Anyone who knows me, or perhaps who is a regular reader, knows that I have an affinity for big hairy hominids. Well, actually, I should probably clarify, there’s one particular big hairy hominid that I have in mind, not just dudes with a lot of back hair. I’m referring to Bigfoot, or Sasquatch if you prefer.
To clarify further, I enjoy the Bigfoot phenomenon, and though I’ve written about this pinnacle cryptid in the past, occasionally giving it more credit that it is perhaps due, I am not a believer. I concede that it could exist, however unlikely that may be, but I have and will continue to reserve judgment until evidence is found to prove its existence. It is endlessly fun to speculate and theorise on its various attributes, behaviour and ancestry though.
In that vein, I tuned in to Spike TV’s newest reality show last night, the 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty, starring Dean Cain. This show has been hyped in style over the last several weeks, especially among Bigfooters and their associated blogs and online communities, of which I am not necessarily a member. It had been promised that it would be a serious effort to find talented people, who are, after all is said and done, more likely than most to actually find that elusive evidence of Sasquatch. We’ve been promised that the cast and producers will take a pointedly scientific tact and that the whole thing will be treated as a scientific endeavour, rather than a TV spectacle.
Last night was the premier episode, and I have mixed feelings about it now, having slept on it. If you follow my twitter feed, you likely saw my tweets about the show during and after it aired. I was happy with it. That is to say, I was entertained by it.
The show is the brain child of reality TV producer and writer Mike Riley, who is known for his contributions to several reality TV programs and series. It stars, as mentioned, actor and avid outdoorsman Dean Cain (best known for his role as Superman in ABC’s Lois & Clark), as well as anthropologist and primatologist Natalia Reagan, and renowned anthropology professor at New York University and molecular primatologist Dr. Todd Disotell. It also stars a ragtag cast of contestants with varying levels of expertise and experience in the realms of biology, Bigfooting, hunting and wildlife preservation.
The first episode served to introduce us and the cast with the format of the show and with each other, which in one case wasn’t really a welcome introduction, but we’ll get to that.
The contestants will spend the next several weeks living together in a cabin, a la Big Brother, and will compete in a series of research or conservatory type tasks in various locations around the American North West. These tasks are meant to give each two-person team a chance to prove to the hosts that they have what it takes to be real Bigfoot researchers. Every episode will see one team sent home for failing the given task, in the spirit of Survivor. At the end of the series, the remaining team will win the contest and be awarded the $10 million dollar prize, which is being put forward by Lloyd’s of London Insurance. The winners will also become members of a rock star Bigfoot hunting expedition, which will include Disotell and Reagan, who will ostensibly have a better chance of actually finding the elusive beast than any other.
Last night’s tasks were to collect viable DNA from a wild animal in an area described as a game preserve, so as to provide Dr. D. (as he’s being called in the twitterverse) and Natalia with something to analyse. And then to spend a night in a different area and try to come up with Bigfoot evidence to be analysed.
I’ll say at this point, I like this format. It should serve to teach viewers a thing or two about the scientific method and about evidence standards. I did see some things I didn’t like though.
The most glaring issue is the apparently blood-thirsty attitude of some of the contestants. Justin Smeja (partnered with “tech wizard” Ro Sahebi), who is a self-proclaimed hunter, and who claims to have shot and killed two Sasquatch at some time in the past, stated openly that his only interest is in finding and killing a Bigfoot, so as to put the argument to rest. This doesn’t seem in keeping with the promise we were given that this would be a scientific endeavour. Other contestants have a history of hunting, which, in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but it remains to be seen if the show turns into a big game hunter type exercise.
The first contestants to be eliminated were husband and wife team Travis and January Miller. They failed to bring back any evidence to be analysed by the hosts and as such were eliminated. To me, this was an incorrect choice. As the Millers reasoned, is it not better to bring back nothing, than to bring back false, misleading, or just plain silly evidence?
The thing I really didn’t like to see happened in the ‘look ahead’ or preview of upcoming episodes. They cut to a scene in the cabin, with all of the remaining contestants sitting around the living room, arguing about who’s the better researcher and who really deserves to be there. It’s distasteful, it’s scripted drama and it really turns me off.
If the next episode turns out to be more Big Brother/Survivor-esque reality TV, I won’t be tuning in for a third episode. After all, we know that the purpose of the show, despite what the charismatic hosts want you to believe, is to make money through viewership and ratings. Historically speaking, that’s achieved through hedonistic and pseudo-violent drama, not science.
They’re off to a good start, I suppose, but in my mind the quality of the show could go either direction…and reality TV’s reputation doesn’t give me a great deal of hope.