Hundreds of viewers of the Discovery Channel, maddened by the Megalodon mockumentary, Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives, that kicked off Shark Week, did not appreciate it that a network they’d come to rely on for dispensing scientifically based programs over the years would air a fake documentary. They openly expressed their displeasure in their Facebook pages.
If the SyFy Channel airs a movie like Sharknado, everyone who views it knows that it’s fictional right from the start. That’s fine, and the SyFy Channel doesn’t try to pass it off as being anything other than good cheesy fun.
However, Shark Week has been a staple for the Discovery Channel for over twenty-five years now, and for that time it has been firmly grounded in science. People who tune in expect to be shown factual programming, which might educate, enlighten, and/or intrigue them.
That’s why, when the Discovery Channel on Sunday night aired the special on Megalodon still existing today when it’s long been considered to be extinct, with doctored photos, CGI in video footage, and scientists that don’t actually exist, viewers got more than a little bit irate.
Included in the mockumentary was a supposedly “unearthed” photo from World War II by the Nazis — shades of Indiana Jones — featuring a giant fin off the side of one of their U-Boats.
To the credit of Discovery Channel, the show did have a few quick disclaimers at the end that basically revealed that the show wasn’t an actual documentary. However, the disclaimers went by too quickly to read them very well. The show would have had to be recorded and then paused to read them in their entirety.
One typical comment of a maddened fan who had tuned in to watch an educational show to kick off Shark Week wrote:
You should be ashamed. Not only did you show us a faked documentary on what used to be an educational series, but you also made the fake shark into a man-eater. You have spent 25 years trying to change that mindset in people. Do you want people to start killing sharks out of fear, again? I can only be thankful that most people realized you were lying.”
Another ticked-off person wrote:
We want facts on Discovery Channel. Leave fabricated science-fiction to the SyFy Channel. Shame on you for this megalodon show.”
There was also the snidely-suggested alternative to the Discovery Channel’s program that one viewer mentioned:
Tune in to Nat Geo Wild tonight for SharkFest, where they actually show real life sharks!”
A person who writes for the Discover Magazine, in an open letter to the channel, wrote:
Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives was not just a disservice to your genuinely curious audience. It was a lie. You used your reputation to deceive your viewers, and you didn’t even apologize for it.”
Then, there was Wil Wheaton’s disgruntled tweet:
Remember when #SharkWeek was about science and biology and learning?”
On Sunday, Discovery Channel’s Megalodon mockumentary maddened viewers who have come to expect more from the channel than fictionalized accounts presented as the truth. Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives would have a better home on some other channel, provided that viewers were informed right at the beginning of the show that it was a movie or mockumentary.
Written by: Douglas Cobb