Discovery Channel’s Shark Week has become a bit of an institution. It’s been around for twenty five years now, and is an event that MC usually looks forward to. Even with some of their “weaker”* shows in the past, there were still interesting and/or educational nuggets that could be taken away from the experience. This week began no differently. We tuned in, MC watching from the bedroom while I was doing some things in the kitchen.
And this is the point where I will echo Wil Wheaton:
…In a cynical ploy for ratings, the network deliberately lied to its audience and presented fiction as fact. Discovery Channel betrayed its audience.
An entire generation has grown up watching Discovery Channel, learning about science and biology and physics, and that generation trusts Discovery Channel. We tune into Discovery Channel programming with the reasonable expectation that whatever we’re going to watch will be informative and truthful. We can trust Discovery Channel to educate us and our children about the world around us! That’s why we watch it in the first place!
… Discovery Channel betrayed that trust during its biggest viewing week of the year. Discovery Channel isn’t run by stupid people, and this was not some kind of mistake. Someone made a deliberate choice to present a work of fiction that is more suited for the SyFy channel as a truthful and factual documentary.
That covers the bases. The “special” opened with “found footage” of a boat attack (um, hello? Really? Science plausibility: wouldn’t salt water fuck up the electronics?)… I zoned out afterwards. MC said it reminded her of the Mermaid specials that Discovery/Animal Planet has run before. Hmmm… as I look at that line about the Mermaid specials, it’s not quite so surprising after all.
I’m all for hypothetical scenarios… the “what if…?” is always a good thing to explore. While I’m not quite at the extreme of saying Discovery betrayed their audience (see previous comment about the Mermaids specials), what I do believe is that they violated the established trust and expectations that the audience brings into Shark Week . That is the issue I have. Too many of these kinds of shows, and Shark Week runs the risk of losing some of its following, or becoming less relevant than it has been for the last generation.