Rich Ross has only been president of Discovery Channel for a few months, but he’s already making moves to address the declining quality of the network’s content.
Discovery has drawn a lot of criticism for its recent content, but some of the most egregious examples of Discovery’s failings were in the past few years of Shark Week. In summer 2013, the network aired Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, which was two hours of fabricated fluff and bad CGI that somehow managed (despite a disclaimer at the end) to convince a whopping 70% of its viewers that Megalodon was still out there. Then, they aired Voodoo Shark, which was made when real scientists doing real research were misled and cleverly edited into a complete load of bullshit about a mythical Louisiana shark.
The ratings were too good to ignore. Last summer, Megalodon: The New Evidence became the highest rated episode in Shark Week history, and the ludicrously-named Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine spun a yarn about a made-up legendary Great White in South Africa’s False Bay.
There was that Animal Planet special on mermaids, the Russian Yeti special, and the bullshit about a sixty-year-old monster hammerhead that may or may not live in Florida waters. But the most baffling thing that Discovery’s had its name on in the last year was the beyond stupid Eaten Alive, in which a guy built a specialized suit that would allow him to be swallowed by an anaconda and live. That’s okay, we already KNOW that can happen. Just ask Jon Voight.
Then there’s the Mythbusters thing. The truth on this one still isn’t out yet, but the Mythbusters build team (Tory Belleci, Kari Byron, and Grant Imahara) were dumped from the show after the last season. Tomorrow’s season premiere features a brand new format with Adam and Jamie tackling all the myths. I love that idea, but I’ll miss the build team. I’m a die-hard Mythbusters fan, so I’ll be watching no matter what, but rumors flew around that the change was made to improve ratings. We also heard that it could’ve been contract renegotiation issues, but whatever the truth is, it’s evident that Discovery has had some weird shit going on. But there may be hope.
This morning, Rich Ross spoke at Winter TV press Tour 2015, and said he’s put the kibosh on bullshit documentaries. Ross explained:
“I don’t think it’s right for Discovery Channel, and think it’s something that has run its course. They’ve done very well… but I don’t think it’s something that’s right for us.”
Amen, Rich. This year’s Shark Week will be the test.