“Witnesses around the world report seeing monsters. Are they real or imaginary? Science searches for answers…on MonsterQuest.” It’s a simple enough mission statement that perfectly encapsulates how even the most high-minded amongst us are not immune to the growing pressures of commercialization. As such, this summer season on the History Channel heralds the arrival of such fare as the returning Ice Truckers, the brand new Expedition Africa, and the ongoing complete waste of time that is MonsterQuest; shows that aren’t really educational and have sod all to do with history and that really only serve to siphon off the channel’s waning credibility.
“Witnesses around the world report seeing monsters…” They also report seeing Jesus in slices of toast, Elvis shopping at WalMart, and controlled explosions going off inside the twin towers. “Are they real or imaginary?” They’re imaginary. “Science searches for answers…” Please, don’t bother! Bring back the WWII marathons. Just please don’t waste our time! Sadly they do waste our time, an inordinate amount of it; looking, testing, searching, investigating, and utilizing some of the most high-tech equipment known to mankind. It’s a lot of adrenaline, a lot of exercise, and a lot of willpower and self-belief on the part of those involved. Sort of like a trip to the gym only this one lasts days at a time and costs tens of thousands of dollars.
This series documents the continued search for such legendary creatures as the likes of; Nessy, cattle killers, giant crocs, Jersey devils, sewer gators, the Yeti, Megaladon, and Bigfoot. See the key word here is “quest.” It’s not called MonsterFound or even MonsterBrieflyGlimpsed. Each week, despite extensive searching by a team of experts, they inevitably come up empty handed. It’s hard to fault the effort mind you. These guys really do believe they’re on to something (apart from grant money). Zoologists, exobiologists, paleontologists…if there is an -ologist's opinion to be solicited, they’ll solicit it. Employing state of the art sonar, carbon dating, and infrared cameras with roving underwater robotic gear, you can’t argue that they don’t approach this stuff as scientists. But watching them trying to convince themselves and maintain conviction in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is a bit like watching a comedian crash and burn live on stage.
In fact some of what we imagine passes for drive and commitment in this field borders on downright embarrassing. These guys will project onto anything if they think it will yield a break. An extensive ROV search of 128 different sonar pings recorded on the bed of Loch Ness coughed up plenty of potential evidence caught on murky underwater video. Is it a monster head or is it a rock? It’s a rock. Is it decomposing monster flesh or is it clay? It’s clay. Is it preserved bone from a monster carcass or is it clay? It’s clay. It’s clay from the clay bed that lines the bottom of this loch, formed out of the Great Glen Fault, which over the years has weathered into large deposits of clay!
A boating and diving expedition in the Gulf of California to locate a giant carnivorous predator locals refer to as “The Black Demon” is equally fruitful. After several days of spotters from a plane alerting a boat to the location of large dark shapes in the water, a sure sign of shark activity, divers finally make a confirmed sighting…of a shark; a whale shark to be precise. Large? Yes. Black? Certainly. Sadly though a whale shark does not posses any teeth and distinctly un-demonic. But naturally this does nothing to dissuade our intrepid investigators who vow to return and search another day. That’s really the ultimate problem with MonsterQuest. Not only does its team spectacularly fail to find almost anything pretty much every single time, but they’re not even prepared to debunk the myths that they can’t in any way corroborate. Always it seems we end up back where we started with unanswered questions and the old fall back that absence of proof is not necessarily proof of absence.
At a half hour format, totaling perhaps twenty-two minutes with commercials, such flights of fancy might be mildly diverting. But stretched to a full forty-five minutes and treated with such laboring, earnest, seriousness it’s in the end as dry as sawdust and not a great deal of fun. You see, just because some bearded fat guy in the Pacific Northwest dimly proclaims that the night he saw whatever the fuck it was he thinks he saw to be “the scariest night of my life”, doesn’t mean there is actually anything scary out there to be found.
Network: The History Channel
Showtime: Wednesdays, 9:00pm EST