Last weekend the cable network stepped out of the box -- and into a little controversy -- when it aired the fake documentary Mermaids: The Body Found.
Mermaids' premiere was seen by nearly 2 million viewers, making it the channel's most-watched telecast since 2006's Steve Irwin memorial special.
Some likened the mock doc to The Blair Witch Project or War of the Worlds; it uses everything from fake "found" footage to fake news broadcasts to fake expert interviews to try to convince viewers of the creatures' existence. Thanks to the magic of CGI, mermaids appear to be swimming in the ocean. There's even a scene where a mermaid gives birth.
Even though Animal Planet aired a disclaimer saying the special was a work of science fiction (and this should be pretty obvious anyway), some viewers took it a little too seriously. Glance at Animal Planet's message boards, and you may be disturbed to see just how many folks believed what they saw.
If you'd like to see what all the fuss is about, head to Animal Planet's site to watch a trailer and clips:
By Whitney Matheson, USA TODAY
(Copyright © 2012 USA TODAY)