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Mermaid Hoax Documentary Draws Largest Animal Planet Audience

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May 30, 2013 08:59 PM EDT
Mermaid hoax
A scene from "Mermaids: The New Evidence" on Animal Planet. (Photo : Discovery Networks)

Mermaid documentaries prove to be just a popular to audiences, even if they are hoaxes. Animal Planet debuted Mermaids: The New Evidence on Sunday, May 26, which follows up last year's "documentary," Mermaids: The Body Found.

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The mermaid "mockumentary" featured biologist Dr Paul Robertson who was also in the first show and appears with brand new footage of the alleged mythical creatures, allegedly taken this spring in the Greenland Sea.

Regardless of it being a mermaid hoax, that didn't deter audiences away. Animal Planet managed to reel in 3.6 million viewers with the special that speculates about the real-life existence of mermaids using actors, according to ABC News.

"We wanted people to approach the story with a sense of possibility and a sense of wonder," Charlie Foley, the show's executive producer, told ABC News. "Hopefully that's what 'Mermaids' allowed viewers to do . . . allowed them to suspend their disbelief."

After the first special aired, Mermaids: The Body Found, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration released a statement to clear up confusion for perplexed viewers over whether mermaids were real.

"The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species," the statement read. "But are mermaids real? 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."

Why did the producers decide to make it look like a documentary? To make it as believable as possible, of course.

"I wanted the story to appeal to a sense of genuine possibility, and incorporating real science and evolutionary theory and real-world scientific examples - such as animals that have made the transition from land to sea, much as we suggest mermaids did - and citing real, albeit controversial theories like the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, grounded it," Dr. Robertson said.

"Using a straight, documentarian approach made the story more persuasive by appealing more to a sense of intellectual possibility as well as emotional possibility. I think the story works because it's possible to believe that mermaids might have an evolutionary basis; I think it works because you can believe they are real. And personally, I don't think there's any story more appealing than a legend that can be believed."

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