Discovery Channel is defending its decision to kick off its annual Shark Week with a Megalodon mockumentary.
Viewers were angry when, at the end of the two hours special, a notice flashed on the screen explaining that Megalodon was not a scientifically-proven documentary. Even Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, joined in on the outrage.
“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,” Wheaton wrote on his personal blog. “That is disgusting, and whoever made that decision should be ashamed.” Wheaton also said there was nothing “high quality or enlightening about deliberately misleading your audience.”
But Discovery Channel was simply engaging in a long-standing debate, according to Michael Sorenson, executive producer of Shark Week.
“With a whole week of Shark Week programming ahead of us, we wanted to explore the possibilities of Megalodon,” Sorenson told FOX411 in a statement. “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 percent of the ocean unexplored, who really knows?”
Discovery Channel had a similar controversy on its hands last summer when it re-aired Mermaids: The Body Found. The “documentary” explored the possibility of mermaids, with two boys finding the body of a mermaid on a beach. However, when the special first aired in May 2012, Discovery admitted they used an actor to “discover” the body.
The description of the documentary even said that the program was based on science fiction. And in a press release for the special, Discovery Channel explicitly stated, “The film is science fiction, using science as a springboard into imagination and centering the story on following real-world events.” However, none of that stopped viewers from thinking that they were watching a real documentary about mermaids.
Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives will re-air on Discovery Channel August 11 at 10 am.
What do you think of the controversy surrounding Megalodon? Should Discovery Channel have made it more clear that it wasn’t a real documentary?