In June, we posted about two fake documentaries about mermaids, aired by the Animal Planet, which is owned by the Discovery Channel. Despite being presented as fact, the mermaid documentaries were entirely fictional. There was a brief disclaimer in the closing credits, though it seems unlikely that anyone noticed. Apparently, the Discovery Channel is perfectly happy to present fiction as fact if it helps in the ratings. Recently, they were at it again with their presentation of “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives” another wholly fictional “documentary” which suggests that the long extinct giant shark, megalodon, which lived approximately 28 to 1.5 million years ago, is still swimming around in the ocean attacking fishing boats and what not.
The fictional “documentary” kicked off the ever popular Discovery Channel “Shark Week” and got the highest ratings ever for a Shark Week episode, 4.8 million viewers and a 2.6 rating with adults 25-54. Then something very interesting happened. The internet erupted in a feeding frenzy of angry viewers, stirring up the world of social media like sharks around a chum bucket. Apparently many Shark Week fans are really interested in sharks, real sharks, not badly produced fantasy sharks, so when Discovery Channel broadcasts this sort of fiction with actors standing in for scientists and fake press conferences about shark attacks that never took place, many viewers were annoyed, angry, pissed off, really not happy.
The title of the Geekohead post sums it up - Internet Officially Mad at Shark Week for Airing a Fake Megalodon Documentary.
Shark Week’s Facebook page immediately filled up with angry posts. A few typical typical angry reactions:
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Shark Week sank to this level after the documentary where the “researchers” pretended to remake the movie Jaws. Frankly I have lost all respect for the network with this as there was no disclaimer that the footage was fake. Nothing on the guide, episode info, in no way is the network making sure viewers are aware this is “fiction.” Now I look and tonight’s line-up is much the same. One good documentary followed by a sensational pile of drek that isn’t worth the effort to not watch it about sharks in swamps eating people. I am a huge fin-atic, and to have my love for these animals and this week of programming perverted in this way is one more slap in the face regarding this channel.
Shark week is absolutely my favorite week for TV each year. I post about it and share my excitement with everyone. However this year I would like to express my utter disappointment with the FAKE megalodon so called documentary last night. Opening shark week with something like that was a joke. The acting was almost as terrible as the fake footage. Completely dissatisfied. Please never show anything fake for your shark week fans again or plan to lose a lot of viewers!
We want facts on Discovery Channel. Leave fabricated science-fiction to the SyFy Channel. Shame on you for this megalodon show.
Are you ready to say sorry for megalodon? Please bring us the facts on sharks now. We want information and real stories not lies and falsehoods.
The comments on Twitter echoed the anger. Many viewers are now boycotting the rest of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week to show their displeasure. And of course, science bloggers have also let their feeling be known. Christine Wilcox penned “Shark Week Jumps The Shark: An Open Letter To Discovery Communications” on the Discover Magazine blog.
This year’s Shark Week kick-off special, Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives, claimed to provide evidence that these massive beasts are still out there, using scattered anecdotes and scientific testimony to support the assertion. There’s only one problem: the entire “documentary” wasn’t real.
No whale with a giant bite taken out of it has ever washed up here in Hawaii. No fishing vessel went mysteriously missing off of South Africa in April. No one has ever found unfossilized Megalodon teeth. Collin Drake? Doesn’t exist. The evidence was faked, the stories fabricated, and the scientists portrayed on it were actors. The idea that Megalodon could still be roaming the ocean is a complete and total myth.
Wil Wheaton, writer and actor, of Star Trek fame notes succinctly:
Discovery Channel started Shark Week with a completely fake, completely made-up, completely bullshit “documentary” and they lied to their audience about it. They presented it as real.
The fake documentary even made onto the Scopes urban legend site: MEGALODON, The MONSTER SHARK LIVES Claim: a megalodon capsized a South African charter vessel in April 201. FALSE
It looks like the Megalodon mess could come back to bite the Discovery Channel in the ass.