Tag Archives: Destination America

Here We Go Again…TRUE SUPERNATURAL

TRUE SUPERNATURAL on Destination America Channel


(2/5)

Pros: Interesting subject matter


Cons: …oh, it’s another one of shows…

Midway through a third season of Mountain Monsters that’s proven to be the most absurd yet, the Destination America channel has unleashed a mostly straight-faced program dealing with mysteries and monsters that provides an alternate to watching supposed investigator “Wild Bill” Neff grill corn on the engine block in his Ford or explain his tendency to name his push mowers after American presidents. Though its name might indicate that it falls more in line with the many “Ghost Hunter” shows out there, True Supernatural has more in common with Science Channel’s The Unexplained Files since it seems to be more wide-reaching in its approach, tackling most any subject that exists outside the realms of normal explanation.

gee...
Gee…d’ya suppose they’re going to drag out that dead “Chupacabra” again at some point?

Featuring the usual assortment of reenactments, talking head interviews and a spattering of actual “evidence,” the series premiered on April 8, 2015 with an episode that covered a pair of stories, at least one of which should be very familiar to paranormal enthusiasts – the alien abduction case of Betty and Barney Hill. Occurring in 1961, this incident is regarded as the first of its kind, and the program does its part to provide a (relatively toned-down) crash course in the particulars of the case. The other point of focus for the debut episode is the so-called “Rocky Mountain Demon Wolf.” After years of anecdotal reports, many of which came from AmerIndians, a bizarre, hyena-like creature actually was shot and killed in the late 1800s. After being lost for decades, the preserved carcass of the creature was recently rediscovered, leading to renewed interest in trying to identify the beast.

you'd look like that too
You’d have that morose too if you’d been kidnapped by aliens….


Like many other modern Unsolved Mystery-type programs, a main idea of True Supernatural is to apply science to these enigmatic stories. In the case of the Hill abduction, this mainly involves DNA analysis of the dress that Betty was wearing when the alleged abduction occurred. Past examinations of the article have revealed strange, pink-colored stains in certain areas which were reportedly handled by the extraterrestrial beings, yet new scientific techniques may be able to provide new information and maybe even an explanation as to what actually occurred more than five decades ago. The carcass of the “demon wolf” is also subjected to expert analysis during the course of this episode, although a squabble over ownership of the specimen has hampered efforts to test the remains.

beast of gevaudan
The Beast of Gevaudan which terrorized France in the 1700s – could the “demon wolf” killed in the late 1800s be a similar, unknown creature?

While all this actual science sounds great – and believe you me, the narration throughout the program does its best to “sell” the potential bombshells that analysis could reveal, I don’t think I’m really giving anything away by revealing that nothing much comes out of any of the hoopla put forth in the show. As is standard with regard to this type of speculative documentary, a viewer is left with more questions than definitive answers once everything is said and done – which isn’t necessarily a bad call considering how willing some people are to declare that a conspiracy is going on if science doesn’t provide the answers that they are looking for. If True Supernatural finishes things off by not explaining everything, all possibilities still exist…which means that the believers out there can keep on believing.

caution


Another area in which True Supernatural is quite similar to other programs of this sort is in its choice of subject matter. Browsing a brief list of future episodes, it seems like the producers have chosen to cover a nice variety of topics, alternating between stories about genuine mysteries and ones dealing with unknown creatures such as Bigfoot. Considering how popular monster/cryptozoology shows have been in recent years, this seems like a good call, but I’m forced to again go back to a point I’ve made before: how many times can these programs cover the same sorts of material? Is there honestly anything new to be added to these arguments…or perhaps I should ask whether additional scientific testing will reveal anything earth-shattering. In covering the same topics that have been explored elsewhere, True Supernatural, like many shows before it, seems mostly to be recycling material, which doesn’t much make for ground-breaking television as far as I’m concerned.

this

What is somewhat new is this program’s format: instead of using the usual investigative report format in which the show is broken down into separate segments, True Supernatural presents both stories covered in its episodes concurrently. This does mix up the (very tiresome) formula one might expect in a show of this nature, but I don’t think it’s an especially effective way to relate information. The debut episode seemed a bit awkward as it randomly switched back and forth between its topics, and I also found that the omnipresent narration was extremely repetitive, apparently designed specifically for viewers made brain-dead through exposure to too much awful reality television. To be completely honest, this program drags significantly and seems almost entirely to be composed of material that’s little more than glorified filler. Once the background information into the Hill case and demon wolf was presented, the episode proceeded to repeat information ad nauseum in an attempt to build anticipation for a “big reveal” moment that simply didn’t materialize nor actually provide any new information. The question then becomes why anyone would waste an hour watching a show that could easily cram its information and arguments into about a fifteen minute block.


Cue the Bigfoot episode now for maximum tie-in value!


If anything has been proven over the years since In Search Of…, it’s that so-called “paranormal television” provides a reliable – and increasingly easy – way to get butts in the seat. Hell, even if most of these shows are complete bunk and aren’t at all what I would label as being good television, I can’t help but be fascinated by the subjects they cover. In the end then, I suppose that True Supernatural provides a viewer with exactly what he would want from a show of this nature. It’s not a great series by a long shot and almost certainly won’t solve any longstanding mysteries as it goes along, but there’s no doubt it would appeal to curious viewers.

waiting....

“As Much a Process of Rationalization as Imagination:” BOOGEYMEN

BOOGEYMEN on Destination America

(2.5/5)


Pros: Interesting approach; it’s hard to deny the allure of the unexplained…

Cons: Very talky and rather dull – particularly when compared to other similar programs

First appearing in 2013 on Canadian television, the Boogeymen series presents a monster-related show of a different variety than is typically seen on American cable. Whereas the majority of today’s cryptozoology programs (i.e. those dealing with unknown creatures) focus on a group of (often stereotypically moronic) characters who set off into the wilds in search of this or that mythical – and most likely, imaginary – creature, the goal of Boogeymen seems more to examine monsters as a cultural phenomenon in an effort to determine why the public is so fascinated with them. Each hour-long episode of the show (reruns of which now air on the Destination America channel) focuses on a strange creature or situation and how this oddity has been embraced by the local community: in many ways then, Boogeymen is more a travel and tourism program than an outright monster hunt. Along the way, various eyewitnesses present their stories, experts weigh in on the possibility of the monster being real or completely bogus, and a handful of photographic and/or video evidence is shown to the viewer, who’s more or less left to make up his own mind as to whether or not he believes any of it.

sea monster or log
Sea monster or log?

Probably the best thing about the program is that during the course of its (so far) two seasons and 26 episodes, Boogeymen has dealt with a wide variety of topics and covered some really interesting myths and legends. The first episode of the program dealt with “,” the aquatic creature said to lurk in America’s Lake Champlain, but other episodes have covered (duh!) California’s Bigfoot and lesser-known mysteries like Tennessee’s , Canada’s , and even Iceland’s . In terms of the subjects discussed, I’d almost be inclined to say that this show is up there with History Channel’s Monster Quest as being the most comprehensive and ponderous cryptozoology show that’s been on television in the last decade or so.

chupacabra
Chupacabra or mangy dog?

The fact that Boogeymen is so consistent and decidedly non-sensational in its tone is another of its strongest attributes. In recent years, it’s become increasingly frustrating to see monster-related shows which push the viewer’s suspension of disbelief to ridiculous levels; quite simply, it’s incredibly difficult if not downright impossible to believe much of anything a viewer is seeing in the likes of Mountain Monsters and its numerous (and apparently, endless) clones. Boogeymen, on the other hand, operates in a refreshingly sober manner. Even if some of the material presented in it is borderline ludicrous (during the episode about Canadian lake monster Ogopogo, one man spends a great deal of time trying to convince a viewer that a series of murky underwater shots of logs actually show the snake-like creature in the stages of “hiding” – which is positively absurd), the producers do a nice job of keeping things level and under control. This is incredibly beneficial when establishing credibility in a show like this, and indeed commendable when covering this sort of material.

monster worm
Monster worm or snagged trash?

The even tone of the show has some unfortunate consequences however, namely the fact that viewers used to more exciting or outrageous programming would likely find Boogeymen to be extremely dry. Though the program is technically well-made in terms of its photography and editing, there’s no way a viewer can ignore the fact that the show is incredibly lackadaisical. Additionally, the program does quite frequently seem kind of corny in the same way that another Canadian import called Hauntings and Horrors (originally titled , reruns of this program also air on Destination America) does, with a narrator delivering borderline goofy monologues over a typical montage of ambiguous, often ominous images and cheesy landscape shots. Compared to the much more loud and obnoxious typical American television program, Boogeymen simply seems dull, which (when combined with the rather minimal amount of actual hard evidence provided in any individual episode) could be a deal-sealer that would kill this show in the minds of many viewers.

giant snake
Giant snake or…oh……

Ultimately, I think one’s appreciation of this show (or lack thereof) would come down to what he’s trying to get out of it. Despite the fact that it deals with mysterious creatures on some level, Boogeymen is very much not a speculative documentary trying to prove or disprove the existence of these creatures. Frankly, there are more than enough over-the-top monster hunt programs on TV in the year 2015, so a show dealing more with our culture and its fascination with mysterious creatures and situations rather than the myths themselves is interesting in my book. That said, I don’t think anyone is going to confuse Boogeymen with great television: it’s a way to pass some time and nothing more. Moderately recommended, but hardly essential.

D.o.A.: KILLING BIGFOOT

KILLING BIGFOOT on Destination America

(0.5/5)

Pros: Fairly serious and more credible than the lot of similar programs

Cons: Everything is very familiar and I simply can’t for the life of me condone this show’s message

With the current, rather pathetic wave of cryptozoological (read: monster) related reality television shows coming to an end and a few weeks before the new season of Finding Bigfoot starts, it was only a matter of time – a week to be exact – before the Destination America channel’s next monster show would turn up. Unfortunately, as this genre as a whole has become ever more phony, goofy and unbelievable, Killing Bigfoot, which premiered on Friday, October 24, 2014, appears to be deadly serious – and, in my opinion, completely reprehensible. Following the exploits of another acronym-defined paranormal research group (the GCBRO – Gulf Coast Bigfoot Research Organization; they have their own hats so that means that must be legit), the show attempts not just to find one of the hairy, bipedal apes rumored to exist in the woodlands of Texas, Lousiana, and Arkansas, but kill one of the creatures to prove their existence once and for all.

Yes, as one eyewitness points out with regard to the unknown hominids, “most people just let ‘em be.” Not our gang of trigger-happy bayou folk. That’s just not how they roll…

oh snap

Working off the same pattern that led to shows like Mountain Monsters, Swamp Monsters, Monsters Underground, and Alaska Monsters (UGH! – that has to be one of the worst quartets of shows imaginable), Killing Bigfoot begins with a brief, stylized introduction to the eight-man team the program revolves around, a group of “vets, ex-cops, and hardcore woodsmen” who are shown in the opening montage cocking huge shotguns and blowing away paper targets shaped like the (in)famous . Multiple people featured in the show are identified as “snipers,” while a few – including one fella who’s name is given as “Grumpy” – are given the task of “investigator”; hell, I was cracking up imagining that the show existed as a deranged version of Snow White and the Seven Dorks. Mainly, this crew goes about the normal monster investigation routine – interviewing witnesses, looking for proof in the swamps and forests of western Louisiana, and conducting night investigations that tread suspiciously close to looking like what one would find on the typical hunting program since they involve multiple people traipsing through the woods with shotguns at the ready. What’s shocking about the show is that, unlike the increasingly preposterous monster-related shows on Destination America channel, the characters…er people featured in Killing Bigfoot don’t seem to believe they’re part of an ongoing hoax or comedic program. These guys really are trying to kill a Sasquatch.

leave it to texas
Leave it to Texas to declare that it’s legal to kill Bigfoot…

Right there, I’m already on the verge of writing this program off on principle alone. To me, that this group of supposed investigators’ first response when encountering an unknown creature – even one that reportedly is mighty similar in both appearance and behavior to human beings – is to “bag it and tag it,” is disgusting. It’s this kind of pompous, gung-ho attitude that has caused many problems in recent years (read into that what you like), and it’s about the most unscientific, irresponsible thing I’ve ever heard when mentioned in regard to the existence of unknown creatures. Sure, a Sasquatch corpse likely would silence all the critics – but I can’t in any way, shape, or form condone the wanton killing of an unknown creature just to prove its out there. In all likelihood, if these creatures do in fact exist (in which case, their habitat is rapidly decreasing due to human population expansion), they’re incredibly rare and by eliminating a breeding member of their population, the survival of the species as a whole is potentially put in jeopardy. All one has to do is examine the history of the , or to see what effect the kind of mentality put forth in this show can have on the animal kingdom.

I know harry, I know
I know Harry…I know.

By autumn 2014, television producers are old pros at making programs of this nature and the ultimate flaw of Killing Bigfoot (aside from its careless main theme of shoot first, brag about it later) is that everything here is painfully familiar. Despite that, I have to admit that this program seems substantially more credible than the likes of Mountain Monsters/Swamp Monsters/Alaska Monsters. First of all, the GCBRO members here don’t just conveniently stumble into the path of the creature they’re seeking: though the show’s narrator informs us that there are “signs of the creatures all around,” we never get any proof of Bigfoot’s existence – or a massive, fabricated pursuit of an unknown beast during the episode. This, in my mind, is indicative of the fact that the producers are at least to some extent attempting to make a more factual, level-headed program whose primary goal is not necessarily just to shock a viewer with how asinine the whole production is (as seems to be the case with most other monster shows).

um
Um…just what is that?

Refreshingly, though the show may feature some of the worst sighting reenactments I’ve ever seen, not one character featured in Killing Bigfoot falls in line with being labeled as the goofball, “wild card” or loose cannon (i.e. the , , or character) – this gang seems dead serious, although this has repercussions in the long run. Namely, the show is nowhere near as entertaining as some of its other, unbelievably ludicrous monster-hunting kin. There isn’t a whole lot of camaraderie on display between team member and there aren’t obvious jokes and wisecracks being traded around continuously – hell, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say the GCBRO was made up of people who hate each other even if they are rather civil about it. As might also be expected, the climactic “night hunt” sequence is pretty low-key – not much of anything happens and the show’s conclusion is more or less ambiguous (even with the obligatory cliffhanger).

told ya
Told you – the GCBRO has its own line of stylish caps. It’s gotta be a legit organization, right?        RIGHT???!?

Ever since Mountain Monsters changed the very nature of the crypto-reality show through the use of obvious fabrication, I’ve been wondering if any producers of this type of program would have the balls to make a show in which a monster wasn’t instantly, inexplicably found and chased down. Dumb as it is, watching a group of actors … I mean “monster hunters” … stumble around in the dark chasing phantoms has its appeal on a purely stupid level. As some have pointed out in the commentary on my no star review of Alaska Monsters, watching the show is like looking at a car crash – and the statement is true. I’ve just never quite come to terms with the fact that in order to watch these shows, I had to give up an hour of my life that would be MUCH better served doing something more rewarding and/or worthwhile. Problematic though it is in many, many ways, Killing Bigfoot to its benefit doesn’t automatically assume its viewers are morons looking for supposed entertainment of the lowest, most idiotic variety (and let’s be honest – most of these monster shows are designed for people who would watch just about anything if it was on TV). In a way, I appreciate its serious tone and apparent focus on faux-authenticity – no documentary can ever be entirely objective, but this show seems vastly more reasonable than many similar shows and for that it deserves some measure of credit.

just what we need...
Just what we need: another monster show, and another bunch of gun-happy “investigators” trying to shoot phantoms…and each other.

Try as I might however, I don’t think anything could ever make up for this show’s main premise as it goes out of its way to pursue its own, unreasonable agenda: when you’ve got multiple persons attempting to convince a viewer that Bigfoot should be killed to protect the residents of Louisiana…and GASP! their grandchildren…I could do nothing except shake my head at the screen. This type of blatant and unfounded paranoia-inspiring fear-mongering is dangerous in terms of what affect it has on viewers and one of the main problems if not the main problem with American media. Is it really us humans who should be afraid of Sasquatch, a creature which, if we’re to judge upon reliable evidence, has never posed any serious threat to people? Or is it Sasquatch who should be afraid of us, a species who not only randomly kills virtually every other animal on earth, sometimes purely for sport, but even kills members of its own species for the most fickle reasons imaginable? You be the judge. I’m giving Killing Bigfoot a half a star and I’d urge most viewers to avoid it.

from on .

Why…Just Why? ALASKA MONSTERS

ALASKA MONSTERS

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(0/5)

Pros: May amuse some people, though that may be an indication that there’s no longer any hope left for humanity

Cons: Completely…utterly…hopelessly unnecessary, phonier than a three dollar bill, and dumber than five boxes of rocks

Another week; another positively ludicrous phony monster hunt program. Alaska Monsters is the Destination America channel’s latest entry in the crypto-reality genre, following the exploits of a monster hunting crew located in the “last frontier” of the forty-ninth state. As has come to be the norm, we have the usual gang of characters: team leader “Little Bear,” a trap engineer named Todd, tech specialist Levi, a fellow named Rhett who’s billed as the “rookie,” a trapper named “Face” who’s the obvious “wild card” of the group and finally, a “researcher” who goes by the name of – get ready for it – “Crusty.” This gang, known as the “Midnight Sons” has been tracking creatures in Alaska since 2008 (at least if you believe anything this show is trying to tell you), and in the first episode of the reality show revolving around them, go in search of Alaska’s Bigfoot-like creature that’s known locally as the “Wild Man.”

first episode
On the first episode of Alaska Monsters, the team searches for “security expert” Huckleberry. Wait…that ain’t right…

The program follows the now very well-established monster hunt formula to a ‘T’: it starts with the initial night “recon” mission, involves a few eyewitness accounts (one of whom declares he was “out here gettin’ wood with my dog…” sounds like a personal problem), and sputters towards a final “midnight hunt” that puts the team directly in the path of an imaginary beast created solely through dubbed-in sound effects and blank expressions of fear from the actors…er…team members. Alaska Monsters seems a bit more modern in terms of the gear used during the investigations featured on it: in this first episode, the team not only utilizes night vision and FLIR infrared technology, but also a small drone with a camera mounted on it to survey the nearby landscape. This allows the seemingly misplaced Levi character (who seems not at all at home alongside a group of people one would expect to see waiting in line at the local soup kitchen) a sense of purpose in the show. Rhett, on the other hand, has nary a thing to do throughout the program and I’m not even sure that he takes part in the final night investigation that mainly involves the team tramping around a saw mill with firearms at the ready. After some obviously scripted “suspense” (“Oh no! A production assistant is shaking this blind I’m sitting in!”) and plenty of dubious acting on the part of the cast, the team walks away without a single solitary piece of evidence relating to the creature they’ve been pursuing. The show (like every episode of Mountain Monsters) ends with the crew making vague insinuations and wisecracks about the existence of the creature in an attempt to convince a viewer that he hasn’t just witnessed a load of complete bullshit.

supposedly scary scene
This poorly concocted, “scary” scene stands as the premiere episode’s climax.

It really is astonishing to me that somewhere, some network executive is giving each and every one of these absolutely ridiculous and devastatingly pointless monster programs the green light – and actually spending some money on their production. The ultimate sad fact about shows like this one, Monsters Underground, Swamp Monsters and Mountain Monsters (which lost all credibility or, more importantly, sense of fun it once had during a painful to behold second season) is that they make shows like Destination Truth and even Finding Bigfoot look not only like top-notch entertainment but actually, undeniably credible. Let’s not forget that Destination Truth’s host Josh Gates wasn’t at all afraid to admit that he found no evidence of the at best rare and more probably completely imaginary creatures he was seeking and Finding Bigfoot still has not one solid bit of evidence after five full seasons. The notion of a monster hunt program that doesn’t instantaneously come up with a creature seems almost preposterous in context of this new breed of monster hunt programs exemplified by any of the Mountain Monsters clones that not only invents fictitious and frequently outlandish beasts, but then tries extremely hard through glaringly phony video evidence, sketchy eyewitness reports, and falsified, scripted scenarios to convince the audience of their actual flesh and blood existence. I’m kind of scared to see what happens on the next season of Finding Bigfoot: will that show even continue when it becomes impossible to ignore the fact that there’s still nothing on the hill?

After an overload of absurdly similar and increasingly worthless programs, I would hope that most people would recognize the fact that very few of these monster-related shows are even making any attempt to be authentic in their presentation of content. Hence, it’s impossible for any savvy viewer to take these shows as anything except entertainment – they clearly are not documentaries. That said, it’s surprising how lousy most of them are in the entertainment department, and I think most of that is directly related to the fact that there is absolutely no originality to these shows. Alaska Monsters is a carbon copy of Mountain Monsters, a fact which is best exhibited by examining the characters. Trap builder Todd (much in the way his counterpart Willy does in Mountain Monsters) sets about building the most outrageously elaborate and positively impractical traps one could possibly imagine. In order to catch a Bigfoot-like creature, Todd constructs a “cylinder snare trap” – basically a huge tube with a system in place to close metal wire around a creature trapped inside of it. Why any beast would actually go inside this contraption in the first place is never explained (do these “expert trackers” not realize that their human stench would be hanging over this device like a fog?), and it’s no surprise when something goes wrong with the mechanics of the device and it’s not actually unusable.

acting
ACTING!

Additionally, we have smarmy narration provided by the appropriately named “Crusty,” a guy who seems vaguely unlikable and sleazy (or maybe it’s just that I can’t see the fashion value of the animal claw he wears in his thick, bushy beard) and “Face,” the obligatory “wild card” character who talks in a raspy, cartoonish voice and achieves moments of enlightenment when discussing wild man “doo doo” and imitating Fred Flintstone. I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up. The characters here seem way too “hammy” and almost make Vincent Price performances from the 1970s look restrained in comparison. All in all, there’s simply no way one could take anything in Alaska Monsters seriously – not when “Little Bear,” sporting an outfit that makes him look like a complete d-bag, starts mystically playing a pitch pipe around a campfire and discusses his tendency to “burn sage.” Seriously, where’s Bobo and Ranae when you need them?


So…”Little Bear” (in center) is wearing ass-less chaps, some sort of fur stole, a cowboy hat with the face of a small weasel on it, a fistful of gold rings, and a big, blinging medallion shaped like either a grizzly bear or a domestic hog. And we’re supposed to take this show at all seriously.

I’ve gotten to the point where there’s no way to even describe how atrocious shows like Alaska Monsters really are: this fails horribly as a monster-related program due to not having one iota of credibility, but even as the trashy, clinically dumb piece of populist entertainment that it is, it’s a complete waste, way too similar to other monster hunt shows that any viewer who watches this program probably would be familiar with. The producers don’t seem to be aware of the fact that they’re running this genre of television into the ground through pure, unadulterated, unchecked overkill, and I sincerely hope that someone behind the scenes is making hay while the sun shines, because the genre of the crypto-reality show is very quickly outlasting its relevance and has already overstayed its welcome. Programs like Alaska Monsters not only seem entirely capable of ruining anyone viewer’s interest in the subject of cryptozoology, but make me long for a program where a mysterious creature isn’t instantly located by a group of morons whose idea of “tracking” a creature is whooping, hollering, screaming, and careening through the forest while explaining each and every obvious move they’re making to an audience who is well aware of the absurdity of what they’re watching. I also don’t need any scenes of hobo-looking fellas giving each other a brofist each time they make a smart-ass, scripted remark about a fantasy creature. I never thought I’d say it, but I’m actually looking forward to the new season of Finding Bigfoot just to provide some sort of balance to a genre that’s well out of control at this point – better prepare the lifeboats just in case though…

“There’s Something Down Here With Us!” MONSTERS UNDERGROUND

MONSTERS UNDERGROUND on Discovery Channel

(1/5)

Pros: The spelunking is pretty cool

Cons: They’re really running out of ideas for new monster shows…

Satisfying a niche (???) for shows about monsters lurking in caverns and abandoned tunnels, the second of three new monster programs on the Destination America channel premiered September 4, 2014 on flagship network Discovery. Another Mountain Monsters clone, this one following the exploits of cryptozoologist Bill Brock and the usual monster hunt team (a grizzled tracker named McGhee, a “scientist” named Casey who actually is a former physician and not any sort of researcher, and a character identified as “the beast” named Jeremy who is the ex-military, self-proclaimed “badass”), Monsters Underground tweaks the typical crypto-reality show a bit and may actually be one of the more creepy of the lot, having a more spooky atmosphere to it than any combination of Mountain Monsters, Swamp Monsters, Beasts of the Bayou, or even Finding Bigfoot episodes. Needless to say, as a scientific examination of unknown animals, Monsters Underground fares as poorly as the rest of those programs, providing scant evidence of any of the beasts Brock and his crew supposedly and inexplicably come into contact with.

know what's going on here?
Know what’s going on here? Neither do I, but I’m pretty sure there hain’t no monsters being found.



In the first episode of the series, Brock and company wind up in Arizona’s Volcano Cavern on the search for a large bat-like creature known as the (this despite the creature hailing from Africa). After briefly consulting a single eyewitness, the team heads more than 200 feet underground and comes into contact with a blob that shows up on the FLIR infrared camera. What this blob is is anyone’s guess, but of course the team immediately assumes it’s the creature they originally intended to find in the cave in the first place. Though I have to say the episode does a nice job of building tension as an unknown creature apparently stalks the team members in a deep, dark underground hole, I’m not all that convinced that the depiction of events in the narrative of the program is accurate.

oh look!
Oh look – There it is!

A second episode saw the team in an area of Northern California known as Graveyard Gulch searching for an animal that apparently has been killing the local black bear population. This creature, called the and supposedly related to the now-extinct giant sloth, has to be one of the most ridiculous creatures any crypto show has ever sought out. As depicted in computer rendering here, the beast has a single large eye in the center of its head and a toothy mouth situated in the middle of its abdomen. Yeah…because that’s definitely real. At any rate, the team again finds itself in a staredown of sorts with an unknown creature that may or may not actually be real (I’m favoring the second of those options), and again, escapes with nary a single bit of hard evidence proving the creature’s existence. Or should I say, Brock claims he procures a DNA sample on a net coated in adhesive, but since the results of that analysis aren’t provided, I’m calling BS on the whole evidence/science thing.

yeah...
Yeah…’cause THAT‘s a real thing…

Perhaps the best thing about Monsters Underground overall is that episodes of the show only run a half hour. Cutting the typical monster hunt show down by fifty percent means that Monsters Underground at the very least doesn’t waste time with town hall meetings, obligatory “let’s make fun of Wild Bill” moments, or “find the most sketchy witness possible” segments. Brock and his team cut to the chase: by the time these episodes reached their first commercial break, the monster hunt is solidly underway. The downside of this is that the creatures featured (on these first two episodes at least) positively seemed like figments of the imagination since there was only the briefest of discussions about past reports of the creature, their habits, and appearance. Though the program is tightly edited and fairly suspenseful, with ghostly music and sound effects applied at key moments, there’s no escaping the fact that the whole monster aspect to the show seems like absolute fantasy.

Sadly
Sadly, this is precisely what these guys seem to be doing throughout the whole episode: sitting around, shining their flashlight at nothing in particular.

As much as I could proclaim that the crew in this show is probably putting themselves in the most obvious danger of any monster crew on television since they appear to be spelunking with minimal safety gear in some rather hazardous cavern systems, quite frankly there’s no way these situations are as hairy as the editing and commentary from the team members would suggest. If things were really that bad, there would be no way at least one camera crew would be able to document the team’s every move. That said, it’s difficult to fake some of the very real perils faced while traipsing about in relatively unknown subterranean caves: during the second episode for instance, gung-ho Jeremy dislocates his finger in about as gruesome a manner as possible and later has to painfully reset the joint. I’m not sure I can get behind Jeremy’s “kill first, ask questions later” approach, but the guy is a tough dude not only to remain calm looking at one finger that’s at a right angle compared to the rest, but also to put said finger back in place later on.

jeremy and bill
At least this gang has their priorities straight, the shotgun being a key part of any spelunking expedition.

While the program may be acceptably entertaining as a sort of adventure show, the introduction of monsters into the mix seems extremely gimmicky in context. Nowadays, it almost seems that the “monster card” is being added into standard-formula reality TV programs that otherwise would have been tiresome – and utterly pathetic – to give them a little extra kick: both Monsters Underground and Swamp Monsters as well as the upcoming Alaska Monsters seem to be proof of this new trend (let’s not forget that multiple reality shows are set either in the bayou or in Alaska). In some regards, Underground Monsters doesn’t try and kid itself or its audience into really buying into the whole monster angle: this show is more about the spelunking than the honest-to-Pete search for any unknown creatures, but I then have to wonder why in the world anyone would really want to watch it? The show simply doesn’t seem to do much to win viewership for itself – though the monster hunt formula seems exhausted to begin with, the cast here is dull and doesn’t add any “zip” to the proceedings. And yes, as might be expected, the monster hunt itself is preposterous. Sure, this show is slickly edited and generally well-made, but I honestly wish reruns of the corny but straight-faced In Search Of…, Sightings, Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, or hell, even Unsolved Mysteries would turn up in place of some of these increasingly desperate new monster-related shows. It seems unbelievable considering my innate fascination with all things cryptozoological, but I’m positively sick of this phony monster/reality garbage.

maybe
Maybe these guys should just stick to coal mining…

from on .

Shoot First, Invent Monster Later: SWAMP MONSTERS on Discovery Channel

SWAMP MONSTERS on Discovery Channel

(0.5/5)

Pros: Lots of gunfire – it must be good then, right?

Cons: A complete waste of time – it’s not even remotely entertaining or good for a few laughs

Late in the going of the premiere episode of the newest “let’s hunt down a monster” program called Swamp Monsters, one of the characters in the show declares that the whole operation of tracking down a mysterious, dog-like creature “seemed choreographed.” Truer words have never been spoken in the genre of “speculative documentary” programming dealing with the process of hunting down purported monsters…

I'll just leave this here...
I’ll just leave this here…

Blatantly ripping off the basic formula of Mountain Monsters (a show that was none too great in its own right), Swamp Monsters follows a quartet of outdoorsmen from the – get ready for it – Bayou Enforcement Agency for Supernatural Threats (or BEAST) as they “risk life and limb” to investigate reports of various monster-like creatures in the Louisiana bayou. Impossibly, within moments of starting their investigation, the crew is revealed to be “hot on the trail” of the creatures they’re looking for – despite the fact that the animals they’re after probably don’t exist in the first place. The show’s premiere episode (airing August 28, 2014 on the Discovery Channel) dealt with the pursuit of a “devil dog” sort of creature known locally as the “Grunch.” Following a handful of interviews with some of the most sketchy eyewitnesses in monster-related reality TV history and the employment of a half-assed, almost ridiculously elaborate trapping system designed to capture the creature in question, the BEAST group eventually goes on the offensive during a nighttime hunt in which they arm themselves to the teeth with what appears to be semi-automatic rifles. Here’s the kicker though: despite their trap being “infallible” and the gang’s tendency to shoot at anything and everything around them to the point that I probably could have been convinced that I was actually watching a low-budget film chronicling the war in Vietnam…they never find a damn thing. Go figure.

I’m forced at this point to repeat the assessment of the team’s tracker:  “this seems choreographed.”

for as real...
For as “real” as this show is, the gang may as well have been tracking this creature down…

Much like Mountain Monsters, the gang of “good ol’ boys” featured in this show seem suspiciously like low-rent actors going through the motions of attempting to hunt down imaginary monsters. All the stereotypical characters are here: the aforementioned tracker named Boudic, team leader Elliott, “weapons and tactics expert” Yak, and the obligatory “wild man” character who goes by the name of Nacho. As might be expected, the program emphasizes the cohesiveness of this unit, as if none of these “investigators” would be able to handle any sort of operation if forced to tackle it by their lonesome. For all I know, that could be a factual statement – these guys seem not to be the sharpest tools in the shed, cracking lame jokes whenever possible to up the camaraderie level on display. Hell, they invariably refer to each other as “brah,” so they must be best friends since forever, right?

brahs
“Bros in the Bayou”

Just in case the characters don’t seal the deal on this show being a complete crock, a viewer can always rely on the old fashioned monster action to keep himself entertained – or so one would think. Unfortunately, the more of these monster hunt shows that are made, the less credible any of them are – it’s pretty bad when the average crypto-reality (i.e. monster) show on TV these days makes Finding Bigfoot look positively scientific by comparison. Swamp Monsters unleashes some of the most crude and awful-looking CGI renderings of monsters I’ve ever seen and doesn’t even bother to concoct phony home video monster footage to “convince” the viewer that the Grunch is real. Frankly, I’m flabbergasted for the need for this program at all in light of Discovery’s pretty pathetic Beasts of the Bayou program that debuted earlier this year: how much demand could there honestly be for cajun-fried monster shows – especially ones that are this bad?

see the monster?
See the monster? Yeah, neither do I…

As is typically the case in monster-related reality TV shows, it’s impossible to believe that what we’re seeing is happening spontaneously. The camera seems to be aware of things happening before they actually do: if this was a recording of a live event, the camera would follow the action, not predict it. I also have a very hard time buying the fact that the terrain seen in this episode is as inaccessible as the characters would lead us to believe with their constant bickering: there simply wouldn’t be a multiple camera set-up in a location that’s full of quicksand. The whole of Swamp Monsters is very “stagey” and overly dramatic: this is the first and so far only monster show that creates “tension” by revealing that the swamp the characters are trudging through is full of mosquitoes that – GASPmay be carrying the West Nile virus! Though there were many moments during this debut episode that left me rolling my eyes in disgust, for the program to create drama by cashing in on public fear of an epidemic is a new low for crypto-reality TV. In the end, when Nacho breaks out a FLIR thermal imaging camera after declaring he’s surrounded by Grunches only to see nothing in the viewfinder, that says all one really needs to know about the authenticity of this program.

sad thing is
Sad thing is, it doesn’t take much to make the bayou out to be a pretty darn creepy place.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually getting sick of all the monster programming that’s turning up on the “education” channels these days. The fact that new series are popping up every other week, with even more on the way, is plain ludicrous: these shows are beating a at this point and further programming will only initiate the final death roll that will put the crypto-reality genre out of its misery. The sad thing is, I love shows like this – or at least what shows like this could be if they actually had some inclination to present genuine information. Unfortunately, there seems to be precisely no effort on the part of the producers of many of these programs to conduct a more scientific, factually-based investigation: it’s much more convenient to follow a script, manipulate an audience to an outrageous extent, and create false drama with things occurring just off-camera.

Where's swamp thing
Where’s Swamp Thing when you need him?

The fact that Swamp Monsters is phony as all get out honestly isn’t it’s worst trait. The thing that kills it is that it’s not even all that entertaining as reality TV: what is the point of this show? It’s extremely lazily produced and easily the lowest common denominator of a genre of programs that’s notoriously bad in the first place. Thankfully, it appears that viewers would only have to suffer through two additional episodes (dealing with …yawn…the Honey Island Swamp Monster and the “Old Faithful” of bayou monster program subjects, the Rougarou/Cajun Werewolf) which apparently will air on the Destination America channel sometime in the future. I sincerely hope that this atrocious series is not renewed; thinning out the ranks of monster programs on TV might might just make the concept fresh again. As it stands now, this whole genre of program is on most definitely on life support…and fading fast.