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SYFY WIRE Project Blue Book

Project Blue Book producers talk campaign to save show, fan love, plans for Season 3

By Tara Bennett
Operation Mainbrace

On May 7, HISTORY announced its line-up of programming for 2020, and none of its current scripted series, including Project Blue Book, were renewed for future seasons on the network. That was a particularly painful blow for Project Blue Book fans, who were left with a huge Season 2 finale cliffhanger revolving around Captain Michael Quinn (Michael Malarkey), one half of the show’s dynamic investigating duo, missing, presumably at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Overall, the series is based on the real U.S. Army-sanctioned study of UFOs of the same name that lasted from 1952 to 1970. One of its scientific consultants was Astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek (played by Aidan Gillen), who went from skeptic to believer, creating the "Close Encounter" classification system made famous in Steven Spielberg's film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Created as the lead of the series, he's paired with Quinn, who is an amalgam of several real military figures that were part of the program.

For two years, SYFY WIRE produced and hosted Project Blue Book: The Official Podcast, digging into the show's versions of Area 51, the Washington D.C. UFO sightings, Skinwalker Ranch, and others. The show also dovetailed well with the increased UFO chatter and grudging U.S. government declassification of its secret UFO documentation.  

We were also very aware that the show had big plans for a potential Season 3. Knowing that, we dialed up our podcast regulars, creator/executive producer David O’Leary and showrunner/executive producer Sean Jablonski, to find out, exclusively, their ongoing plans for finding the series a new home, what fans can do to help with their quest, and we even got them to tease the stories they still want to tell with Dr. J. Allen Hynek and Captain Michael Quinn.

“First and foremost, I think we want to thank the fans and say how grateful we are,” Jablonski tells SYFY WIRE in a phone call with O’Leary on Friday. 

“Honestly, the greatest joy of the whole thing was just watching fans have these great [online] reactions to what we were hoping would be big, dramatic moments, whether it's the Susie (Ksenia Solo) reveal, or somebody getting killed, or major plot turns that we were always trying to build," O'Leary continues. 

When the series finale for Season 2 aired on March 24, the pair says they had high hopes for the prospects for more Project Blue Book. The series has been a solid ratings performer, in rare company alongside other clear performing scripted series like AMC’s The Walking Dead and Paramount’s Yellowstone.

Per the Nielsen data, Project Blue Book’s sophomore season was averaging 1.3 million total viewers in Live+SD (same day), and rounding up with L+7s (viewers watching within seven days) to 2.49 million total viewers. In a landscape where the top five scripted basic cable networks are down from 16 to 25 percent, Blue Book’s numbers were solid, especially considering those overall diminishing ratings for all scripted series on basic cable.

Per a recent The Hollywood Reporter crunch of all ratings numbers, 2019 found that scripted series now only represent 24 percent of the 25 highest-rated original series on cable. Unscripted series are now filling out more basic cable schedules because of their cheaper price tags. In HISTORY’s virtual upfront, they announced their own shift to limited miniseries, or miniseries scripted programming, which means a full pivot to non-scripted or short-term scripted series.

With their show’s performance not the problem, Jablonski and O’Leary admit they feel more hopeful about shopping the show to other networks and streaming services. “We're fortunate in that everybody involved remains committed to trying to find our show a second home, and to continue,” O’Leary explains. “We feel it's unfinished. And I'm sure our fans feel it's unfinished.”

Currently taking COVID-19-appropriate meetings, the executive producers want the fans to know their self-started social media efforts are seen, and are very important right now. In particular, they say using the #SAVEBLUEBOOK on Twitter and Instagram are easy ways for networks to see overall fan engagement. And in the current state of show-saving initiatives, petitions are proving to be an effective “at a glance” for executives to see large numbers of fandoms coalesce around properties. And Project Blue Book has its own fan-started petition already on the pair have seen and appreciate greatly.

Plus, the duo want to assure fans, they already have the entirety of Season 3 fleshed out and ready to go if another network is interested in where they would like to take the adventures of #HyneQuinn.

“We pitched [HISTORY] Season 3 because we actually had a [writers’] room going, and we broke episodes,” O’Leary shares. “What's so hard for us is that it'd just be such a shame for our fans to not know where it's going and where we can continue it to go because we've already done all that heavy lifting.”

More specifically, Jablonski teases, “Obviously, we're gonna bring Quinn back in early on. He's an integral part of the show. And I think something important to remember is that UFO sightings peaked worldwide in 1954. It was a global phenomenon.”

Project Blue Book S2 Operation Mainbrace

If you’re a fan of any genre television canceled in the last 20 years, then you’re more than aware that it can be a heartbreaking process. Firefly, Pushing Daisies, Colony, and many others all got canceled before their time. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be resuscitated once a fandom is proven via streaming. Or that there aren’t other media for the mythology to continue forward. Both Jablonski and O’Leary are in agreement that should that be the case; they are more than happy to explore options to give the fans some closure.

“Here's the thing, we've moved so far beyond our Season 2 that we’ve also talked through Season 4,” Jablonski admits. ”The characters are so great. I could see a version of a book, of a graphic novel, or like a smaller Quibi type version that investigates certain cases.”

O’Leary adds, “I've already had scenarios in my head that, if for some reason we can't find a home, we should do it as a graphic novel, because we literally laid out 10 episodes.”

Jablonski continues, “The great thing about this show, and you find this very rarely, is that the subject matter and what it tackles is bigger than just writing television. We have the opportunity to tell great stories based on real-life stuff, and it's still provocative today 70 years later.”