“In Search Of…” Leonard Nimoy’s 1970s Reality Show

leonard-nimoyLeonard Nimoy called his 1975 autobiography I Am Not Spock. For me, at least at the time, that sentiment was accurate.

I first discovered Nimoy, who died today at age 83, as the host and narrator of In Search Of…, a weekly “documentary” series focusing on paranormal, mysterious, or unexplained events. Though the syndicated series scared the daylights out of me as an impressionable 7-year-old, it had me hooked almost immediately upon its premiere in April of 1977.

That spring was the calm before my sci-fi storm; weekly Star Trek reruns on my local independent station had not yet captured my attention, and the STAR WARS tractor beam was still a few months away from sucking me in for life. But I was always up for a good scare, and everything about In Search Of… creeped me out.

SearchCreated by Alan Lansburg, producer and writer of Biography, The World of Jacques Cousteau, and the National Geographic specialsIn Search Of… was arguably one of TV’s first reality shows, if your definition of “reality show” is a slightly exagerated take on an actual person or event, and not the Kabuki theatrics of The Real Housewives. 

Each week – it aired on Saturday nights in New York – In Search Of… would take on a sensational, often zeitgeist-capturing topic, like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or UFOs, and attempt to explain it with a combination of talking head interviews, actor reenactments, news footage, spooky music and a heavy dose of “conjecture” (as the opening montage confessed). Nimoy lent the often hyperbolic proceedings a necessary gravitas, delivering his lines in his best Spock deadpan. Think Robert Stack in Unsolved Mysteries, but with fewer trenchcoats and more turtlenecks (and ghosts).

DVDNowadays, cable TV is littered with programs that blur the widening line between truth and bullshit, but such was not the case in the pre-SPINAL TAP dark ages of 1977. Documentary parodies existed on sketch shows like Monty Python and Saturday Night Live, but experts speaking seriously on fantastic topics were a rare thing. And they held a lot of weight, particularly if you were young, impressionable, and desperate to believe that there were other forces at play in the natural world.

And that was the thesis of In Search Of…, that unexplainable things were unexplainable simply because society wasn’t prepared to accept the explanations. The truth was out there in 1977, and it was thanks to Leonard Nimoy.

In Search Of… began as a series of three, hour-long documentaries airing between 1973 and 1975, all hosted by Rod Serling. Sadly, The Twilight Zone host died by the time Lansburg had sold the series, so Nimoy was transported into the host role. He’d go on to emcee all 144 episodes, until the success of the STAR TREK reunion films insured that Leonard Nimoy was, once again, Spock. (Appropriately, his second autobiography, published in 1995, is entitled I Am Spock.)

Happily, all 144 episodes of In Search Of… are available un-cut on DVD from VEI, both as individual season sets and a complete series box (which includes the Rod Serling specials, and 2002 re-boot hosted by The X-Files star Mitch Pileggi). And, while the show is not currently streaming legitimately, all six seasons are available on YouTube thanks to a mysterious phenomena known as “piracy.”

If you’re so inclined, I’d suggest you begin your Search with the Bermuda Triangle episode (original airdate April 17, 1977). This show made me fearful of flying for years, and I still think of it whenever I board a plane.

Thanks, Mr. Nimoy.

About willmckinley

I'm a New York City-based writer, video producer, print journalist, radio/podcast host, and social media influencer. I've been a guest on Turner Classic Movies (interviewed by Robert Osborne), NPR, Sirius Satellite Radio, and the official TCM podcast. My byline has appeared in Slate.com and more than 100 times in the pages of NYC alt weeklies like The Villager and Gay City News. I'm also a social media copywriter for Sony's getTV and a contributor to four film-and-TV-related books: "Monster Serial," "Bride of Monster Serial," "Taste the Blood of Monster Serial," and "Remembering Jonathan Frid."
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8 Responses to “In Search Of…” Leonard Nimoy’s 1970s Reality Show

  1. Joey The Bull says:

    Thanks for writing that, you and I are the same age and you reminded me of my exact same reaction to his show and similar experience as a kid. Basically thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  2. Chris Sedelmaier says:

    I have very fond memories of this show from my childhood. Looking forward to hunting down a few episodes on YouTube!

  3. jmedley says:

    I too was 7 in ’77 and had exactly the same reaction you did. ‘In Search of’ was the first place I remember seeing the famous footage of Count Orlok from the film Nosferatu. It gave me nightmares and for several months after, I actually thought vampires were real. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  4. Kelly says:

    OHHHHH I know my local then KHJ 9 had the In search of my fav one is Dracula one they show silent movie version of Nostarufu I think that I discovder that movie

    I remember LOL! somebody try bring back in Search of they couldn’t get off the ground so they drop for remake

  5. Kelly says:

    Don’t forget IN search of Dracula

  6. Mark Tabla says:

    I second others’ replies from the same generation – your experience as an impressionable kid mirrors my own spot on. And who knows? The science behind some of this stuff has come full circle since that time – think Stevenson’s “Verdict on the shroud” from that time period and the History channel’s recent gripping documentary reconstructing the face of Christ from the shroud that Stevenson ultimately dismissed. In any case, this program is a great springboard for reading up on subsequent research on your own.

    My 9-yr. daughter loves this show too – it’s a great way for young kids become acquainted with the mysteries of science and be inspired to pursue their own studies when they’re older.

  7. Pingback: Did In Search Of… Beget Destination Unknown? | S.D. McPhail

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