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As New York Times reviewer Neil Genzlinger noted, the story is "a fictional account built on a few strands of fact and made to look like an actual documentary. If you know those ground rules, it's a rather enjoyable and intriguing piece of work, in the same vein as 'The Blair Witch Project'." It seems that many people weren't aware of those ground rules, and were fooled into thinking that there was more fact than fancy in the show.
The title (and premise) of the show ("The Body Found") is of course completely fictional but hardly the first faux-documentary show to fool people. A 1995 Fox television special called "Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction" used many of the same techniques and convinced many people with superficially plausible (though faked) footage of an alien autopsy.
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With a sly wink, "Mermaids: The Body Found" presented a fictional story in fake-documentary format for added plausibility. There's a reason why so many horror films (especially supernatural-themed ones) claim to be based in fact or "on a true story," when they're not: it adds realism and interest. The program posed scientifically non-sensical questions like, "If massive whales haven't been discovered until recently, it answers why we haven't been able to detect mermaids yet?" (Answer: Whales have been studied for many decades and are not a "recent discovery;" the fact that genetic testing has revealed new subspecies of whales says nothing about why completely unknown mythical animals like mermaids have never been discovered.)