Like the Loch Ness Monster, Abominable Snowman, and Big Foot, a living version of the prehistoric 60-foot Megalodon shark is more fiction than fact. But, the Discovery network's new Shark Week "documentary" would have people think differently.
The network kicked off its annual Shark Week television series with a show called "Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives," which claims that the finned predator could still be swimming the ocean's depths. However, no scientific evidence proves the creature's existence.
In fact, rather than real footage or actual scientists, Discovery apparently fabricated its Megalodon "evidence" and had actors play the "scientists" interviewed for the show, according to Discover magazine. In its promo commercial for Shark Week (see below), Discovery stages a bogus news event where a rescued seal gets snapped up by a mega-toothed shark.
A fake documentary from a science-based network has drawn fervent criticism from viewers across the Web and on social media. On Shark Week's Facebook page and across Twitter, hundreds of people have shared their disgust with the program.
"Shark week is officially a disgrace after airing that fake documentary," said one Facebook user, while another wrote, "I don't believe anything I see anymore on Discovery. So disappointing. Discovery, you've thrown away your equity and credibility with one stupid mockumentary. Congrats."
"An entire generation has grown up watching Discovery Channel, learning about science and biology and physics, and that generation trusts Discovery Channel," Wheaton wrote on Monday. "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 is disgusting, and whoever made that decision should be ashamed."
Why would Discovery create a fake documentary? In a word, ratings. According to the Associated Press, "Megalodon" racked up 4.8 million viewers giving it the largest audience of any show the channel has aired in the last 26 years of Shark Week.
"We have found that people are open to exploring different ideas and concepts in addition to the more traditional fare that we air," Discovery spokesperson Laurie Goldberg told the Associated Press. "That would explain the ratings. As in any entertainment, you aren't going to always please everyone, but we stand behind all of our content and are proud of it."
But, the stunt could have backfired for many viewers who would have continued watching for the rest of the week. Hundreds of users on Facebook and Twitter claimed they were boycotting the rest of Shark Week and possibly further Discovery programs because of the Megalodon mockumentary.
Here is the promo commercial for Discovery's Shark Week: