Animal Planet and Discovery channels make MONSTROUS missteps for Monster Week

Last week was Monster Week on Animal Planet. This weekend is Monster Weekend on Discovery Channel. (The two channels are affiliated under the Discovery Network). I came across a series of stories today that relate to these Discovery Channel/Animal Planet offerings. I decided to put them all together. From the past offerings of a dubious nature, extremes of audience reaction show that these nature-based (formerly science-based) channels need to decide whom they are going to serve. From the overall behavior, they have chosen to cater to the basest audience and not the educated one. Why? Money. They like advertising money. Therefore, we need some new science channels, these ones ain’t cutting it anymore.

Last week’s Monster Week on AP featured a fictional monster movie. Why not? They have already fictionalized documentaries like Megalodon and Mermaids. Why not go full speed ahead with fiction based on real creatures features in their (nonfiction?) show River Monsters. It got decent ratings. So I guess that means look for more of this.

Ratings – Animal Planet’s Monstrous Creature Feature “Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys” Sucks in 1.2 Million Viewers | TheFutonCritic.com.

Blood, sweat and tears paid off for Animal Planet’s first-ever creature feature, BLOOD LAKE: ATTACK OF THE KILLER LAMPREYS, which pulled in 1.2M P2+ viewers in its premiere MONSTER WEEK telecast on Sunday, May 25, from 9-11 PM ET/PT.

The film, starring Shannen Doherty, Christopher Lloyd and Jason Brooks, tells the terrifying story about a small Michigan town that’s overrun by lampreys – blood-sucking, eel-like fish – that grow to epic proportions and infiltrate the water systems.

The project, spearheaded by the Vice Pres of Development Andy Berg netting them a #6 ranking in this timeslot among cable networks. Included in their press release, they are blatant about their goals.

“Animal Planet waded through new territory by combining the b-film genre with something truly monstrous,” says Rick Holzman, EVP of Programming and Scheduling at Animal Planet. “We took a real creature featured on RIVER MONSTERS and made it exponentially more frightening and exciting for our viewers.”

I guess the positive in this is that there was no mistaking it was not a documentary. I actually would not begrudge them a bit for that if it wasn’t for their past and continued blurring of the lines between fact and fiction.

For example, a special on wolves was set to air on Monster Week. From their facebook page: Animal Planet – Timeline Photos.

Tune in to the #MonsterWeek special: Man-Eating Super Wolves TONIGHT at 8PM ET!

Razor sharp teeth, killer instincts, and senses so precise they hear your beating heart, and your fear. They’re on the hunt, and now with numbers growing out of control, they’re threatening humans like never before.

While over 30K people “liked” this post, the comments section was full of very angry posters who rightly questioned the hyperbole and outright LIES in this program description. Animal Planet was called out for their nonsense.

Defenders of Wildlife: Backlash prompts Animal Planet to pull anti-wolf episode | PACK MENTALITY.

Animal Planet removed a segment titled “Man-Eating Super Wolves” from its Monster Week line up this week after over 80,000 Defenders of Wildlife members and other activists contacted the station demanding the episode be immediately removed from the air.

The shameful and distorted anti-wolf episode was aired one time on Wednesday, May 21.

The rest of the repeat airings were removed.

The President Defenders of Wildlife stated:

“There are real-world consequences to airing a fictitious portrayal of wolves based on sensationalism instead of on science. Demonizing wolves does serious harm to these imperiled animals and erodes public support for their continued recovery.”

Indeed! He remarked that the outcry was welcomed and useful. Seems like Animal Planet is rather illiterate when it comes to science since wolves aren’t attacking anyone and they are being reintroduced to the wild, certainly not with out of control numbers. Animal Planet maybe, but not on THIS planet!

monster week2

So, to put icing on the cake, you can check out Monster Weekend on Discovery Channel this weekend. Two nights of programming features searches for legendary cryptids in Alaska and Bayou country. Bets on what they find? 100% speculation. Their key show for the weekend is “Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives”. We’ve covered this atrocity here: Discovery wild speculation channel presents… Killed by Yeti | Doubtful News.

As we describe, this is neither a new idea nor a good one. It does not fit with what we know. At all. To postulate an unknown to explain an unknown is fallacious and misleading. It’s good press for the idea of a monstrous cryptid even though no evidence for such as been found even after DNA sampling.

Fiction? Nonfiction? No one can tell anymore and Discovery Network seems not to care a whit. They only want ratings. I hate when a good thing goes down the toilet. Scientists, cryptozoologists, science enthusiasts and educators are all pretty much disgusted. Don’t show this stuff in your classroom or to your kids. Nature deserves way more respect. So do viewers.

 

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  20 comments for “Animal Planet and Discovery channels make MONSTROUS missteps for Monster Week

  1. Mark Cooper
    May 30, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Between the Squatchers and the Ancient Alien BS, television has become a depressing place. You can add History channel to the list, as they continually air shows on aliens and conspiracies without a single person to represent the science based point of view. On the bright side, if you’ve got a Roku or the like, you can still find good programs.

  2. Bo Gardiner
    May 30, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    Great post. Glad to hear Defenders of Wildlife was successful in getting the wolf episode pulled.

    And good to know that the growing disgust and pressure may make a difference.

  3. May 30, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    Nice article. Defenders of the Wild and others now need to stop the airings of Call of the Wildman. A poorly staged and scripted show that was caught drugging and abusing animals for entertainment . Animal Planet jumped the shark a long time ago but it’s misinformation is leading to animals being killed and abused. Call of the Wildman and Rattlesnake Republic should be canceled.

  4. Brandon
    May 30, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    It is because of nonsense like this that I have stopped watching cable television. I wonder how many other customers like myself they have lost because of the extremely poor quality of their current programming.

  5. Chris Howard
    May 30, 2014 at 8:49 PM

    They’ve left the no ratings educational programming to PBS.

    It’s ALL about money, which is why we desperately need a viable alternative to commercial television, when it comes to truly educational programming (sorry, for-profit isn’t a fix all).

    CNN proved what a schill for ratings commercial TV is when they went off the rails with the whole flight 370 nonsense. They beat out FOX for the first time in a long time, and so they ran with the crazy. Why? Because that’s what people wanted to see.

    At the end of the day money will always trump good, honest reporting, and entertainment will be valued over education. The entertainment value of so called “edutainment” will ALWAYS win out, often at the expense of accuracy and honesty.

    The commercial outlets aren’t concerned with those of us who appreciate good reporting, and educational content.

    The only way that that dynamic changes is when people value educational programming, and truth over having their biases confirmed and minds numbed with escapist pabulum.

    • Chris Howard
      June 1, 2014 at 7:34 AM

      AND prior to the wolf thingy they aired “Zombie Cats” which posited a large cat pandemic of mutated distemper turning lions, tigers, and not bears all 28 Days Later, on humanity.

      The killer lamprey movie was a B Horror flick, of an epic Elviraesq/Ghoulardi nature.

    • spookyparadigm
      June 1, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      I’m not saying TV isn’t about the money, but I think it’s more than that: it’s about stupid people’s money.

      TV doesn’t make products for viewers, it sells viewers to advertisers. So the best way to understand TV is to look at the advertising, with numbers second

      http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2014/05/28/tv-ratings-broadcast-top-25-modern-family-tops-week-35-with-adults-18-49-dancing-with-the-stars-with-total-viewers/267560/

      The big weekly winner in numbers, the shows that provide the most eyes, are the talent shows (hybrid of variety shows and game shows) and the scripted shows (NCIS, Big Bang theory, Modern Family), on the big networks. If you look at their advertisers, its cars, name-brand home products. Stuff for young to middle-age viewers. This is paralleled by punctuated sports events that have a strongly heteronormative male slant to them, and somewhat younger (beer, trucks, etc.). While the share of eyeballs the networks grab is lower, they’re still the big numbers on TV and they’re basically doing what they’ve been doing since the 1960s.

      Prestige shows on cable (pay or basic) get small numbers of eyes. But they are very well-connected eyes, especially the media. NCIS or the Big Bang Theory can get 10x the numbers of viewers some of the prestige shows get, and that’s not counting their constant mindshare presence in syndication even though the original show is still airing. But they don’t get the critical or fan ink that Mad Men or Breaking Bad get, and that’s entirely understandable. So here, such shows have carved out a niche of not just getting affluent and educated viewers, but in capturing the media. And it shows in their commercials (at least on Mad Men, which runs high-end product ads).

      So then we turn to news, cable or otherwise. Network news has bigger audiences than cable news, but they clearly understand that they are endangered by demographics. Watch an episode of nightly news on a network, and most of the ads will be for medication aimed at the elderly. Now, this isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, given the coming surge of boomer retirees. But nonetheless, this is not the traditional market one wants. The most sought after markets are teenagers and young people with disposable income, followed by high-ticket items for middle-aged affluent people. The pharmaceutical market is a bit new and different (in its current form), and it clearly is somewhat lucrative.

      Cable news is worse, they run some of those ads too, but also lower-end products, and once you venture to Fox, you start to see a little of the “patriot” creep of gold etc.. These audiences are tiny, and they too are quite old, with Fox News having the oldest audience.

      So this brings us to the “learning” channels and their like on basic cable (and I’d now add first HNN and now CNN as full on tabloids). Much of their commercials are even worse than this, a lot of “as seen on tv” stuff, gold, and other bargain basement ads (as well as never-ending ads for their own shows or shows on sister networks). The products are not aimed at the high end, they’re not aimed at young people with disposable income. They’re aimed at, to put it quite bluntly, rubes. It’s not quite snake oil, but its in that spirit.

      From this perspective, the strategy of the “learning channels” becomes horrifyingly obvious: they program their shows to be stupid because that’s the audience they’re looking for. They also aim their shows at stereotypes of lower-income (which correlates with lower-educated, though the causation arrow isn’t quite as clear) people, hence all the shows about hillbillies, pawn store owners, trash salvagers, etc..

      I can’t claim 100% this idea, it was inspired by an essay I still don’t entirely agree with, that argued that these shows were purposely made poorly so that critical thinkers would tune out, leaving only the foolish to keep watching. I think they’re made poorly because they’re cheap. But this logic of “you have to be this gullible to ride this ride” got me thinking.

      It also helps to go beyond tv and see how this works elsewhere. Radio ads are generally bad, but when you to turn to radical-populist-politics/conspiracy and paranormal radio, they get so much worse. Listen to an episode of Coast to Coast AM and it will be gold and miracle cures all night. You can get an even more concentrated dose with the ads here on The Paracast (the show sells a few ads itself, but most are part of the Genesis Communications Network, and they’re for gun paraphernalia, Alex Jones selling survival seeds, miracle cures, gold, water filters, and so on)

      http://www.theparacast.com/

      Once you realize this, the motive to the no-bottom-to-the-barrel nature of the “learning channels” becomes obvious and awful. The prestige shows on cable, or the networks, want to appeal to their customers who they see as being at least something like themselves. There is a bit of a spectrum of course, but they want to make something between a quality program, to a by-the-numbers professionally made program. This is the classic tv model (and you’ll notice that with time, the networks moved away from trashier reality tv for the most part, leaving that to basic cable, and focused more on the variety-show style talent shows, going all the way back to the 1950s mix of variety and game shows).

      But basic crap cable channels like History and TLC and Discovery, while they produce a few decent programs when they luck into them (notably the single-person wilderness shows like Crocodile Hunter, River Monsters, those various survival shows, etc.), from what they make and what they advertise, it is clear that they hold their viewers in contempt. They go out of their way to every year make more and more ludicrous stereotypes of their audience in their shows (You weren’t insulted by swamp truckers? How about Honey BooBoo? No? How about people picking through trash in low-rent storage units? No? How about over-the-top hillbillies shooting guns at fake monsters? No? …). It’s hate-programming.

      • Chris Howard
        June 5, 2014 at 9:27 AM

        This leads me to my next two questions:

        Is your book out, yet? And where’s my signed copy?

        :-D

    • robert m. simon
      June 8, 2014 at 8:22 PM

      The problem is what constitutes “truth” and what constitutes “pablem”?Much of the alleged “scientific” community supports questionable “fact” only because it is “politically correct”.That’s why Big Science gets no respect.

      • June 8, 2014 at 10:05 PM

        I don’t understand this comment.

  6. Jon Mac
    May 31, 2014 at 2:23 AM

    Man-Eating Super Wolves? So Animal Planet has finally become TV’s version of the Weekly World News.

    No doubt their next ratings grab will be “I Had Bigfoot’s Baby!”

    They may be scientifically illiterate, but how could they be *so* unaware to not realize the backlash that Wolf show generate?

    I like good stories as much as anybody, but agree that it’s despicable when fiction is presented as fact.

    Thankfully there is an antidote with Cosmos.

  7. L. Barth
    May 31, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    I’m watching monster weekend & there was a segment on the car being torn apart by animals in the Palm Springs area, which I believe you wrote about Sharon. It’s not the Chupacabra anymore though, they called them Hounds Of Hell.

  8. Dr Bryan Grieg Fry
    May 31, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    Animal Planet has become Anti-Animal Planet while Discovery Wild has become Discovery Wild-Speculation. Both are chasing the bottom-feeding viewer to the detriment of the animals themselves. They are promoting fear, not providing education.

  9. wolfdogged
    June 2, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    PROOF that Animal Planet DID NOT CANCEL “MAN-EATING SUPER WOLVES”. It is soon to air in the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales)! WE have three days left to let the network know of our outrage – this time BEFORE it airs Prime Time. (Permission given to forward this info)
    Premieres: Thursday 5th June, 9.00pm (click here to record).
    Uncovers wolf attack stories. Featuring schoolteacher Candice who was attacked whilst she was jogging in her local park and forestry expert Rory is attacked whilst at work, do they manage to get away unharmed? http://www.sky.com/tv/show/monster-week
    Monster Week
    Premieres Monday 2nd – Sunday 8th June, 8.00pm – 10.00pm
    Animal Planet’s giant returns for another MONSTER WEEK to tell the frightful, fun and over-the-top tales of the monsters that lurk below water and stalk on land. Adding to monster madness, is highly anticipated B-Movie, classic in-the-making; BLOOD LAKE: ATTACK OF THE KILLER LAMPREYS (Wednesday 4th June, 9.00pm) star..
    http://press.discovery.com/uk/apl/
    Animal Planet » Programs » Man-eating Super Wolves
    info to follow
    http://press.discovery.com/uk/apl/programs/man-eating-super-wolves/

    • Wolf Dogged
      June 3, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      I knew there was something I forgot. Here’s two links where to voice your complaint! Here is the UK Discovery’s program listing schedule – that includes Man Eating Super Wolves. You have to go to bottom of this page and then click “CONTACT US”, where a pop-up email form will take your comment. Please everyone – get ‘er dun now! Tell them how disgusted you are by this sensationalized crap. Even just a few ‘choice’ words is better than apathy. Please do not allow out of sight – out of mind to deter you.
      http://www.discoveryuk.com/tv-guide/?type=day&channel_code=APLU-ENG&date=05062014&style=uk_day&filter=1800

      AND repeat all complaints to their corporate office too. Use their heading “TV everywhere”
      http://corporate.discovery.com/contact/viewer-relations/

      Keep in mind there’s a worldwide circuit for their programming! Nip this in the bud now BEFORE it gets to the UK – including all of Ireland, afterwards it will air in Canada, [countries in] Latin America, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

  10. Bill T.
    June 2, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    Programmers are desperate to fill broadcast time with content. These progrms are much faster and cheaper and easier to produce than actual science. They also generate their own audiences in a sort of a feed-back loop. That doesn’t justify the moral turpitude but it does explain it.

  11. Mark Downey
    June 2, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    I appreciate mocumentarys so long as they come out and state that they are just that. Quiet frankly is rather scary and sad that folks honestly take these kinds of things seriously, and to heart; heck the income for many beaches took a noticeable dive after Mermaids: The Body Found aired because people thought they were real and it was serious! I’m literally on tenterhooks to see what effects their inevitable mocumentary adaptation of “Missing 411″ will have on national parks.

    Mocumentaries like Megaladon: The Beast Lives and Mermaids: The Body Found and its sequel are defenitly good fun, it’s wonderful to indulge that, “What if?” aspect of our mentalities, but quiet frankly America and many other places around the world have far to hard of a time determining fact from fiction with rational, skeptical thought for it to be safe to make such enjoyable entertainment programs :s

    On a side note, my favorite to this day is still “WEREWOLVES: THE DARK SURVIVORS” Back in 2009, it was very entertaining c:

  12. Fred
    June 2, 2014 at 5:50 PM

    I’ve pretty much stopped watching television, mainly because of the crap Discovery pumps out on it’s various networks.
    Also A&E, Bravo and Hostory Channel have all become cesspools of idiocy and repetitiveness.

  13. lawn
    June 2, 2014 at 9:40 PM

    “Great Scott! Killer lampreys!”

  14. C Wotell
    July 8, 2014 at 9:20 PM

    Megaladon (sp?). Now they want to prove their global warming theory using the megaladons migrating pattern as proof. Huh? That’s like proving there are flying reindeer because they’ve seen a mall Santa Clause. Seriously. This should be on the scyfi channel.

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