Millions watch hoax Animal Planet documentary Mermaids: New Evidence
Last year, Animal Planet aired the docufiction special Mermaids: The Body Found and grabbed the cable channel's best ratings since the death of Australian "crocodile hunter" Steve Irwin in 2006. So it is no surprise that last weekend, they returned to the ocean for Mermaids: The New Evidence.
What is surprising is that this follow-up special netted Animal Planet's largest audience ever - including some who thought they were watching the real thing.
About 3.6 million viewers watched the special, which claimed to have never-before-seen footage of mermaids in the Greenland Sea. Both Mermaids specials were hoaxes, designed to look like real documentaries. But that did not stop people tuning in en masse to witness a fake investigation into a mythical creature.
This is in stark contrast to Animal Planet's usual fare, which includes such reality shows as Meerkat Manor and Puppy Bowl.
Animal Planet president and general manager Marjorie Kaplan said: "The phenomenon of Mermaids has truly been a watershed - and a water-cooler - moment for Animal Planet. These extraordinary television specials have electrified, challenged and entertained television audiences and online fans alike."
Many on Twitter seemed to believe mermaids could exist, despite a lack of real evidence.
Los Angeles Times writer Ed Stockly noted: "It's remarkable how well this fake documentary mimics actual programmes 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.
"While this production won't fool many sceptics (at least I hope not), I can only imagine that the same audiences that lap up shows about Bigfoot, ghosts, psychics, etc. will miss the disclaimers and buy into this one too."