The Travesty That Has Become “Educational” TV

by on August 13, 2014

in Entertainment

It is Shark Week on the Discovery Channel at the time of this writing and I’m learning some interesting and sad things about the network and its standards.

Days of old, I used to enjoy educational or documentary television. But in today’s world driven by the need for good TV ratings, that landscape has changed to something sad, terrible and desperate. Almost National Enquirer-like. Never mind presenting factual, empirical evidence, but instead they pump up fanciful and exciting stories to make fanciful points. For ratings. In the end the efforts of those well meaning researchers who contribute their information and time to some networks gets lost in the noise of exciting fantasy.

Read on and see what I’m talking about.

DISCOVERY CHANNEL

Many moons ago, I used to watch The Discovery Channel , the History Channel and the like because they were educational. For the longest time I would absorb what they had to say and I felt like I was getting a real world learning experience.  Plus I thought that viewers were getting a good recounting of actual information on fringe subjects like UFOs, legendary or cult monsters such as Bigfoot and the like.

Then one day Discovery (or a similar channel) was airing a piece on UFOs and a few things hit me out of the blue that were simply plain wrong, aka, purposefully stated in an exciting but inaccurate fashion.

The telecast was preying on the imaginations of TV viewers when they were talking about things astronauts have seen while in orbit. To back up their claim they showed footage of three objects streaking past the space capsule window.

Viewers were led to believe that that these were mystery objects, UFOs off in the distance, shooting by the astronauts location. Which was not completely inaccurate, but none-the-less, they pumped it up to be something it wasn’t.

What disappointed me was that the footage they used to was of known space debris that is in orbit around earth. Plain and simple. But they boosted (code for lied) it to be something mysterious.

Psst: There are more than 21,000 objects in orbital debris around the Earth that are  larger than 10 cm.

In another example they showed a building out in the Mojave desert and accredited it to be in use for studying UFOs, but in actuality, they were so far from the truth that I suddenly saw what lengths that network was going to, to pump up excitement.

SYFY CHANNEL: ALIENS ON THE MOON

In recent weeks, Syfy was airing a special “documentary” titled Aliens on the Moon: The Truth Exposed. What a pile of crap this fictional piece of {whoops!} was.

I could not believe someone put this together with a straight face. But then again, the producer, Robert Kiviat, has a reputation for pulling together fanciful shows like Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files or the faked Alien Autopsy: (Fact or Fiction?), that he pitched at the time, to be real.

I actually watched the Aliens on the Moon show and there were so many sound bites and imagery pulled out of context and words made up to make them seem like things they weren’t that it was pretty scary that someone could actually product this and a network would air this.

The show used crazy pixelated (extreme close up) images to “prove” there are buildings on the moon. Or using images that had lint on the lens, and calling out the lint as proof of something they chose to name.

And the piece where Buzz Aldrin is shown talking about UFOs, was actually him talking about a discarded booster rocket from a mission or jettisoned panels from his ship. Yet they chose to edit it to make it look like, or be implied, that he was talking about his UFO experience.

Shameful.

ANIMAL PLANET, FINDING BIGFOOT

Take a look at the show on the Animal Planet network, Finding BigfootMatt Moneymaker has sold his soul to have a reality TV series.  The crap they put out on this show while “in pursuit” of investigating Bigfoot is outright stupid.

Aside from the obvious fringe subject, there used to be a cadre of investigators that studied and followed sightings and clues. They tried to give the subject some kind of validity. As a hopeful believer**, there were events and patterns that developed over the years (before the internet) that appeared to demonstrate a peaceful, benign, giant herbivore. Much like the giant lowland gorillas of Africa.

But in their reality TV series Moneymaker and his team of “hunters” have taken the subject to such an all-time low that it is sad to see.

In one episode they focus on a picture taken fifteen years ago and decide to go “investigate” the locations They arrive, interview folks, and stop by the location and decide to camp out at the site because if it was there then, it could be there now.  And low and behold, they see and hear something during the night, FIFTEEN years later.

The investigative teams takes to knocking on trees with baseball bats to simulate knocking sounds they say ‘Squatch’ makes. (Yes, they’ve nicknamed it a with a shorter name)  Because, you know, an animal would never be able to tell that it was a person with a baseball bat and a film crew making funny tree knocking sounds.

Then there is the men doing wild whooping cries into the woods. Of course, you guessed it… they heard what could be a reply. Oh gasp!

Back in the day, Bigfoot existed in the Pacific Northwest. With the explosion of the internet, now we have Bigfoot in every state.

Sigh.

It’s obvious, like all the Ghost Hunter shows on Syfy that any investigative team… though that might be a strong term… has to make it exciting and have an encounter of some type in every episode. If not, the show will fail miserably in the ratings to show the reality of the hunt.

So they make things up. And it’s sad. Up until the advent of reality TV coverage, the giant creature was believed to be a herbivore. Now they say (on TV) Bigfoot hunts and eats deer.  HEAD SMACK!

But I digress.

DISCOVERY CHANNEL and SHARK WEEK

Now, there’s dirt out about how the Discovery Channel is creatively editing content from what actual scientists are saying for their shark shows. And it’s appalling that they are allegedly taking advantage of the experts as much as the TV viewing audience.

One example was about a scientist that was interviewed for his expertise about the sharks in Louisiana. But while they were out on the shoot, the scientist was getting dubious or elusive answers to his questions about what the filming was really about.

Later the man saw his content and expertise splayed out during a Voodoo Shark special. Later, the content the film crew shot was chopped up, edited creatively and spliced back together to make it look like the scientist was in a race against a bayou fisherman to find a mythical see creature called the Rooken.

The film crew and editors allegedly asked one question, then took the answers from those questions and inserted them into other sections, making the statements appear to be answering questions about the sea monster.

Here’s a quote from one scientist:

“Throughout the interview I was fed certain words to rephrase my sentences in ways that the producer thought would spark more interest. Some words or phrases they asked me to say were beyond anything I would say on my own and I refused. However, they were clever in their questioning by getting me to respond to a vague question with a response that could be used as an answer to a completely different question.

The prime example that was used on the show was towards the very beginning of Voodoo Sharks. The voice-over introduced my researchers and I as we were riding in a boat out looking for sharks on the edge of the Lake. They said, “They believe that if there is a monster shark entering Lake Pontchartrain it is likely sticking to this area…” and then it pans to a clip from my interview where they asked me, “Do you think there are large Bull Sharks in these bayous and swamps around Lake Pontchartrain?” so my response was to THAT question. They used my response to one question to make it sound like I believed in this monster shark ‘Rooken’ that they had just laid the groundwork for being real as a preface for the whole show.”

The Io9 and other articles (noted below) goes on to point out other repeated indiscriminate falsities from the Discovery Channel.

This is the programming list from “Shark Week,” I’ll let you judge from the titles, just how Syfy-like Discovery appears to have become.

Monday, August 11, 2014
Great White Serial Killer: ExtraSharky
Jaws Strikes Back
Monster Hammerhead
—————————————–
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Monster Hammerhead: ExtraSharky
Alien Sharks: Return to the Abyss
Lair of the Mega Shark

It’s incredibly disappointing.

Now a days scientists are saying amongst themselves to ask hard questions and don’t let the production team hoodwink them with vague replies. If they don’t answer the questions directly, then be prepared to be completely misrepresented.

That’s a sad state of affairs when scientists have to steer clear of television opportunities out of fear of being misquoted completely out of context, intentionally.

So it’s the era of National Enquirer mentality everywhere now. I am shocked how blatant the fabrications are that allegedly come from the networks, the producers and whomever that are associated with these reality-based or fringe investigative shows.

Despite the idea that they should be held accountable for such outright lies, we do have to take a step back and understand that this is television, who is dependent on ratings and the money that advertisers drop on them. (Which runs about $10 billion a season to the basic nets.) And television is the world’s source for entertainment, escape and what not. What is called reality television is cheap to produce, and depending on the content, is one hell of an imagination grabber.

When shows like Big Brother (CBS), The Bachelor franchise (ABC), American Idol (FOX) and other such content are the huge TV ratings winners, you do have to take a step back and understand that it is because of our neighbors that these kinds of shows and tactics exist. Or the infamous Nielsen families. They show what people are watching, the ads are aired, and the advertisers make money off the business driven to their products because of those ads.

On the internet, the most popular content out there are pictures with a few words. Or, if you dwell on it, how the hell did Twitter survive to be so successful these days? Theory? The enforced limitation of 140 characters is more readily digestible than any lengthy content. Or in other words, headlines.  I have held tests with my websites and it seemed on average, most folks digested the headline and either moved on or dodged directly to the source links rather than read the text.

Which seems exemplary of television watchers who would rather enjoy the reality drama than anything of a substantive nature. I’m not saying that is a bad thing, it is just the reality of it.

Resources:

NASA: orbitaldebris

NBC News: aliens-moon-tv-show-adds-weird-ufo-twists

Io9: shark-week-lied-to-scientists

Deadline: shark-of-darkness-helps-discovery-net-biggest-numbers-for-shark-week

**As a youngster, my imagination had been captured by the idea of Bigfoot. Since sixth grade, I scoured newspapers looking for reports of the legendary giant ape. As the years went on, I read a few books, collected more empirically derived evidence and continued to hope.

Hope, meaning, I always felt that it was unlikely that Bigfoot existed, but it sure would be awesome if it did.

What I did see from all those years of observation was the pattern of sightings, since that fateful moment in the 60’s near Willow Creek, CA. Through the years since, sightings tended to move northward. They were leaving the U.S.! LOL.

Be it as it may, I always have hope and regard the subject as a moot point until actual real discoveries are made. Not eye-witnessed by Joe-Schmoe who had too much beer to drink.

Then two things happened in my life.

1) The BFRO (Bigfoot Research Organization) came about, in what looked like a legitimate effort to find the elusive beast by becoming a huge database of reports of various kinds.

2) A friend of mine, a physicist, who is the most skeptical man on the planet, read a book I had purchased written by wildlife biologist Dr. John Bindernagel. In that book the author constructed his evidence in such a way as to ignore the fanciful and focus on the potential of a hypothetical model of a Sasquatch (Bigfoot’s Indian lore name) ecology.

Forget proving it, but rather, how could it live, if it did.

My friend came away saying that the book presented the evidence and theories in such a way that it made the idea of Sasquatch rather compelling. (Compelling is scientific code for believable, without using that word.)

The author’s website (http://www.bigfootbiologist.org/) has a few brief outlines on the subject and how he’s approached several facets of the subject. It is a great book, but an incredibly dry read of facts presented, as he cataloged them.

As of now, I discount any efforts by the BFRO since they’ve sold their souls to reality TV. Now, all I have is my quiet, life long hope that someone, somehow, can prove the beast does exist. Until then… well… for a good laugh I sometimes pull up Finding Bigfoot.

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