There might not be many substantiated facts behind Animal Planet’s recent special “Mermaids: The New Evidence,” but the program drew record-high ratings for the network, according to a new report. It also sparked a widespread Internet debate about the plausibility of the mythical sea creatures, despite a reassurance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that no evidence has been found to support their existence.
The program, which aired on Sunday and showed purported evidence of mermaids in the U.K., pulled in 3.6 million viewers and set a new rating record for Animal Planet, the Daily News reported. The program was a follow-up to a special that aired last year, “Mermaids: The Body Found.” That docufiction film, which explored strange recordings that had been taken of an unidentified body of water, garnered 3.4 million views when it was telecast.
Even days after the "New Evidence" broadcast, the subject continues to trend across social media, where users have engaged in ongoing debates about the veracity of Mermaid claims. “What's so convincing is the consistency of how they look. in all of the images and videos we've seen they look the same #mermaids,” one Twitter user wrote. “Think about it there are so many things on this earth that we don't know about #mermaids may be one of them,” another wrote.
“The phenomenon of 'Mermaids' has truly been a watershed — and a watercooler — moment for Animal Planet," Marjorie Kaplan, Animal Planet president, said in a statement. “These extraordinary television specials have electrified, challenged and entertained television audiences and online fans alike."
The program’s producer Charlie Foley posited that humans’ strong fascination with mermaids comes from their own evolution. “They are a reflection not only of our psyche but also our evolutionary selves,” he told Mother Nature Network. “[They represent] a direction we might have gone, and a direction, if you believe the legends and our conjecture in the film, that one branch of our family tree may very well have gone.”
But not everyone thought the program’s impact was necessarily positive. LA Times writer and “TV Skeptic” Ed Stockly wrote, "It's remarkable how well this fake documentary mimics actual programs claiming to reveal actual creatures. Substitute Mermaids for Bigfoot, Chupacabra, the Loch Ness monster, ghosts and aliens, and it's hard to make a distinction between what's real but faked, and what's really fake.”
The NOAA subsequently released a statement saying, “No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found. Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples? That’s a question best left to historians, philosophers and anthropologists.”