries," A & E’s "Ancient Mysteries," History Channel’s "In Search of History," Discovery Channel’s "In the Unknown, " Discovery Science Channel’s "Critical Eye," History Channel’s "Deep Sea Detectives," Animal Planet’s "Animal X," Discovery Kids’ "Mystery Hunters," and Animal Planet’s "Twisted Tales," plus many other reality-based programs such as A Current Affair.

In 2000, as you’ve heard me talk about, I served as the Senior Series Consultant to the new "In Search Of…" program that was broadcast on the Sci-Fi Network. During 2002, I, along with eyewitnesses and John A. Keel, was featured in the Sony Studios’ documentary Search for the Mothman, available on the deluxe DVD of the movie The Mothman Prophecies.

Someone, a few years ago, even started an Internet Movie Datebase entry on me, which is badly in need of updating. For example, in 2005 and 2006, I’ve already been interviewed by over ten documentary and television production companies, from Discovery Channel to the Travel Channel, from G4tv’s "Attack of the Show" to spots on the Mud movie DVD.

But, of course, interviews are not a series. People have been pushing a series on my behalf, now and then, for over 25 years. Jim Brandon of Weird America fame and I, coming off my Mysterious World column and Mysterious America book days, had shopped around a series we called Weird World in the early 1980s. I think we were ahead of the times. Too far out there apparently. Now everyone has caught up. Ha.

Recently, with the forthcoming new paperback publication of my book, Mysterious America this fall, the people of Simon and Schuster’s Paraview Pocket group would like to see a series called Mysterious America out there. Of course, so would I. They have been quietly working behind the scenes on this for months.

Yesterday, I got the final word on the proposal. Luckily, I didn’t have high expectations for a series. So many people have good ideas, and there are many cryptozoological and Fortean spec projects out there, I am realistic about how these things go.

But, the series idea was sort of unique – it was one in which I and my 16 and 20 year old sons would travel around the country investigating weird sightings and spots. But, amazingly, the reason for the rejection was a short sentence: "Loren is too old."

Neither heartbroken nor crushed, I was not surprised. But, for a graying generation of cryptozoologists, I am disappointed.

Television wants young hosts. Talking heads and pretty faces. LOL. You can see it across the electronic landscape. I understand. But I think the corporations are missing an untapped demographic here. And not just the old one, mind you.

Yes, we are living the MTV life, and I guess, on television, it is easy on the eyes to watch an attractive young host, female or male, talk about weird animals worldwide.

But, frankly, I thought people in my age group, baby boomers, are a group to be addressed. To not be forgotten. Nostalgia about the 1950s hunt for the Abominable Snowman, or the 1960s search for Nessie, aside, there’s lots of people my age interested in cryptozoology. But that misses the point.

Young people are looking for q-tips to pass on the knowledge to them, grasshoppers, and why are media corporate-types ignoring that?

I am saying this not just for me so much as to reflect on the notion that kids, teens, and Generation Xers and Yers are listening and watching people in their 50s for insights and information.

Who does the television people think cryptozoology is being mentored by?

A cryptoyouth trend just seems silly to me. All the old cryptozoologists and Bigfoot hunters will be dead and gone, and what will remain? Will all the reruns be of young woman #1 and young man #2 standing on a road talking about the Thylacine up in the woods?

I don’t care if I am picked. But, gosh, doesn’t it make sense that a few hosts might be women 49 years old, or a guy, here and there, who is 62? Or the consultants behind the shows?

I hope the television people wake up before it is too late. And by that I mean, before they are too old and someone in the corporation replaces them.

:-)

As for the 60-year-old cryptozoologists, well, don’t worry about us. We’ll be around for another 20 or 30 years, because, truth be told, we have a lot to do. And we are having fun doing it.

Loren Coleman Bigfoot

Loren Coleman, here, last year, still alive, in 2005. Photo by Joseph Citro.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


36 Responses to “Too Old For CZ TV?”

  1. P.S.Anderson responds:

    You forgot humble.

  2. timi_hendrix responds:

    I agree Loren. All Crypto-shows have young hosts and that’s the way things are going now. Must be young and hot. Its a shame really.
    I would just be as happy to see a GOOD educational Cryptozoology program on TV. I find when the youth are talking about cryptids it’s hard to take them seriously and the show ends up being cheesie. I say there is way too much cheese out there, I want facts.

    A good example of an amazing Crypto-show would be “Mysterious Encounters”. Which was cancelled. (what else is new) Any idea if it’s coming out on DVD?

  3. Bennymac responds:

    Without trying to sound like a Loren Coleman rump-swab, I couldn’t agree more. I’m 37 and my favorite show growing up was In Search Of. That’s where my fascination with this subject matter began. I don’t remember ever thinking that Leonard Nimoy was hot or easy on the eyes. I simply found him to be a truthful and honest sounding narrator discussing weird things. In my opinion we need more of that, and less of the happy, shiney people. I think it’s sad that networks give so much weight to looks, it’s not healthy for society. Mind you, I wish I had a few more sexy strip-teasing teachers growing up, but that’s a whole different story. What the networks seem to be missing is that the people who are interested in these crypto subjects are serious and for the most part intelligent. I for one would tune into a serious crypto program hosted by a gray haired 50 (almost 60) something.

  4. tsiatko responds:

    Loren. Just do what I do. Your last birthday was your 28th. It doesn’t matter how many times it was your 28th does it?

  5. lamarkable responds:

    I think the series is a wonderful idea.
    It would certainly be a revelation to have a host who was actually knowledgable on the subject that was covered. I think the idea of a mysterious america is being aimed at the wrong target audience. I have a young daughter just entering high school who loves the natural world. From an early age I have tried to instill a sense of wonder which it sounds as though you have not lost either. I think an educational childrens program is a better idea- teach kids that there is more to be found in the natural world- more mysteries to be solved. You would be great as its host. Dont give up your quest or your hope in this.

  6. jjames2 responds:

    Bennymac, the Nimoy analogy isn’t the best one, though. Obviously, Nimoy was a known entity to a broad audience through his work on Star Trek and other TV shows/films. That made him an appealing host for In Search Of…, regardless of his age.

  7. greywolf responds:

    Well Loren I for one still watch PBS, National Geo and Discovery channel’s why because the rest of the shows are bad. I am 67 a baby boomer and when it comes to a host telling me about something if he is a bit gray around the edges I pay more attention to what he is telling me than if he is a Jeff Corwin type. key word is credibility. Great idea though.

  8. fuzzy responds:

    Wouldn’t your two co-hosting sons have provided the youth connection ~ sort of a mentor relationship?

  9. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Frankly ‘Hot young Studs’ turn me off. I crave an interesting intelligent something to watch.

    Hey Loren Thought about sydicating the show? Just be sure to put it on the most watched stations. There have been several possible interesting shows the past few years I had to miss because I could not get the station/network it ran on.

  10. Bennymac responds:

    jjames2, I wasn’t making an analogy, it was more of a personal reference. But thanks for letting me know Leonard Nimoy was on Star Trek, had no idea.

  11. jjames2 responds:

    Bennymac, I’m sorry if you felt that my post was talking down to or insulting you. My point was that with Leonard Nimoy, his age/looks were overcome by other factors; namely, his fame.

    I would wager that a large percentage of the In Search Of… audience tuned in either solely because of Nimoy’s involvement, or due to a combination of being both a fan of his & “mysterious” goings-on. Cryptozoology, while interesting to those of us who frequent this website, still just simply isn’t interesting or intriguing to all that many people, in the broad scheme of things. That fact, coupled with the unfortunate reality that Loren is part of a demographic that advertisers typically pay less attention to, means that it’s always going to be an uphill battle for him or any of his cohorts to get an ongoing crypto series off the ground.

  12. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    Also, from my memories of “In Search Of” Nimoy was rarely on camera.
    A much better example of bucking the youth trend would be Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World series. But, again, that is an older series produced before the “Mtv-ization” of all media.
    Frankly, the “young idiot” factor, as I will call it, was one of the many contributing factors to my giving up television back in 1993/94 when I started college.
    …BUT if they want a younger host, you know… I’m only 30… I’ll get some head shots made if it helps… give ‘em my best “blue steel”

  13. SaruOtoko responds:

    Just to let you know Loren, you have been a great inspiration to me. You wont just fade away from my outlook in cryptozoology!

    Keep on trackin’!!

  14. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    I would also like to add that, as noted above, Cryptozoology is a niche market. In that context it would seem silly not to engage the talents of one of that genres more well known authors and commentators. I know that, despite the fact I am still a huge Trek fan, it wasn’t Nimoy that drew me to In Search of, but the subject matter. Same with Mysterious World, although in that case it was definitely a combo of the subject matter and the commentary from the “wizened” hosts that drew me to the program.
    But… like I said before, I’m still available if someone wants to snatch me up before I turn 31 and am considered “too old”.

  15. jjames2 responds:

    Jeremy, I’m not sure that Arthur C. Clarke is a better example than Nimoy, given Clarke’s stature as a best-selling author of one of, if not the, best-known sci-fi stories of all time (2001). The average person in 1980 (the time of the debut of Mysterious World) was much more likely to know who Clarke was than the average person today would know who Loren is.

    Please do not in any way take this as an insult to Loren. I’m just speaking of the realities of the television business. There *are* factors that can overcome the age bias; fame is the primary one of those factors.

  16. Ole Bub responds:

    Loren…you ain’t getting any sympathy from me…we’re both the same age….I really am too old and broke down to do much anymore….

    Perhaps you should remind the TV folks about the “greying” of America and who controls the “bucks”….maybe they will reconsider…JMHO

    seeing is believing….

    ole bub and the dawgs

  17. jjames2 responds:

    Loren, I think that my experience in the TV and film world gives me a bit more insight into the decision-making process than others on here might have. While it’s true that my own “frame of reference” might color my analysis, ten years of listening to and determining the how and why of these types of decisions gives me a good base of knowledge from which to speak.

  18. jjames2 responds:

    No, Loren, I’m not saying I’m the “enemy.” I’m saying that there are market forces at play that may not reflect any one individual’s personal tastes. While I would certainly watch a CZ show with you as the host, I can’t imagine any of my similarly-aged friends would. It’s a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless.

  19. stompy responds:

    I’ll do it Loren- I’m a mere 37 yrs of age.

  20. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    jjames,
    I was actually speaking more about the age thing. Clarke, despite his stature as an immensely popular author, was pretty darn old when he was doing that series.
    Plus, while, yeah, I’m really familiar with Clarke’s writing, you have to admit that sci-fi, too, is a niche market. Granted a lot bigger than cryptozoology, but still a niche.
    What percentage of folks, I wonder, who have seen the movies actually know that Clarke is the author of the 2001 series?

    Again, I don’t think it is the fame thing, (because you don’t see your favorite authors on TV everyday the same way you see your favorite actors) so much as it is the media ageism that has become excessively prevalent over the past two decades.

  21. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    Do you think your similarly aged friends would tune in if, say, Loren were 30 years younger?
    My guess is that anyone that would skip past commentary on Bigfoot, Mothman, and the like just because a commentator has grey hair wouldn’t have much of an interest in the subject in the first place. Likewise, anyone who was interested in this niche market would tune in even if the host were 90.
    But what do I know. I still read more than I watch TV.

  22. jjames2 responds:

    Jeremy: in #20, I was actually referring more to the fact that few, if any, of my friends would know who Loren is–again, referencing my contention that familiarity with the host of a show of this nature *is* a key component for potential viewers.

  23. jjames2 responds:

    Loren, let’s try this again (as it’s difficult to get across a point in a short response to a blog). My theory:

    1. Cryptozoology-related shows appeal to a very narrow audience.

    2. Networks are interested in shows that will draw a) the most overall viewers, and b) the most viewers within desireable demographics.

    3. Given that CZ shows have an inherently limited audience, it is in a network’s best interest to either a) not produce a CZ show , or b) produce a CZ show that will attract a broader audience by appealing to those not normally interested in CZ by the addition of elements such as a “famous” host or an unknown host that is more relatable to the audience you’re trying to draw in (i.e., a younger host for a younger audience).

    4. Potential viewers with a marginal or passing interest in CZ-related topics *will* be more likely to view such a program *if* someone they know is hosting it.

    5. Potential viewers with a passing interest in CZ-related topics will likely *not* tune into the show if the only “hook” of the show is the content itself.

    6. Viewers with a strong interest in CZ-related shows are probably only marginally more likely to watch a show if you, Karl Shuker, etc. was to host. These viewers are a built-in audience. For them, the topic is the draw, not necessarily the host.

    So, to sum up: there’s very little upside for a network to create a show that appeals ONLY to those already interested in CZ topics and is hosted by someone not familiar to a broad audience.

  24. LordofShades responds:

    Loren, if it’s any consolation whatsoever, I would much rather rather watch show that would enlighten me rather than merely satisfy my curiosity. My interest in cryptozoology was sparked at a young age, and your name, was found repeatedly in the few publications I initially had access to. Let the MTV generation have their bland and/or mindless pap delivered by the pretty young talking heads, eager to thrill some of the young mindless sheep out there, or worse, vilify some of the more intriguing cryptids. Give me a reasonable, rational, intelligent and experienced voice. Give us information and insight, in other words, give us Loren. and thanks for keeping me hooked all these years.

  25. twblack responds:

    Loren you would be the “BEST HOST” for this type of show with your knowledge of crypto they have no idea what they are missing. In Search Of was a great show although yes we all new MR. Spock that is not what any of us here watched the show for. I think we watched it because it gave even more news about the things we are all interested in. back in the day before I-Net it was a little hard to come buy fresh news about crypto related news. As I have stated before to the ones who created this blog GREAT JOB GUYS.

  26. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    jjames
    re # 22
    OK, now I understand where you are coming from. From my point of view, and my experience with the genre, I’d be more intrigued with hearing what Loren had to say (in the same way I was always interested in Clarke’s “wrap up” commentary when I watched re-runs of the show in the late 80s/early 90s). But as someone who has worked in newspapers most of his adult career, I also understand the pressure advertisers and others can excert on any creative endeavor.
    And in regards to #23, all very sad, but very true. Personally, many of the shoddy, eye-candy “documentaries” that I have seen on cable have caused me to turn the tube off, despite the fact that the industry thinks of me as a built in demographic because of my previous interest in the subject matter. But, then again, the purchasing power of one informed viewer isn’t what business is after, as you have noted.

  27. jjames1 responds:

    twblack, you’re a perfect example of what I’ve mentioned. You said “In Search Of was a great show although yes we all new MR. Spock that is not what any of us here watched the show for. I think we watched it because it gave even more news about the things we are all interested in.” The key point being you’re part of the built in audience. You would have watched the show if Nimoy hosted it or if Big Bird would have hosted it.

    The network knows it has you. Their challenge is to draw in other viewers who have little to no interest in the overall topic.

    On the other hand, as Jeremy shows in #26, I suppose there are some people with a built-in interest in a topic who might tune out due to the host/production values. However, that’s where the real number crunching comes in, e.g. is the number of built-in audience members likely to tune out greater than or less than the number of new viewers that we’ll attract with the addition of element X to the show? Market research can help in this area! :)

  28. Vigus responds:

    My first thought, well, that is what society has become. MTV generation? I’m only 27 and I remember when MTV actually showed videos and meant something to the youth (in a good way). Now MTV attracts “today’s youth”, which is super sad.
    Next thought, did you see the last installment of Animal X? It had a cute girl and some other guy doing investigations, with a creepy old guy doing the narrating and commentary. Even on message boards, people were asking what the point of the creepy guy was. (honestly, I don’t know what his credentials were. I wasn’t familiar with him.) Loren, in no way do I see you as that creepy old guy.

    I’m surprised the Discovery Channel (and all its offshoots), haven’t kept a full-fledged investigative show going. They have money to do the backing, and I would guess they have the resources to get something accomplished. They seem to only air spurts of shows on CZ. They seem to take CZ seriously to a point, but not beyond that. (Once it’s fact how else can they make money?)

    Loren, as per what you were mentioning before, you are totally right. Where would the youth be without the knowledge from the elders? (not just in terms of CZ) When I got into Cryptozoology, it was because the books. Many were written towards the juvenile genre and that got me hooked ( plus, they often gave sources for the material, thus giving much credibility to the work being done).

    If they can keep a show going in a proper rotation, the show could become ongoing. Video is the main median for today’s learning, which is something that can be “marketed”.

  29. lamarkable responds:

    Television is a self fulfilling prophecy. It appeals to the lowest end of the curve. Beyond ratings, which are an arbitrary measurement of interest, no one knows what the public wants, beyond an educated guess, focused soley on consumerism. If the television expert’s narrow bandwidth
    framed communication with quasi humanoids, we would appear to be fantasy prone sociopaths fixated at the age of 12 with trinkets.

  30. Tabitca responds:

    You are only as old as you feel…like you Loren I am a 20 year old in a 50 year old body.My last trip to loch ness I had to stay in a hotel…my back isn’t up to camping anymore..ouch!
    All I can suggest is you try some UK TV channels. Channel 5 has shown a few cryptozoological programmes recently..they are always looking for ideas. The have a web page I believe.
    My only contacts are at the BBC and they would probably say budget restraints etc.

  31. traveler responds:

    wow seeing all these ages makes me feel young..im 24. what i hate abuot these shows is that they never show anything anyway. i was into watching the original animal x on discovery( it was on usually at like 3am or so) and was dissapointed when i didnt see it on anymore. it was the first time i had heard of the salawa. Immagine my excite when flipping through some channels a couple years later and seeing animal x again. i was highly dissapointed at what i saw. it was like some spy show, with the director giving assignments to field agents who went out with technology and stayed at the sight for 3 days trying to get something on camera, or heat sensors or other things. what a fluke!! i think we need a great show that is educational, and uptodate on whats going on, with relation to the news and other things…hmm sounds familiar..maybe we could call it cryptomundo and have u science guys host it?

  32. Tabitca responds:

    traveler ..that means you will still be here long after we have gone and I hope carrying the torch. I have tried to instill in my daughter the stuff I have learnt but as a biologist, she is more concerned with pure scientific proof than I am , and so will probably not carry on what I have started. I shall however donate all my notes etc. to whoever is still here .

  33. Mnynames responds:

    Well, I have to say that as much of a Star Trek fan as I am, for me, Mr. Nimoy was always the guy from “In Search Of”…That’s probably where I first saw him, to be honest, although I know that probably dates me somewhat (Somewhere between Star Trek and the Next Generation). “In Search Of” was a powerful force in shaping my interests and my passions, and I must also thank the Margate and Absecon, NJ school libraries for having a decent spread of young reader books on the paranormal. I would have been one of the few kids who actually READ them, rather than just look at the pictures. It is perhaps telling that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster lived in my closet, not the boogie man.

    When someone mentioned Arthur C. Clarke, my immediate thought was, “Well, that’s British TV anyway, of course they’d do a series with him.” In my opinion, British TV is far more enlightened than the bread and circuses eye candy we get here in the states. Some of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen have come from the BBC. Surely if anyone could see the merits of your series, it would be someone there. Then again, the Sci-Fi Channel has done great things with their Ghost-Hunters series, maybe they’d be interested in a CZ equivalent. Regardless, keep trying…

  34. Tabitca responds:

    Things have changed greatly at the BBC,I’m afraid. I can’t say more than that without getting into politics. However interestingly enough channel 5 showed a programme last night(Friday night) about the alligators in Florida becoming man eaters. They have shown a couple of programmes about Fortean subjects recently too.I understand they are a Europe wide company so may have funds for this sort of programme. Don’t give up Loren. From Oct 2006 in the UK,it against the law to discriminate against someone because of age.

  35. r.lee responds:

    This is sadly accurate. Since I’ve turned 52, I’ve been noticing — in spite of myself — how almost all of media is aimed at, and depicts, people under 40. You’d think no one over 40, let alone 50, exists. If they do, they’re cranks, coots, or crazed menopausal women . . . great item Loren, and that journey with your sons sounded great.

  36. Paranormal Magazine responds:

    As a technology fan my eyes gravitated to your mention of your appearance on G4tv’s “Attack of the Show”. There’s an interesting tale here. Attack of the Show was originally the program “The Screen Savers” on TechTV before TechTV merged with G4. The Screen Savers was an excellent and very popular television show that talked tech and covered nearly every innovation on the Internet for years. You would think that dealing with such cutting edge subjects like tech and the web, it would be hosted by young people. Not at all. The show was hosted by Leo Laporte and Patrick Norton. Neither of them old by any standard, but well beyond their twenties. Having mature hosts gave the show a credibility that made it one of (if not the) top tech show on television. When the show switched to younger hosts (in their 20s) it bombed and faded out entirely, being replaced by Attack of the Show. So, basically television executives would be wise to have a mature authority when dealing with subject matters that go beyond simple pop culture. Even MTV has Kurt Loder.



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