Animal Planet nets its biggest audience with ‘Mermaids’


Scene from “Mermaids: The New Evidence.” (Animal Planet)
May 28, 2013

Animal Planet is mulling more mermaids after Sunday night’s “Mermaids: The New Evidence” — its follow-up to last year’s “Mermaids: The Body Found” “documentary” — clocked the network’s biggest audience. Ever.

“It has us thinking about what we do next,” Animal Planet GM Marjorie Kaplan acknowledged to The TV Column — after Nielsen noted that “The New Evidence” attracted an average of 3.6 million viewers.

“We’re thinking big,” said Kaplan about internal talks to keep this ratings gravy train going.

One year earlier, “The Body Found” netted 3.4 million viewers. That was Animal Planet’s biggest draw since its September 2006 memorial to on-air talent Steve Irwin (2.7 million viewers), who died after being pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while filming an underwater documentary.

Animal Planet did not give the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration a heads-up last weekend that it was running a second mermaid “docu.” In “The New Evidence,” a “Paul Robertson” — described to viewers as a former NOAA scientist who led last year’s “investigation” — was interviewed by “journalist Jon Frankel” about “new evidence of mermaids that only has come forward in the past year.”

When the original “Mermaids” special ran, NOAA got pelted with so many demands for more information on its mermaid discoveries that the agency felt compelled to issue a statement on its Web site that said: “No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.”

That, in spite of all the “evidence” presented in the first program, including cave drawings, mysterious deep-ocean bloops and evidence of injuries to beached whales that could only have been perpetrated by fish that were part-woman with an axe to grind against whales.

“They handled it beautifully — with aplomb,” Kaplan said of NOAA’s response to the brouhaha over the first mermaid special. She added that she’s “pleased to note [that] you can’t be sued by the government” even for making a living hell of the lives of staffers at one of its agencies by airing horseradish masquerading as documentary.

‘Candelabra’ scores big

They’re no mermaids, but Michael Douglas masquerading as aging, blinged-out celebrity pianist Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover, Scott Thorson, lured 2.4 million viewers to HBO on Sunday night at 9. That’s the pay-cable net’s biggest crowd for an original movie unveiling in nearly a decade.

And at 11 p.m., when HBO ran “Behind the Candelabra” all over again, an additional 1.1 million tuned in.

“ ‘Behind the Candelabra’ performs grandly,” the network boasted when the numbers came in Tuesday on the made-for-TV movie, directed by Steven Soderbergh.

“Candelabra” ran ratings circles around HBO’s most recent biopic, “Phil Spector,” in which Al Pacino played the bewigged weirdsmobile record producer, who was convicted of second-degree murder after actress Lana Clarkson turned up dead in his house in 2003.

Only 754,000 caught the “Spector” opening; an additional 290,000-ish watched the rerun on opening night.

“Candelabra” is based on Thorson’s settling-the-score book about his relationship and breakup with the wildly popular entertainer, “Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace.”

“Behind the Candelabra” snared HBO’s best original-movie opening stats since its May ’04 launch of “Something the Lord Made” (2.6 million viewers).

Lowe to play JFK

Rob Lowe, who played the creeptastic plastic surgeon in “Candelabra,” has come down with another case of Potomac Fever.

This time, Lowe — who’s previously played the White House deputy communications director on NBC’s “The West Wing” and a senator on ABC’s soap “Brothers & Sisters” — will play President John F. Kennedy in NatGeo’s “Killing Kennedy,” based on Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s book of the same name.

The story begins in 1959 and follows Kennedy and assassin Lee Harvey Oswald until their paths cross in Dallas in 1963.

“Killing Kennedy” is set to unveil later this year, timed to the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination in November.

It’s NatGeo’s second go-round with Lowe this year. In April, he narrated the six-part miniseries “The ’80s: The Decade that Made Us.”

Hey! Isn’t that the decade that Lowe campaigned for presidential candidate Michael Dukakis and picked up two chicks in a nightclub at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta — and changed the course of his career for a while?

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/
tvblog.

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