Find Bigfoot? No. Move Mt. Hood? Why not?
Nobody on the cable show “Finding Bigfoot” can actually find Bigfoot, but they can, apparently, move an entire volcano a couple hundred miles.
Which seems to me even more implausible than the notion that an unidentified bipedal primate has been slinking around the forests of the Northwest for decades yet not one has been clipped by a Camry on the freeway.
Wolves can’t even avoid that fate, and wolves are more nimble than any biped.
I watch “Finding Bigfoot.”
I would describe this as a guilty pleasure except I don’t get a great deal of pleasure from the experience.
Nor do I feel especially guilty, although this is mainly because by the standards of reality TV, “Finding Bigfoot” ranks as highbrow content.
(Seen “Call of the Wildman” or “Pit Bulls and Parolees” lately? One member of “Finding Bigfoot” has more teeth than the entire cast of some of these shows.)
I’ve long been fascinated by Bigfoot as a subject, and no program in the cryptozoological genre since “In Search Of” in the 1970s has achieved the cultural resonance of “Finding Bigfoot” and its cast of occasionally earnest but generally goofy male monster hunters.
(The lone female among the foursome, Ranae Holland, is the show’s token skeptic, and only rarely can she be described as goofy. It is no coincidence that she also is the only one of the group with scientific credentials.)
Three years after its debut, “Finding Bigfoot” more often disappoints than intrigues me. Its great flaw isn’t the failure to find Bigfoot — I knew going in that wasn’t going to happen — but rather the series’ preference for choosing locations east of the Mississippi in which to unleash its ample supply of FLIR thermal imagers and cheesy CGI depictions of the big hirsute fellow.
If Bigfoot exists — and for me the likelihood drops a few percentage points with every year that passes lacking indisputable evidence — I doubt the species lives in, say, New Jersey or Rhode Island, as “Finding Bigfoot” would have you believe.
The episode that premiered on June 29, by contrast, roused me a bit from my apathy.
The setting is the Blue Mountains of Southeastern Washington. That’s the closest to Baker County “Finding Bigfoot” has been, or is likely to ever be.
I had hoped since the series started that the crew would eventually show up there because the Blues — and in particular the part of the range southeast of Walla Walla and near Tollgate just across the border in Oregon — have produced dozens of sightings of purported Bigfoot as well as hundreds of footprints in the mud and snow over the past 40 years or so.
I figured I might at least recognize some of places in a Blue Mountains episode — something not likely when Ranae, Bobo, Cliff and Matt are tromping around West Virginia. Because, well, I’ve never been within 500 miles of West Virginia.
This in fact happened.
During the introduction to the June 29 episode I saw a most familiar sight.
Oregon’s highest peak, at 11,235 feet.
One of the more famous mountains in the U.S., and the most popular glaciated peak to climb in North America.
The iconic backdrop for Portland, and star of a thousand postcards and calendars.
That Mount Hood.
Unlike Bigfoot, this mountain has been studied extensively by geologists and volcanologists and other ologists whom Pierce Brosnan can’t portray with even an iota of believability.
What with it being so tall and all, visible on a clear day from a goodly chunk of Oregon, no one disputes the precise location of Mount Hood — in the Cascade Mountains about 40 miles east of Portland.
And the Cascades, as you probably noticed if you’ve ever driven from Baker City to The Dalles, or from Spokane to Seattle, are somewhat distant from the Blue Mountains.
Not quite beyond the curvature of the Earth — on a crystalline day you can glimpse the white tips of Hood and its volcanic siblings on the Washington side of the Columbia, Mounts Adams and Rainier, from Cabbage Hill on I-84 just east of Pendleton.
But still, the Blues and the Cascades are pretty far apart.
Yet both in the opening minute, and several times thereafter, the Blue Mountains episode of “Finding Bigfoot” showed Mount Hood in all its icy glory, the implication being that this is what Walla Walla residents see when they look out their living room windows.
Probably Walla Wallans, who mainly see wheat from their living room windows, were as surprised as I was by this revelation.
I understand that the people who make “Finding Bigfoot” want to show attractive and awe-inspiring vistas between scenes of their stars clomping around in the night woods with those ridiculous camera mount appendages jutting in front of them like some LSD-inspired hybrid of a unicorn’s horn and that harmonica rack Bob Dylan used to wear.
But the Blue Mountains in mid-winter are quite comely, even if they lack the vertiginous magnificence of a stratovolcano such as Mount Hood.
I don’t begrudge Animal Planet a fair amount of leeway — what you might call artistic license except “Finding Bigfoot” doesn’t quite qualify as art.
But dropping Mount Hood into an episode ostensibly shot in the Blue Mountains is akin to displaying a Monet in an exhibition of Picasso’s work.
“Finding Bigfoot,” of course, is to scientific rigor — and, apparently, geographic rigor — what Bill Clinton is to unimpeachable honesty.
Still and all, Animal Planet might save at least a smidgen of its credibility if it stops treating topography like so many chess pieces.
Plate tectonics might be able to move Mount Hood a couple hundred miles.
But not in a one-hour show.
Jayson Jacoby is editor