I took two hours out of my life to sit down and watch The History Channel's "Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide" last night. I must say that I was unimpressed. There were a few bright spots but they were few and far between.
The program promoted the notion that a team of scientists had discovered, via extensive analysis, "global hotspots" where sightings have occurred on a regular basis throughout history. The suggestion was that something new was going to be shared. Instead, we "learned" the "hotspots" discovered were the Pacific Northwest, the Himalayas, Caucasus Mountains, and Indo-China. These areas are well known for sightings of upright, hair-covered, hominids. Certainly, nothing new was revealed there. Worse than that, however, was the way other areas that have a long history of sightings were ignored or, in the case of Florida, simply blown off. I found the theory that the Florida skunk ape sightings could be explained by a couple of escaped chimps to be absolutely laughable. This explanation was all the more astonishing as just prior to this statement the narrator had proclaimed the warm swamps of Florida to be an ideal habitat for a great ape.
The treatment of the Patterson-Gimlin footage was equally disturbing. Interestingly, the film was simply called the "Patterson film" in the program, which I found odd as there was another individual present, Bob Gimlin, when this footage was captured. Dr. Jeff Meldrum gave a very calm and well thought out explanation of why he felt there was a good chance the footage was genuine. The counter argument given by his British counterpart was simply, "I totally disagree...it just screams of a man in a costume." No arguments given to support this position, just that statement. Pretty weak. That is about as far as the "analysis" went. Instead, the program turned to an investigative reporter who attacked the credibility of Roger Patterson. Suddenly, the reason Bob Gimlin's name was never mentioned became clear. He would have rebutted many of the points made by the reporter. I understand why many have questions about Roger Patterson and I would not have minded the subject being discussed had someone, preferably Bob Gimlin, been given the opportunity to present the other side of the story. I suppose it is possible the producers contacted Gimlin and he declined to appear. As it was, though, the segment came across as a smear job against a dead man who could not defend himself. I wonder if that investigative reporter would have made his assertions of the film-maker(s) not being credible quite so strongly had he had to look Bob Gimlin in the eyes as he said it.
For me, the program went from being underwhelming and mediocre to downright ridiculous when the theory was advanced that, instead of seeing an ape-like animal of some sort, witnesses might be catching glimpses of modern humans who have turned their backs on the trappings of modern society and gone feral or reclusive Squamish shamans in training. This was, no doubt, the idea behind the final line in the promotional tease that stated, "...new theories suggest we may have been looking for the wrong creature all along." Fortunately, this theory only hung out there for the length of one commercial break before it was summarily dismissed. After all, the sightings are too widespread to be attributed to feral humans or shamans. Neither would this theory explain the extraordinary size of putative sasquatch prints or the massive creatures described by witnesses.
There were a few bright spots in the program though they, too, were few and far between. I thought mentioning the recent discovery of the Bili Ape in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo was appropriate. The Bili Ape is a massive chimpanzee-like primate that can stand up to 5 feet tall and weigh 300 lbs. These apes were considered pure myth by most mainstream scientists despite the fact that the indigenous people of the region insisted the mysterious "lion-killing" apes were real. The species was brought to light by primatologist Shelly Williams who first observed them in 2002. Also, I thought the short segment on how Dr. Meldrum and wildlife biologist John Mionczynski were working with cadaver dogs, in the hopes that they could be trained to track a sasquatch, was interesting. Unfortunately, this portion of the program was glossed over in only a couple of minutes and not brought up again. I thought the discussion of the sasquatch possibly being a type of pre-historic man was interesting. The mention of Homo heidelbergensis as a possible candidate was new to me and was much more plausible than the feral modern human or reclusive shaman theory posited later in the program.
All in all, "Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide" was a disappointment. It was good to see that the program promoted the idea that there is a biological basis behind the sasquatch enigma. Very little new ground was covered, however, and the program blundered into the realm of the ridiculous with the shaman theory. Ultimately, it was the way the program insinuated that sightings of bigfoot in areas other than the "hotspots" identified by the panel were merely the product of overactive imaginations stimulated by the Patterson-Gimlin (I will use both names, thank you) footage disturbed me the most. The suggestion that areas outside the identified "hotspots" had no history of sightings prior to 1967 is inaccurate and points to a lack of homework by the producers.
This is one program that will not be added to my DVD collection any time soon.