"Explain to me the appeal of this, John." Dr. Reese leaned on the counter as she waited for the popcorn to finish. "I mean, those shows are just so trashy… not a shred of scientific fact behind them."
Johnathan West snickered. "That's exactly what makes them so fun, Margaret." He looked in the fridge, taking out a bottle of Vanilla Coke, the king of soft drinks. "It's so much damn fun to just sit down with a few guys from other departments, and laugh at History or Discovery or Science." Of course, he was talking about the various "educational" channels that were on cable TV.
"What about The Learning Channel? We're not going to watch… you know…"
Dr. West frowned, and shook his head at Dr. Reese. "Margaret, please. The Foundation is cold, not cruel. I don't think we even let D-Class watch those." He snickered at the thought of it. "Now come on. Tonight is a rerun of Ancient Aliens, and then that damn Mermaids…" He made quotes with his fingers on each syllable, "Documentary".
The popcorn finished, and was soon on its way to the employee lounge in Basement Level 3.
Dr. Tristan Bailey was in a giggle fit over the images on the screen. "Oh my God. West, pause it. For the love of God, pause it." And paused it was; on screen was an alien apparently within an ancient Egyptian bas-relief, the picture in black and white. Dr. Bailey pointed right at the alien. "Someone look at me right in the eye, without… without laughing, and tell me that looks real."
"…so much artifacting," said Dr. Hendricks, adjusting his eyeglasses. "My god. Aliens are not that blurry. Are they even trying?"
"This is made for the American Public, Dr. Swatter." Dr. West took a handful of popcorn and munched on it, Dr. Hendricks cringing at his nickname. "Most of them have to look at the back of Encyclopedia Brown books to get the answer. Besides, they eat up anything paranormal."
Dr. Bailey snickered, unpausing the video. "Kind of funny, though, isn't it? I mean, aliens do exist, along with half of the stuff that's featured on shows like this." He started counting off on his fingers. "Bigfoot, tulpas, werewolves, ghosts…"
Dr. West chimed in. "Cities on Mars, demons, the occult, dragons…"
"Goatmen, melonheads, The Loch Ness monster." Dr. Hendricks, who was part of the cryptozoology department, decided to start listing some as well. "Living dinosaurs, mermaids, unicorns…"
"Really? Unicorns? That's a new one on me, Hendricks." Hendricks stiffened, before remembering that Margaret was technically cleared to know about those and relaxing. Dr. Reese shook her head. "You'd think that they'd find just one bit of convincing evidence instead of having to fake every damn thing."
"That's the appeal of the show, Dr. Reese." Tristan reclined on the couch, sipping a stolen bottle of Vanilla Coke, the prince of soft drinks, only second to Mountain Dew. "The masses can believe, the rest of us can laugh."
"I've developed a theory," said Dr. West as he returned with another bowl of popcorn, "Explaining why these shows are so popular." The Ancient Aliens episode turned out to be a two-parter, so they needed more snacks. He sat next to Dr. Reese and offered her the bowl.
"Care to explain, Johnathan?" Dr. Hendricks chewed on a bit of gum. Without realizing it, he was actually making some very loud popping noises; Tristan gave him a dirty look, and he stopped.
"It's simple, Dr. Hendricks. The further the scientific credibility of something falls, the more popular it becomes. TLC became much more highly rated after it turned itself into the freakshow channel. Discovery became far more popular after Mythbusters came on the air-"
"What's your problem with Mythbusters, John?" Dr. Reese glowered at him. "My sister's kid watches it all the time; it at least tries to be educational."
West threw up his arms defensively. "I'm not saying it isn't educational, but it's pop. It doesn't teach any quantum physics; just basic science and chemistry, and maybe how to handle firearms."
"Normal people can't handle quantum physics." Tristan chuckled. "Hell, I could barely handle it when I first started getting education so I could work in Multi-U." He shook his head. "Trevor was always the one that was good at that, and he got diplomatic work. Go figure."
West sighed, stretching and totally not casually trying to put his arm around Dr. Reese's shoulder. "I call it the Theory of UnScientific Credibility." He looked around his seat. "Where the hell's my Coke?" West gave Tristan a suspicious look, shaking his head. "Whatever. What's this show on, anyway? Last one was about alien mummies."
"It's about how aliens killed the fucking dinosaurs," sighed Hendricks. "I'm glad we don't have a paleontology department here. They'd have killed this TV loooong ago."
They flipped to Animal Planet next. Mermaids: The Body Found was on; it was about midnight. "Last one,"Margaret said, looking at Dr. Hendricks. "Jason, is it true what they say about this one?"
Jason Hendricks frowned at Dr. Reese, scratching his birthmark. "What do they say about it? That it's complete and utter scientific garbage?"
"I think she's referring to the rumor that this is a Foundation cover op," said Dr. West, rubbing his stubble. "Which it isn't… right, Dr. Swatter?" Jason swatted his own forehead at the nickname and sighed, West giving an apologetic look.
"No, it is not. It is, however, a travesty against common sense, cryptozoology, and the documentary genre." He threw his hands up at one of the merpeople on the screen. "I mean, for fuck's sake, an Atlantic Homo aquaticus isn't going to look the same as one from the Indian ocean. It's just so implausible!"
"…Is that really the only problem you have with it?" Tristan groaned. "I swear, if you're going to spend this entire mockumentary pointing out all the inconsistencies with actual merpeople, I'm leaving." West threw an empty soda bottle at the back of Tristan's head.
"Don't be an ass, Bailey. You'd be doing the same if this was an episode of Through the Wormhole." Tristan muttered something about how that show was actually okay, and John looked at Dr. Hendricks. "You were saying?"
"Well, for one thing, they're not evolved from apes; they're evolved from fish. They shouldn't look humanoid, they should look piscine. Their arms are too long, and they only have two of them, and there's absolutely no decoration for mating rituals." He looked at Dr. West. "I actually have a thesis I wrote about freshwater Homo aquaticus that you can probably get from the archives, if you want."
"I'll look it up some time, Jason." He leaned back on the couch. "…Wait, aren't those baleen whales? Why the hell would they eat something humanoid?"
"Everybody?" Tristan raised a finger into the air over his head. "3… 2… 1…" He brought it down.
"It just raises too many questions," said the entire group simultaneously. They all broke into a snickering fit afterwards.
"Welp," Dr. West stood from the couch and started stretching and turning off the TV. "That was bullshit. All of it. 100% bullshit."
"At least it makes you think," said Hendricks, rotating his shoulders and heading for the door of the lounge. "It makes you think about a universe where the laws of evolution are sideways and backwards, and where aliens killed the dinosaurs." He looked at Tristan. "I… is there a universe like that?"
"I've counted at least ten," said Dr. Bailey, chewing on a stick of gum he had borrowed from Hendricks. "In five of those, the Dinosaurs fought back during the Cretaceous; in two of them, they're the dominant species. The dinosaurs, not the aliens."
"Well," Dr. Reese yawned. "That was fun, but it's bedtime for me. I have tests to run tomorrow on that thing we recovered from the crash site. Hendricks, your department is co-supervising that, yes?"
"Considering that the creatures on there may have been sapient, it's a bit of a gray area until proven otherwise. But we'll be checking in every now and then, yes." Dr. Hendricks rubbed his eyes, and started walking off. "Well, g'night everyone."
"Night, Dr. Sw-Hendricks!" Johnathan managed to catch himself before he said "Swatter", and looked at Tristan, as the remaining three started walking down the hallway. "Say, Bailey, maybe we could invite Ewell to the next one? Or Sinclair or someone else?"
"Now that you mention it, there is something on about Nazis and demonology next week on History…"