Skeptical Review: 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty, Episode 1
January 13, 2014
online). This reality competition show is pitting ten teams of Bigfoot hunters against each other in a race to collect actual, verifiable evidence of the existence of Bigfoot. If a team can do it, they will get $10 million dollars. Can they do in seven episodes what others have failed to do for decades?"Approximately 15,000 new species are found every year, so there's every reason to believe that Bigfoot will be found." So says Dean Cain in the opening of the $10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty (10MBB), the new reality show airing Friday nights on Spike TV (you can also watch it
While I'm sure there will be more than a few Reality TV sites and Bigfoot believer sites talking about the show, it seemed like a fun idea to watch 10MBB and review the series with a skeptical eye. So for the next few weeks I'm going to be posting thoughts and commentary every Monday.
As a preface, if you haven't watched the first episode yet (and even if you have), I highly recommend listening to the latest episode of MonsterTalk [you should be listening to MonsterTalk anyways], where the two non-Ex-Superman hosts of the show, Dr. Todd Disotell and Natalia Reagan, really did a fine job of explaining the show behind the hype. In all seriousness, that interview completely changed my mind on giving this series a chance.
Enough setup. On to Episode 1!
10MBB is a competition, so of course the episode begins with introducing the ten teams vying for the prize. The contestants are a finely balanced demographic salad, just like all these sorts of reality competitions are. There's the African-American team; the Native American team; the Two Women team; and then a spectrum of Caucasians from young to old, plain to attractive, and boring to insane, paired up either man-woman or man-man. Completely lacking seemed to be a team of trained skeptics; though one team claimed to be "highly skeptical" of Bigfoot's existence, none are presented as filling a skeptical role on the series. Pretty much every group thinks there's something out there to actually find.
Some of the teams stood out early. Stacey & Dave started off on the wrong foot by trying to equate their potential Bigfoot discovery with Neil Armstrong's Moon landing; I'm calling them Team Dudebro from here on out. I quickly loathed Matthew & Julie, who I am predicting is the team most likely to shoot another contestant this season; I'm calling them Team Most Dangerous Game. I kind of liked Michael & Kat, even though Michael is an "outdoorsman" while Kat is a "ghost hunter" and they don't seem to have any real-world connection to each other; they shall be Team Odd Couple. Finally, I couldn't wait to hear more from Justin & Ro, the most deluded team in the field. Well, Justin is deluded; Ro just seems along for Mr. Justin's Wild Ride. Still, Justin claims to have killed a Bigfoot and Ro co-produced the movie about it, so they are definitely Team Crazy. The rest of the field wasn't terribly noteworthy so far.
The show moved quickly to the Field Test, the first challenge of the game. Each episode begins with a small-scale challenge which can win a team a benefit in the second challenge (pretty typical for a reality competition). The Field Tests are also where the hunters are taught "essential skills needed to track down Bigfoot" -- which, as it turns out, means teaching these non-scientists some basic scientific method! This week, the hunters learn how to properly collect a DNA sample with a biopsy dart. It's the best skill to lead off with since a DNA sample is the way the hunters can win the big prize.
The teams head off into a wild game preserve to collect samples and very quickly Team Crazy prove they're the team to beat -- at least in terms of television-worthy antics. In an effort to hide their scent, Justin begins to roll around in some mud and scat, and convinces Ro to do the same. Justin even puts some scat inside his mouth to mask his breath. I love this guy!
The rest of the Hunt segment is used by the editors to set up a conflict between Team MDG and Dax & Rictor, a pair of Bigfoot enthusiasts who as of this point have not inspired a team name. Team MDG dismisses Dax & Rictor as amateurs; Dax & Rictor call Team MDG "Biff & Buffy," which made me like them a little more. A little while later, when Team MDG wins the Field Test, they're clearly being set up as the team everyone hates.
After the Field Test was a segment where Natalia and Dr. Todd asked the contestants about their Bigfoot encounters. Team Crazy ratchets up their game at this point when Justin claims to have killed not just one, but TWO Bigfoots, including a juvenile that he says he strangled to death. When Natalia asks him if he brought back sample proof, he claims that he has, and that the samples tested as "Feral Human." Dr. Todd quickly points out that you can't tell if something is feral through their DNA because it's a behavior, and so Justin's samples were human, and if so, "he's committed murder." It was a nice moment of calling out a probably made-up story with some basic skeptical criticism.
Finally, we get to the Hunt -- an all-night Sasquatch search where the teams are (thankfully!) armed only with biopsy darts. [I really can't wait for the episode where someone -- probably Team MDG -- shoots another contestant.] The lack of critical thinking on display during the Hunt is stunning. Every hair is possibly Bigfoot hair; every scat chunk is possibly Bigfoot scat; every shadow is possibly Bigfoot's shadow. Even something obviously NOT from Bigfoot, like elk scat, gets viewed as evidence because they're a potential "food source" for Bigfoot and so elk scat means Bigfoot may be nearby!
Then Team Crazy does it again. They identify a "possible Bigfoot cave," because apparently it's known that Bigfoot lives in caves, I guess? Justin tells us that "the chances of this being a Bigfoot shelter are probably 70 or 80 percent," and who am I to argue with the psychopath who strangled a Bigfoot child? Anyway, it's a fun excuse to watch them crawl awkwardly into a crevasse and collect some chewed pine nuts.
Then, at 2am and clearly exhausted, Dax & Rictor become my second favorite team of the show when they -- I am not making this up -- pull out a lightsaber to help them hunt Bigfoot. Their rationale is that their toy will create lights & sounds that will be unfamiliar to Bigfoot, and thus will draw Bigfoot's curiosity and draw him nearer. Because apparently it's known that Bigfoot doesn't shy away from strange sights and sounds like most animals, I guess? Anyway, say hello to Team Jedi.
The rest of the Hunt segment is spent watching Team Dudebro, Team Odd Couple, and Team Jedi chase an animal noise that they think may be Sasquatch vocalizations. I couldn't tell if the audio we heard was the audio the contestants were actually recording or if they were added post-production; in either case, it sounded avian to me. The contestants were absolutely certain they were Bigfoot calls, with one team even saying that Bigfoot was "taking" to them.
Act three is the Evidence Review, and here is where the hidden skeptical genius of 10MBB came out. It was ten glorious minutes of Dr. Todd and Natalia calling out all ten teams on their shoddy logic and flawed evidence collecting. Moss that looked like hair, scat samples without testable DNA, a gnawed on bone ("If you see a tooth mark, it doesn't have to be Bigfoot's," Dr. Todd remarked at one point), and even a couple of plaster casts get rejected one by one, and each one gets a little skeptical explanation as to why it's poor evidnece. The closest thing to a real sample to come out of it was a scat sample with mammal DNA (non-primate), collected by Donnie & Donnell, aka Team DonDon.
One team, Travis & January, actually came back with no evidence, arguing that they had higher standards than the other teams and didn't want to just "bring in bear crap when we know it's bear crap." While I definitely respect Travis & January's logical position, they let their standards win out over playing the game. At least bringing in bear crap would have given them the chance to be the second worst team of the week. Not surprisingly, as the only team with nothing to present, they were eliminated.
The winner of the challenge was Team DonDon, and here's the crazy part: while they may be the most competent and level-headed hunters this week, they're apparently pretty boring because we got almost ZERO screen time with them. This tells you something about the editing priorities of 10MBB. Team DonDon's complete lack of screen time despite being the winners says to me that they won't be sticking around the competition for long and thus were not worth developing as characters on the show.
So much for Episode 1 of the 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty. I am a sucker for reality competitions like this, and I'm a sucker for Bigfoot, so I'm definitely going to stick around for the rest of the series, even though I'm pretty sure that legitimate Bigfoot evidence will not be found on the show. Let's face it: if Spike TV really HAD concrete evidence of Bigfoot, they would not be airing it at 10pm EST on a Friday night. Still, 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Challenge should be a fun ride.
Did you watch 10MBB? What did you think? Let's talk about the show in the comments section.
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