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Bigfoot, Tattoos and the Apocalypse

Recently cable networks have explored unique topics that at first glance may seem strange or unorthodox, but nevertheless have found a loyal and passionate audience.

For decades, traditional media has poked fun at the legend of Bigfoot (e.g., the Sasquatch-themed Slim Jim commercials). But to Animal Planet and Spike TV, the legend is no laughing matter.

Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot, in which true believers actually seek out evidence to prove the existence of the Sasquatch, is one of the network’s toprated shows. The Nov. 11 second-season premiere of the series drew nearly 1.3 million viewers, more than double the network’s primetime audience of 600,000 during the week.

Recently, Spike TV literally upped the ante on efforts to find the elusive beast. The network has green-lighted a 10-episode series, The $10 Million Bigfoot Bounty, that will award $10 million to anyone who can provide irrefutable evidence that Bigfoot is walking among us.

It used to be that only villains or really cool biker guys donned tattoos on television shows. Now it seems that every popular reality series character has at least one moderately sized tattoo.

The industry has been credited — for better or for worse — with successfully bringing what once was considered a closed, underground tattoo subculture into the mainstream with shows like A&E’s Inked and Spike’s Tattoo Nightmares and Ink Master.

Of course, none of this will matter if the ancient Mayan calendar is correct and the world as we know it ends next month. National Geographic Channel has given a voice to survivalists with its top-rated show, Doomsday Preppers. Its sophomore season premiered on Nov. 13 to an audience of 1.3 million viewers and 863,000 adults 25 to 54 — both records for a Nat Geo returning-series debut.

The series’ collection of ordinary Americans preparing for the end of the world has connected with viewers — many of whom, in light of Superstorm Sandy, may be thinking twice about labeling these characters as crazy and irrational alarmists.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.