If you’re one of those people who hates it when you turn on a channel that’s supposed to be scientific, or at least science based, and get irritated when you see some nonsense, you’re in luck. Now under new leadership, Discover Channel vows that all of the publicity stunts, ratings grabs, and not-really-science spectacles are all going the way of the dinosaurs.
According to Entertainment Weekly, this is in response to viewer reaction to a slew of ridiculous programming choices that go against the scientific mission of the network. One instance cited is Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, a fictional movie they aired during the last Shark Week that is a faux documentary about the “serial killer of the sea.” Sister station Animal Planet’s fascination with mermaids has also been the source of much consternation among audiences.
Appearing at the Television Critic’s Association press tour in Pasadena, new network president Rick Ross, says, “I don’t think it’s actually right for Discovery Channel. And it’s [a type of programming] that I think in some ways has run its course. I don’t think you’ll be sitting with me here next year asking me a question about something I put on—whether a series or a special—where that’s the dilemma. They’ve done very well, many of them, but it’s not something that’s right for us … if something [has been previously ordered], it’s probably still coming. But I’m telling you where I am and how I feel moving forward.”
This extends to sensationalist specials like the recent Eaten Alive? (love the question mark), where naturist Paul Rosalie donned a crush proof suit with the goal of being fully consumed by an anaconda. Designed to raise awareness of deforestation, especially how it impacts snakes and other animals, that’s not exactly what people took away from the program. When asked if there would be a follow up, Ross says, “I don’t believe you’ll see a person being eaten by a snake during my time here.”
This feels similar to Syfy’s recent move of moving away from the schlocky monster-of-the-week movies like Sharknado and its ilk, and getting back to producing original content, which they’re doing in a big way. Both channels strayed far afield from their original aims and goals in search of ratings, and in the process alienated the very fans that they built the networks and reputations on. Discovery now aims to rebuild their core audience, while also expanding their brand, but they’ll leave the over-the-top antics and poorly thought out spectacles in the rearview mirror.