Sunday night the Animal Planet channel aired an two hour-long special, Mermaids: The New Evidence which went into great detail about the existence of mermaids complete with video evidence and scientific experts. Even a trailer for the program touted a tagline quoting CNN.com, “Mermaids don’t exist…or do they?”
But then Thursday we find out, for certain, that it was all for fun. The cable TV specialty channel, typically known for running programs related to pets and animals, aired the mockumenary about mermaids, incidentally giving the channel its biggest audience in its 17-year history.
Thursday, the show’s producer spoke out about the “documentary” saying it was indeed a hoax, that he wanted people to think it was real and made it into a documentary-style show. But that was days after 3.6 million people tuned in, and social networks blew-up with the possibility that there may really be mermaids in the Greenland Sea.
So of course not to cause a panic, the network had to respond. Apparently even the disclaimer at the end of the program saying “certain events in this film are fictional,” weren’t good enough to prove its own falsehood. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, even chimed in with a statement saying, “No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found. Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring people? That’s a question best left to historians, philosophers, and anthropologists.”
They should have mentioned that the question is best left to science fiction as well. Stories of mermaids first surfaced over two thousand years ago, often associated with Greek mythology. For centuries sailors have sailed the ocean saying they have seen mermaids. From Christopher Columbus to the pirate Blackbeard, many have reported seeing the humanoid sea creatures, and even to this day we still hear of sightings from the seas.
As much as they have been “seen” they’re probably more heard of and popular in fiction. We’ve seen them in movies, television, books and video games.
Not for nothin’ but I certainly hope no one in the Animal Planet audience actually took the phony documentary for what it showed Sunday. How else could you explain a record number of viewers. There have been similar documentaries in that fashion. Like shows featuring Bigfoot. But the information provided in those were more factual type statements. They actually had real accounts of what people saw and perceived, not actors dishing straight bullshit.
Grant it, perhaps hard to tell without seeing the fine print at the end of the mermaid program, but maybe the first program Animal Planet did a year ago would have given something away. Yes that’s right, Mermaids: The Body Found aired last May. While not their biggest showing then, they must have figured they did something right to garner record-breaking viewership this time around.