The latest chapter in Discovery Channel‘s scaly salt-water empire Shark Week, breaking ratings records with a mixture of legitimate science and horror since 1987, raised some eyebrows back on land.
Seems that the “documentary” Megaladon: The Monster Shark That Lives played fast and loose with the facts while producers hoped no one would notice.
In case you were never a 12-year-old boy, the megaladon was a prehistoric creature with teeth the size of a human hand which, as you may surmise from the special’s title, may still be alive and terrorizing the world’s oceans today.
Fans of accuracy in media will be disappointed to know that this is not even remotely true. The big deal, really, is Discovery’s failure to include a “none of this is real, BTW” disclaimer beyond a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it notice aired during the last minutes of the show calling it a “film” based on “legend.” Quite a few people fell for this nonsense, too: if you believe the channel’s super official megaladon poll, only 21% of viewers think the shark is definitely extinct. (We wonder how they feel about Bat Boy.)
The completely unrelated Discover magazine won’t take it lying down (which is apparently something sharks never do). Their editorial staff responded with an “open letter” blog post calling the special “120 minutes of bullshit” and shaming Shark Week for assorted falsehoods that might damage its scientific credibility (ha ha).
Discovery’s poor excuse for a response won’t satisfy anyone, either. Spokesperson and executive producer Michael Sorenson said his channel was right to “explore the possibilities of Megalodon,” which is “one of the most debated shark discussions of all time.” He added:
“It’s Ultimate Shark Week fantasy. The stories have been out there for years and with 95% of the ocean unexplored, who really knows?”
Nice dodge, dude. However you may feel about this controversy, quite a few fans have expressed their frustration on the channel’s Facebook page, correctly noting that Discovery and its sister network TLC broadcast a whole bunch of garbage (no “learning” here). Investors.com even claims that this stunt harmed Discovery’s reputation, but we’re not so sure—Megaladon set records for viewership, so we should expect more flimflammery to follow.
But if Shark Week does fire any of its producers or experts/actors, they can always get consulting gigs on SharkNado 2….