Shark Week has come a long way since it started. Here are some unforgettable shows that aired in the past.
When Shark Week began airing on July 17 1988, the goal was simple: focus on conservation efforts and correct many of the common misconceptions about sharks. That went well for some time till for some reason, they decided to introduce purely fictional content in form of documentaries.
Two shows, or mockumentaries, in particular generated a negative mediastorm from viewers and the scientific community. Let’s take a closer look at both of them and then you be the judge: Were they just injecting some harmless fun into the programming or was it intended to deceive viewers?
1) Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives (Shark Week 2013)
Storyline: A vessel was attacked just off the coast of South Africa in April 2013. All on board died. Now, marine biologist Collin Drake works to determine the predator responsible. He is escorted by a TV crew to film the entire thing. His discovery is presented in this shocking footage.
The show talked about the possible existence of the prehistoric shark. Though the story had very short disclaimers at the beginning and ending explaining that it was fictional, the whole presentation was too life-like and appeared to be intentionally deceptive.
For one thing, it included accounts of various professionals and scientists in various fields related to the Megalodon shark. All those “professionals” were later revealed to be hired actors (and boy did they do a good job convincing viewers that they actually knew what they were talking about!)
Despite the disclaimers, many people believed they were watching an actual documentary showing real events. While other people were offended that such a show would be aired on Discovery Channel: an entity known for credible scientific broadcasts.
They felt it was an insult for Discovery Channel to try and pass off fiction as non-fiction.
Whatever the case, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives still ranked as the biggest Shark Week episode pulling in a record 4.8 million views.
2) Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine (Shark Week 2014)
Storyline: This show debuted during Shark Week 2014, and it talks about a mega-shark called Submarine that terrorizes passengers on a sinking boat in shark infested waters off the coast of Africa.
This mockumentary gives very detailed accounts from ‘survivors’ who witnessed the horrific events as their fellow passengers were attacked by this 35-foot long, huge great white shark. The 2-hour footage was truly terrifying.
Once again, the show had disclaimers stating that the program was fictional but some people somehow missed that. Also, the film’s blurry footage was intentional and clearly computer-generated. The eyewitnesses, scientists, and shark experts in the film were all hired actors.
It quickly became a social media firestorm on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The situation was worsened by the fact that viewers were still trying to recover from the Megalodon mockumentary the year before.
Some of the comments were hilarious like:
- I’m rooting for Submarine Shark to eat these horrible actors.
- If you actually believed a 35 foot Great White exists and is sinking boats then you DESERVE to be faked out by an OBVIOUS fake story.
- I think Willy Wonka said it best – ‘A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.’
So What Was All The Fuss About These Shows?
Outside of Shark Week, there are other shows that have also caused similar uproar such as Mermaids: The Body Found which aired first on Animal Planet then later on Discovery Channel.
These shows are examples of what is known as mockumentary or docufiction, where documentary style elements are combined with fiction.
This genre always generates a ton of criticism because the shows tend to feature very brief and easily missed disclaimers indicating the speculative nature of the programming.
Whereas, the acting and discussions sound very serious and scientific indeed. Be that as it may, they always draw viewers in their millions.
Strangely enough, some viewers are actually calling for these mockumentaries to be continued. Read some comments off Twitter as recorded on the Business Insider website:
- I’ve been waiting all year for Shark Week just to watch the Megalodon documentaries.
- It’s Shark Week where’s my Megalodon documentary?
So what do you think? Does this kind of programming reduce the credibility of Shark Week/Discovery Channel or does it make the entire thing more interesting?