Debunking Discovery's Shark Week Is a Rising Cottage Industry

Discover Magazine, Gawker Media's io9 and Vox Take on Discovery's Shark Week

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Given the long-running success of Discovery's Shark Week, now in its 27th year, it's no surprise that the heavily hyped TV programming event attracts not only theme-week imitators but detractors. Over the past few days, in fact, Shark Week critics have been circling Discovery and seem intent on going in for the kill.

The outrage focuses on the fact that the network, in an attempt to keep the franchise fresh -- but without straying from ratings-gold programming about shark attacks and Great Whites -- has been slotting "dramatized" (i.e., fake) specials into its lineup.

On Monday, for instance, Gawker Media's io9 blog published a post by marine biologist David Shiffman titled "Shark Week Lied to Scientists to Get Them to Appear in 'Documentaries'." Yesterday, "Science Sushi" blogger Christie Wilcox of Discover magazine (no relation to Discovery) published a post titled "Shark Week's ratings show there's blood in the water." She challenges a Discovery press release trumpeting Shark Week viewership, suggesting that a new "documentary" that aired Sunday night, "Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine," is less of a success than Discovery would have us believe.

(Wilcox also authored an in-depth piece, "Fraud, Deception And Lies: How Discovery's Shark Week Became The Greatest Show On Earth," published on July 18.)

Vox has also joined the fray, posting this video to its YouTube channel yesterday as a supplement to a Monday post titled "Shark Week is once again making things up."

In a statement, Discover said: "For 27 years Shark Week has been the prime showcase for all things shark -- science, legend and conservation concerns. A whole generation that has grown up with Shark Week have awareness and issues for sharks; many marine biologists cite Shark Week as bringing them into that field. Discovery Channel has been one of the biggest contributors to furthering shark research and have paid for technology that has been critical in the studies."

Meanwhile, there's a Twitter hashtag, #FakeSharkWeekFacts, that the Twittersphere is using to satirize Discovery's franchise.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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