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Discover Channel’s Shark Week should be a win-win on multiple levels. It gives viewers something to be excited about. It imparts wisdom into the world, and it increases awareness about the problems the creatures face. How could anyone possibly have a problem with that? Well, unfortunately, it turns out that whole “imparting wisdom” into the world level might not be as wholesome as it would seem. In fact, a whole lot of pissed off viewers are accusing Discovery Channel of intentionally disseminating false information.
This year’s programming features the shows Darkness: Wrath Of Submarine and Monster Hammerhead. The former follows a 35-foot great white shark who supposedly attacks people, and the latter follows a 60-year-old hammerhead that just won’t die. On paper, they sound riveting, but according to IFLScience, they’re both based on lies. Apparently, they include warnings prior to the episodes claiming the existences of the creaturs are “controversial”, but “controversial” is nothing more than a nice way of saying “fabricated”. Hammerhead sharks can’t live to be more than 44-years-old and this great white shark in question doesn’t exist. As such, thousands of people have reportedly sent in angry emails about the misinformation.
Now, there are two ways to look at this whole situation. In the sake of fairness, let’s go ahead and look at both. On the one hand, Discovery Channel has every right to produce a mockumentary about a fake Shark Week. It fits very well into the theme, and it creates entertaining content for viewers. It also allows them to vary up the programming and to get a little more creative. Some fans no doubt appreciate this, and despite some complaints, fake shark Megolodon proved very popular with fans last year, despite the same types of complaints.
On the other hand, however, there’s something to be said for the loud of chorus of jeers the fake programming has got since it was first introduced. A good percentage of viewers are not savvy enough to figure out when well-produced content is actually a mockumentary. The warning at the beginning of the show is intentionally vague, and the programming includes real interviews with shark experts. There are rumors swirling that these experts may have actually been duped by producers who had them talk about different subject matter and edited it later. If so, that’s definitely over the line.
If these mockumentaries continue putting up big ratings, there’s no way Discovery Channel is going to go away from them. That being said, there is reason to be hopeful that the network may decide to be a little more overt about letting others know they’re watching a mockumentary and ideally, hire actors to play the “experts” imparting their wisdom about the fake sharks. That seems like the best of both worlds, no?
That being said, I would take a documentary on Saturday Night Live's Land Shark immediately, regardless of how it was presented.