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NO SWEAT

Skunk Ape's weird science

Mysterious Encounters Outdoor Life Network, Wednesday, 10 p.m.

October 21, 2003|Chuck Thompson

In attempting to put "proof behind the legend" of wooly wilderness creatures, this new series challenges viewers to decide whether bad science necessarily produces bad TV.

Employing "Blair Witch" techniques -- jittery subjects interviewed with infrared cameras at extremely close range -- the "encounters team" optimistically seeks out such mythical beasts as the Florida Skunk Ape and Alabama Booger Monster.

Leader Autumn Williams is introduced as a "nationally known cryptozoologist." In fact, she's a 29-year-old Oregon-based data programmer and musician whose lifelong amateur sleuthing is fueled by a Big Foot encounter she alleges she had as a child. Credibility isn't advanced when Williams describes an Alabama swamp as "the snakebite capital of the world," then conducts field research in shorts.

The cumulative result is campy if unintentional humor. Williams uncovers no monsters but might attract a following typically enthralled by sham science and hyperbolic speculation.

-- Chuck Thompson

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