The scene of Falcon Heene’s harrowing flight in his father’s weather balloon “swept the country” Thursday, said C.W. Nevius in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was well “on its way to becoming the most famous televised journey since O.J. Simpson’s white Ford Bronco”—before we found out “we got punked.” The 6-year-old “balloon boy” was hiding in his garage the whole time. Still, you can’t blame us for buying the balloon boy hoax: It had “all the elements” of a great story.
We don’t blame us—we blame the Heene family, said the blog LA Late. We always had a “gut feeling” that something was “peculiar” about this story. Then all signs pointed toward “hoax” when Falcon Heene told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that his parents “said that we did this for the show” (watch CNN segment). It’s also fishy that Falcon only came out of hiding after the runaway balloon landed and it turned out he wasn’t on board. “This story is far from over.”
Okay, Balloon Boy’s father seems to be a “publicity hound,” said John Kass in the Chicago Tribune. After all, he “paraded his family on the reality TV show Wife Swap.” But he hotly denies the balloon boy hoax charges. And maybe it doesn’t matter. For three hours, Falcon Heene united the nation—in “worry,” yes, but also the “nostalgia” for a time when space travel was magical, especially for a certain kind of starry-eyed boy.
The only stars in this story are “reality stars,” said Christopher John Farley in The Wall Street Journal. And if this episode proves anything, it’s that “reality is more interesting than reality TV.” Nothing in Wife Swap is anywhere “near as riveting as the thrilling adventure” of Heene’s runaway balloon.