Animal Planet raked in the biggest ratings of its 17-year history with a seemingly-real program that was all just a hoax. “Mermaids: The New Evidence,” the supposed follow-up to the network’s 2012 program “Mermaids: The Body Found,” was presented as a documentary, featuring “new footage” of mermaid sightings. At the shows end, however, a disclaimer called the program “science fiction” based on “scientific theory.”
“Mermaids: The New Evidence” generated a total of 3.6 million viewers who expected to catch never-before-seen clips of mermaids in the Greenland Sea. The show’s executive producer Charlie Foley has reportedly said that the show was made in documentary form in order for viewers to think it was real. This approach is unusual for Animal Planet, which usually runs scientific reality programming.
Both “Mermaids” programs feature CGI-animated mermaid creatures that brings viewers into the world where the legend is real,” according to Animal Planet’s website. The show’s are meant to argue the past existence of mermaids based on “a radical scientific theory – the Aquatic Ape Theory, which claims that humans had an aquatic stage in our evolutionary past.”
The network’s president and general manager Marjorie Kaplan supported the “Mermaids” fiction documentaries in an official statement:
“The phenomenon of ‘Mermaids’ has truly been a watershed — and a watercooler — moment for Animal Planet. These extraordinary television specials have electrified, challenged and entertained television audiences and online fans alike.”