I’m on the brink of becoming addicted to Jesse Ventura’s Conspiracy Theory – a series produced by TruTV, in which the former wrestler, navy seal and governor of Minnesota investigates some of the kookiest ideas kicking around the darker corners of the web.
So far, I’ve seen the one about how the US government has been experimenting with time travel and another about a so-called ‘death ray’, inspired by ideas ‘stolen’ by the FBI from Serbian physicist Nikola Tesla. This sci-fi weapon was supposedly used to bump off various people involved in Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars programme, but by the end of the show, the eccentric Ventura is convinced that it also zapped the Twin Towers on 9/11. This bizarre assertion leads to a row with his son, who’s worried dad is losing credibility by abandoning whatever previous conspiracy theory he had advocated on the subject. Consistency is clearly important in this particular subculture. You can’t go around thinking that JFK was abducted by aliens, only to change your mind and say that he was shot by Lord Lucan.
It’s not so much the subject matter that makes Conspiracy Theory such gripping TV. It’s the absurd format, which is based around a kind of ‘ops room’ table where Ventura gathers together his trusted advisers and they update each other on investigative progress. Londoner June Sarpong is one of the team, although her CV reveals little in the way of forensic police experience. She presented T4, as well as WAGS Boutique on ITV2 and a programme in which she tried to track down the ghost of Michael Jackson. She has an MBE. There’s Tyrel – Jesse’s son – and also a guy who turns out to be the son of celebrated filmmaker Oliver Stone. When they’re together around the table, the rule is to be deadly earnest about whatever ridiculous idea they’re discussing.
A typical scene would go something like this:
VENTURA Sr: Someone has come to me with information suggesting that the moon doesn’t exist.
VENTURA Jr: What do you mean, the moon doesn’t exist? We can see it, right?
VENTURA Sr: The moon is an illusion. There’s this guy who used to work at Nasa. And he’s told me that we are being brainwashed into believing we see the moon.
SARPONG (looking serious and quizzical): Some kind of mass hypnosis?
VENTURA Sr: Could be. Hypnosis or brainwashing or call it what you will. But there’s something going on here and we need to get the bottom of it. I was sceptical at first. But have you noticed how sometimes the moon is there and other times it’s not?
STONE: I’m not sure I buy it. I mean why would they need to convince us the moon existed?
VENTURA Sr: Listen, my Nasa guy says he can prove it. He’s given me a name. Professor Signedoff Sickalot. If we can find this professor, we could be on to something big.
The next 40 minutes will be taken up with car journeys, knocking on doors and conducting interviews with some of the crankiest cranks ever to be given time in a broadcast medium.
It does have to be said, however, that the bloke who told the Governor about the death ray was dead within 48 hours of spilling the beans. The coroner said it was natural causes. But that’s the verdict that always gets returned in death-ray cases.