Discovery Channel kicked off Shark Week 2013 with “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives,” a two-hour special about the possible return of a giant prehistoric predator thought to have been extinct for more than two million years. The only problem: The entire documentary was bogus, from its “found footage” opening, to the actors portraying scientists, down to its staged and utterly unbelievable climax.
The special earned Shark Week its highest ratings ever — 4.8 million viewers and a 2.6 rating with adults 25-54 — but it may have permanently damaged its credibility with fans, who took to the internet Monday to express anger over the deceptive show. Shark Week’s Facebook page was inundated with angry comments, and bloggers expressed their irritation.
Celebrity geek Wil Wheaton called for Discovery to come clean with its audience:
“I care about education. I care about science. I care about inspiring people to learn about the world and universe around us. Sharks are fascinating, and megalodon was an absolutely incredible creature! Discovery had a chance to get its audience thinking about what the oceans were like when megalodon roamed and hunted in them. It had a chance to even show what could possibly happen if there were something that large and predatory in the ocean today … but Discovery Channel did not do that. In a cynical ploy for ratings, the network deliberately lied to its audience and presented fiction as fact. Discovery Channel betrayed its audience.”