On Tonight: Fraud in Fins

One of P.T. Barnum’s first major frauds was something he called the Feejee Mermaid, a kind of lurid combination of monkey and fish with paper mache that brought in the crowds.

Now, 170 years later, a similar kind of hoax is being committed on Animal Planet, of all places, as a whole cloth fiction about mermaids, coming in the form of a long (and quite dull) fake documentary about scientists who have supposedly harbor conspiracy theories about the mermaids that have been hidden by the Navy as zealously as the Air Force have allegedly hidden facts about space aliens.

It leads to all kind of faked videos, and newly acquired (and staged) footage meant to give you a jolt. But the CGI on the mermaids are not that good and after a while you just start to miss Darryl Hannah.

Mostly, “Mermaids: The Body Found” (Animal Planet, 9 p.m.) skips right over one of the bywords of Barnum’s similar quackery: At least keep it entertaining.

The film caps a “Monster Week” on Animal Planet that was better off with new episodes of “River Monsters” (Animal Planet, 8 p.m.).

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