U.S. cable network Discovery Channel has responded to criticism about its dramatized ‘Shark Week‘ special, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives.
Viewers took to blogs and social media sites such as Twitter to criticize the truthfulness of the special, with vocal protestors including actor Wil Wheaton and Discover magazine. The former wrote: “Discovery should have made it very clear at the beginning that this was a ‘What if?’ work of complete fiction, presented in a documentary format. Throwing up a five-second disclaimer at the end of the program just isn’t good enough.”
In a statement, Michael Sorensen, Discovery’s senior director of development and the exec producer of ‘Shark Week’, said: “With a whole week of ‘Shark Week’ programming ahead of us, we wanted to explore the possibilities of Megalodon. It’s one of the most debated shark discussions of all time, can Megalodon exist today? It’s Ultimate ‘Shark Week’ fantasy. The stories have been out there for years and with 95% of the ocean unexplored, who really knows?”
The Pilgrim Studios-produced special received record-breaking ratings for Discovery, with 4.8 million total viewers tuning in, making it the highest-rated and most-watched ‘Shark Week’ program to date.
Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives looked at the titular prehistoric predator, with the Discovery.com description of the show claiming: “A crew of scientists and shark experts examine evidence and fearlessly seek answers to the many questions surrounding one of the last great mysteries of the deep ocean while creating the largest chum slick in history.”
During Megalodon, a brief disclaimer aired, stating: “None of the institutions or agencies that appear in the film are affiliated with it in any way, nor have approved its contents. Though certain events and characters in this film have been dramatized, sightings of “Submarine” continue to this day. Megalodon was a real shark. Legends of giant sharks persist all over the world. There is still a debate about what they may be.”
The controversy comes after Discovery’s sister channel Animal Planet aired two documentaries in a similar vein, Mermaids: The Body Found and Mermaids: The New Evidence – produced by Darlow Smithson and Discovery Creative respectively – for Animal Planet’s Monster Week. Both were scripted specials with actors who pretended to reveal new evidence that mermaids were real, shot in the style of documentaries, and elicited similar controversy.