Finding Bigfoot

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Sasquatchologist. My childhood fascination with the mythical man-ape bordered on obsession. I had every Bigfoot book and toy imaginable (including plastic Sasquatch snowshoes I used to make footprints in the neighbors’ yards), I saw every ridiculous Bigfoot-umentary that played within a hundred miles of my hometown (and wrote a chapter about them in my book Hick Flicks), and when the bionic Bigfoot guest-starred on The Six Million Dollar Man, I was in heaven. To this day, whenever I notice a Bigfoot special is coming on Discovery or History or SyFy, I find myself hitting the record button on my DVR, almost subconsciously. It’s a sickness, I guess, but I can’t help myself.

So naturally, when I saw that Animal Planet was launching a new series called Finding Bigfoot, I immediately volunteered for TV Club duty. I mean, think of it: Not only is this an entire reality series devoted to  Bigfoot, but implicit in the title is the promise that they’re actually going to find him this time! I’m sure they wouldn’t lie about that, right?

The first two episodes of the series (one of which, “Bigfoot Crossing in Georgia,” aired earlier this week as a sneak preview) introduce the team members from the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization who will presumably be doing the finding. The leader of this prestigious organization is Matt Moneymaker, an appropriately puffed-up moniker for such a hilarious blowhard. Matt is very matter-of-fact about the existence of the Sasquatch; he knows what they look like, what they sound like, and what they smell like, and he reacts to skeptics with the sort of condescending eye-rolls you or I might reserve for someone who doesn’t believe in the moon landing. “One of my claims to fame in the Bigfoot world is that I’m the one who discovered Bigfoots do wood-knocks,” he preens, although he fails to mention which scientific journal published this finding. I’ll try to get that information for you later.

He’s mildly annoying, but the rest of the team is better company. Evidence analyst Cliff is an earnest nerd, field biologist Ranae is the skeptic of the group (or the Scully, if you will), and “expert field caller” Bobo is an amiable, hulking dude who may be part Sasquatch himself. The BFRO’s first case takes them to the woods of northern Georgia, where a state trooper’s dash-camera has captured compelling footage of a blurry blob running across the road at night. After re-enacting this incident by having Bobo run into the road as a car speeds toward him (I’m pretty sure this was a bad idea), the team hosts a “town hall meeting” with locals claiming to have seen the creature. Matt and Bobo accompany a scary dude (who looks like he might not be averse to leading a couple of Bigfoot hunters deep into the woods for some Deliverance action) to the site of his encounter, but Matt smells a rat. His smug dismissal of the man’s story (“That’s not what they look like! It flies in the face of everything I know reality to be!”) is truly priceless.

The first episode airing in the show’s regular Sunday night time slot, “Swamp Ape,” finds our bigfoot hunters getting in on the swamp reality craze by traveling to the Everglades in search of the elusive skunk ape. A smaller, stinkier cousin to Sasquatch, the skunk ape apparently gets his jollies by knocking over bird feeders and shaking trees at passing Seminole tribesmen. The BRFO take to the woods with the obligatory night-vision and thermal cameras and employ an increasingly hysterical series of Bigfoot howls and hoots to attract the creature. (Honestly, I laughed harder every time Matt worked himself up for another screechy Bigfoot call.) All they manage to prove, however, is that if you go into the woods at night, you’re likely to hear all sorts of sounds, very few of which will turn out to be made by a Sasquatch.

I guess that’s why Finding Bigfoot amuses me more than Haunted Collector, the paranormal reality show I reviewed earlier this week. With the possible exception of Ranae, I get the feeling these people really believe in what they’re doing and are pretty much oblivious to the unintentional comedy they’re creating. It’s amazing how seriously Matt and Cliff, in particular, present such flimsy evidence as eyewitness testimony, footprints, and vague thermal images as definitive proof of the Sasquatch’s existence. Their excitable, grandiose pronouncements about what they’re doing are so at odds with what we’re actually seeing, I sometimes felt like I was watching a Christopher Guest mockumentary. I can’t wait until the episode where they finally find Bigfoot. It is going to be so awesome.

Stray observations:

  • In the BFRO lingo, the Sasquatch is often referred to simply as a “squatch.” This made me laugh pretty much every time, especially when Bobo announced, “It’s lookin’ good. It’s feelin’ squatchy.”
  • I also laughed when Bobo tumbled ass over teakettle off a porch. But I felt bad about it afterward.
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