J. Ventura’s Best Role: Himself

Neal Justin, MCT

Jesse Ventura’s most glaring flaws self-absorption, paranoia, stubbornness serve him to near-perfection in his latest and most promising TV project, “Conspiracy Theory,” premiering Wednesday on cable’s TruTV.

His other small-screen efforts, as a talk-show host and a sports commentator for the short-lived XFL football league, forced the former Minnesota governor to stray from his favorite subject: himself. Not this time. The new series may promise to be about government and corporate coverups, but it’s really about Ventura playing tough-talking detective a role that fits like a snug fedora.

Not that Ventura really gets to the bottom of anything. In the premiere, he goes after the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, a Pentagon-funded operation in Alaska that some believe has the ability to control the weather and people’s brains, which sounds like an irresistible “Batman” plot.

Ventura fails to provide the necessary proof, despite the help of a junior team of investigators and a really sharp leather jacket.
In the episode’s climactic scene, he fumes outside the center’s security gate, insisting that his status as both a former state leader and a Navy SEAL should automatically grant him access. I’m not sure that would even get him into a nightclub.

Ventura does have some interesting conversations with fellow conspiracists (it’s amazing how much smoother he is as an interviewer when he’s talking with someone who shares his opinion), but too much of the piece is dedicated to Alaskan residents who believe there’s somethin’ strange going on at their neighbor’s pad, but can’t quite put their finger on it.

Getting to the truth, however, is really beside the point. What’s at the core of this series, and what makes it so entertaining, is watching a grown man spit, scowl and sulk with unabashed relish. If this were a fictional character, TV programmers would say he’s too outlandish to be believable. For those of us who have had a front-row seat to the Jesse Ventura show, it’s a familiar act and admit it we’ve kind of missed it.

By the way, I tried to get Ventura on the horn to talk about the program, but he refused, still adamant that the Minnesota press is out to get him. Sounds like the premise for an upcoming episode.