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Fire from the Sky

Fire From the Sky (Sun. (23), 9-10 p.m., TBS) Taped in Atlanta, Phoenix and Flagstaff, Ariz., by American Artists Film Corp. and Turner Original Prods. Executive producers, Vivian Walker Jones, Steven D. Brown, Pat Mitchell; producer, Rex Hauck; director, Mark Mitchell; writer, Mitchell; editors, Bobby Jones, Tom Pierce; sound, Earnie Earnest; music, Tim Caroll. Narrator: Kenneth Osbourn. Disaster Sunday" on TBS concludes with an informative, entertaining hour on asteroids, meteors and comets. "Fire From the Sky" will get many amateur astronomers to peer through their telescopes in search of falling objects. Those with other hobbies will at least look skyward with more apprehension. According to the producers, the chances of someone being killed by a piece of galactic waste are the same as dying in an airplane crash. This strange claim (do frequent fliers run a greater risk of getting hit by a meteor?) appears to be the only obvious hyperbole in a well-organized, persuasive program that challenges viewers to imagine the demise of humankind in the manner of dinosaurs. At minimum, civilization will be severely altered by a decent-size projectile --- usually originating from a planet that was never fully formed --- striking, say, somewhere in North America. It doesn't even have to hit the Earth's surface, because an asteroid exploding in the atmosphere could cause catastrophic damage. Program starts with a fictional breaking news report about unexplained "nuclear explosions" in the British Isles. The dramatization includes a mock Pentagon briefing, audio feed from a reporter, shots supposedly taken from the space shuttle Columbia, and commentary from an astronomer on the real source of the explosions. Highlight has a reporter looking at the skyline of an Eastern U.S. city as meteors streak down. A harrowing explosion then annihilates the journalist and much else. After this extremely effective grabber , evidence is marshaled under the heading "Space Is a Violent Place." The atmosphere on Mars and craters on Venus and our moon can be attributed to asteroids and meteors. In 1994, professional star-gazers watched a wayward comet collide with Jupiter. There's ample proof that asteroids and meteors have visited this planet. A meteor leveled a forest in Siberia in 1908. Three small asteroids exploded above the Brazilian jungle in 1935, with fire raining down until the blast of energy created by the explosions extinguished the fire. And the object responsible for the 4,000-foot-wide Meteor Crater near Flagstaff, Ariz., probably killed everything within 25 miles. It's conjectured that the great Chicago fire of 1871 was caused by fragments from a comet. One was being tracked at the time and there were a series of other unexplained fires in the Midwest that same night, including in the town of Peshtigo, where 1,200 people died. Think how many UFO sightings must be attributable to meteor showers. A second section entitled "It Will Happen Again" discusses how the military is monitoring near space on the lookout for incoming objects. A comet-hunting scientist team of Shoemaker and Levy are interviewed, as are an impressive array of other scientists and experts. A third part headed "Welcome to Ground Zero" tells of the nuclear winter and greenhouse effect that will follow a direct hit by a major mass. Documentary ends on a positive note. We are the first species to recognize the threat and the first able to do something about it. With enough warning, a comet heading toward Earth could theoretically be intercepted and deflected using existing technology (the "Star Wars" anti-missile defense system , for example). Finally, the importance of adequate funding is stressed. Production values are high, with slick graphics and solid tech work. "Fire From the Sky" is worth at least three documentaries on UFOs. AU: John P. McCarthy

Fire From the Sky (Sun. (23), 9-10 p.m., TBS) Taped in Atlanta, Phoenix and Flagstaff, Ariz., by American Artists Film Corp. and Turner Original Prods. Executive producers, Vivian Walker Jones, Steven D. Brown, Pat Mitchell; producer, Rex Hauck; director, Mark Mitchell; writer, Mitchell; editors, Bobby Jones, Tom Pierce; sound, Earnie Earnest; music, Tim Caroll. Narrator: Kenneth Osbourn. Disaster Sunday” on TBS concludes with an informative, entertaining hour on asteroids, meteors and comets. “Fire From the Sky” will get many amateur astronomers to peer through their telescopes in search of falling objects. Those with other hobbies will at least look skyward with more apprehension. According to the producers, the chances of someone being killed by a piece of galactic waste are the same as dying in an airplane crash. This strange claim (do frequent fliers run a greater risk of getting hit by a meteor?) appears to be the only obvious hyperbole in a well-organized, persuasive program that challenges viewers to imagine the demise of humankind in the manner of dinosaurs. At minimum, civilization will be severely altered by a decent-size projectile — usually originating from a planet that was never fully formed — striking, say, somewhere in North America. It doesn’t even have to hit the Earth’s surface, because an asteroid exploding in the atmosphere could cause catastrophic damage. Program starts with a fictional breaking news report about unexplained “nuclear explosions” in the British Isles. The dramatization includes a mock Pentagon briefing, audio feed from a reporter, shots supposedly taken from the space shuttle Columbia, and commentary from an astronomer on the real source of the explosions. Highlight has a reporter looking at the skyline of an Eastern U.S. city as meteors streak down. A harrowing explosion then annihilates the journalist and much else. After this extremely effective grabber , evidence is marshaled under the heading “Space Is a Violent Place.” The atmosphere on Mars and craters on Venus and our moon can be attributed to asteroids and meteors. In 1994, professional star-gazers watched a wayward comet collide with Jupiter. There’s ample proof that asteroids and meteors have visited this planet. A meteor leveled a forest in Siberia in 1908. Three small asteroids exploded above the Brazilian jungle in 1935, with fire raining down until the blast of energy created by the explosions extinguished the fire. And the object responsible for the 4,000-foot-wide Meteor Crater near Flagstaff, Ariz., probably killed everything within 25 miles. It’s conjectured that the great Chicago fire of 1871 was caused by fragments from a comet. One was being tracked at the time and there were a series of other unexplained fires in the Midwest that same night, including in the town of Peshtigo, where 1,200 people died. Think how many UFO sightings must be attributable to meteor showers. A second section entitled “It Will Happen Again” discusses how the military is monitoring near space on the lookout for incoming objects. A comet-hunting scientist team of Shoemaker and Levy are interviewed, as are an impressive array of other scientists and experts. A third part headed “Welcome to Ground Zero” tells of the nuclear winter and greenhouse effect that will follow a direct hit by a major mass. Documentary ends on a positive note. We are the first species to recognize the threat and the first able to do something about it. With enough warning, a comet heading toward Earth could theoretically be intercepted and deflected using existing technology (the “Star Wars” anti-missile defense system , for example). Finally, the importance of adequate funding is stressed. Production values are high, with slick graphics and solid tech work. “Fire From the Sky” is worth at least three documentaries on UFOs. AU: John P. McCarthy

Popular on Variety

Fire from the Sky

Sun. (23), 9-10 p.m., TBS

Production: Taped in Atlanta, Phoenix and Flagstaff, Ariz., by American Artists Film Corp. and Turner Original Prods. Ex-ecutive producers, Vivian Walker Jones, Steven D. Brown, Pat Mitchell; producer, Rex Hauck; director, Mark Mitchell; writer, Mitchell; editors, Bobby Jones, Tom Pierce

Crew: Sound, Earnie Earnest; music, Tim Caroll.

Cast: Narrator: Kenneth Osbourn.

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