Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fake mermaids bring real numbers to Animal Planet

Once again, a documentary about "real" mermaids has led to very real numbers for Animal Planet. Last Sunday's Mermaids: The New Evidence, the sequel to last year's docufiction, ahem, netted 3.6 million viewers, providing the network with numbers that crush even Puppy Bowl numbers. But before you bust out your seashell bras and Dinglehoppers, take a deep breath and sit down; mermaids are unfortunately, still not real.

If you'll remember, in 2012, Animal Planet aired Mermaids: The Body Found, a faux-doc about a group of scientists who discovered a recording of inexplicable sounds from the oceans depths and the investigation that followed. Borrowing heavily from the widely panned aquatic ape hypothesis (Elaine Morgan, The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, 1982), the show delves into the "science" behind how our ancestors adapted into aquatic beings...

With staged autopsies providing viewers with unidentified humanoid body parts and a CGI storyline remniscent of Avatar, this isn't a show you would generally expect to see on Animal Planet, but on Syfy channel instead. The numbers for the docufiction, however, broke all previous viewership for the network, bringing in more than three million viewers when it aired in May 2012 before doing it again this year.

No one can be surprised that they re-aired it a year later, with a follow-up "documentary" entitled Mermaids: The New Evidence that aired on May 26. Dr. Paul Robertson, marine biologist (actually actor Andre Weidemen) returns to present footage taken in the Greenland Sea. According to Huffington Post, the executive producer for the show said that the goal was to make it appear real, which is why they made it in the documentary format.

Some of the science behind it could make sense to all mermaid enthusiasts out there, but it's nothing more than a network-back gag (or hoax, if you prefer). Even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has posted on their website that "No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found," and that the show is purely for entertainment purposes.

Even though it is fabricated, the fact remains that both Mermaids: The Body Found and Mermaids: The New Evidence, are highly entertaining to watch, and while every girl born before 1990 hangs her head and pulls the fork out of her hair, maybe someday, could turn out to be real. In the meantime, a good question remains about the future of Animal Planet: When the best ratings for a network dedicated to presenting the natural world come from hoax-TV, what might their future programming look like?

-Nowal Massari


Ebro Evets said...

They fooled me, but I'll never watch another animal planet episode again.