Discovering Science Friction: Snark Week 2013

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Well, this time, the Discovery Networks got me. In 2011, their Animal Planet channel tried to trick me with the Mermaids fraud-umentary, but I wasn’t having any of that. Plus, I recognized one of the actors in the show from some cheesy scifi movie I had previously watched.

Discovery tried again this year, with Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, aired during their annual Shark Week programming. I must admit, I do like watching all the shark shows. I think Mike Rowe got me hooked when he caught a Greenland Shark years ago. And of course, the Mythbusters always do some cool stuff for shark week.

Well, this year, I had just watched Jeremy Irons, of River Monsters, go after a Greenland shark in his Loch Ness special. So, I was pretty hyped for Shark Week. And I’m a big admirer of author Steve Alten (despite having only read a couple of his Meg books). So when I saw a show about Megalodons and some scientist believing they might still be around, I dropped into cryptid hunting mode and settled in to watch it.

Had I not missed the first few minutes of the “found footage” the two hour special starts with, I probably would have figured this out sooner. But my kids were being noisy and I came into the show late. Still, it seemed somehow different from a regular documentary. The main “scientist” seemed too well spoken. Not that scientists aren’t well spoken, but being passionate about their work, I find most of them to have this crazy gleam in their eyes, or a vacant, I’m-somewhere-else-right-now look about them when they talk on screen.

I should back up a moment- the premise for this Fraudumentary is that a group of tourists on a fishing boat went missing in April 2013. A camcorder was found with footage of their boat being attacked by… something. Enter Dr. Handsometalker and his crew of possibly actors, possibly actual divers, who race to South Africa to uncover what is really going on. What follows is a lot of Great White footage, some dives, some folklore, an eyewitness account or two and a lot of reality TV-like monologing from Dr. Handsometalker (I’ll clarify that I don’t think he’s handsome- the ‘net has branded him thusly).

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The first night I watched the show, bits and pieces of Megalodon lore sounded very familiar- like I said, I dig Steve Alten’s novel Meg and I’m a big B Movie fan, so I’ve seen all the giant shark movies. Plus, I do enjoy me some tinfoil hat websites like Anomalist.com, with all their UFO, Bigfoot, etcetera stuff. Fun reading. But, as often works out, I didn’t get to finish the show (thanks, kids) and recorded it for later.

The next day at work, I just couldn’t stand not knowing how it ended. I turned to Google to find out what happened on the rest of the show. And that’s where I found the anger. A veritable crusade of angry viewers, led by Wesley Crusher himself, Wil Weaton, who lambasted Discovery for making a mockery of science with their Fraudumentary (uh, Mr. Wheaton, you do remember being on Eureka, right? A show that somehow managed to be less scientifically accurate than even Star Trek…)

I was shocked that I had been taken in by Discovery’s duplicity. During Shark Week, of all times! I mean, I love watching Sharks eat seals and accidentally learning stuff. How could they do this to me?!

So I went back and watched it from the beginning. Oh, yes, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives could easily have been made into a Syfy Channel movie (if they’d used lower resolution cameras, thrown in a former 1980s TV star and some cornball music). Oh, if only I had managed to watch the opening minutes of the show…

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This has taught me a great lesson about the Dyscovyry Channyl. First, I shall never watch one of their programs part way through (except maybe Call of the Wild’s Turtle Man- he’s awesome). Secondly, that Dyscovyry Channel is no longer a source for sciencey shows. I mean, they were always a bit on the iffy side with stuff like Stormchasers (which I love) and the whole Walking with Flintstones series of CGI speculation specials. But now, they’ve dropped to whole new Honey No No level of programming.

I guess from now on, I’ll have to turn to Wikipedia for science.

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. This was such a letdown! I watched the whole thing, start to finish. I fell for it too, but only because it was on the Discovery Channel!

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