The days of tuning into the Discovery Channel to watch a man, wearing a full-body suit, provoke an anaconda to get it to eat him alive may be over. Last Thursday at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Discovery Channel’s newly appointed head honcho Rich Ross told journalists that the channel is changing direction in its programming and will in the future steer clear of the critically reviled trend of fake reality TV and pseudo scientific sensationalism. “I don’t think it’s right for Discovery Channel, and think it’s something that has run its course,” said Ross. “They’ve done very well but I don’t think it’s something that’s right for us.”
Most recently, Discovery came under fire for Eaten Alive starring snake enthusiast Paul Rosolie. In the show, Rosolie attempts to get himself eaten by an 18-foot anaconda snake by wearing a full-body carbon suit doused in pig’s blood. After the anaconda finally gets a good grip on his head, Rosolie backs out for fear that the snake will crush his bones and is untangled by a ten-man rescue crew. The incident not only drew criticism from animal rights organizations but was also ridiculed in the media (the title “Eaten Alive” may have been overselling it).
Pseudo science and ratings boosting aside, where will we go now for updates on Bigfoot’s whereabouts, shows about people who were pregnant without realizing it, and (fake) Amish gangsters? And what will happen to Shark Week?
In memoriam, we have gathered up a highlight reel of some of the crazier moments on Discovery Channel that we will sorely miss.
Dude, You’re Screwed
If TV channels were your relatives, Discovery would definitely be your crazy survivalist uncle who lives in a basement he calls a fall-out shelter with three barrels of wheat flour and a crossbow. Discovery has produced a ton of survivalist TV, but Dude, You’re Screwed stands out. In the clip above a contestant is dropped in the middle of the ocean with only a small flotation device to hang on to.
Naked & Afraid
Discovery’s other survivalist gem, Naked & Afraid, isn’t so much a concept as it is an idea that pops into your head while standing in line at the grocery store. Contestants have to work in teams to survive on a remote island. The kicker: they can’t wear clothes. It’s more awkward than it is dangerous.
Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives
Carcharocles megalodon, one of the largest predators to ever roam earth’s seas, went extinct about three million years ago, except on Discovery Channel. The controversial 2014 Shark Week opener, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives made the argument that the prehistoric animal is still out there terrorizing the oceans’ depths. Scientists deny it but Discovery’s underwater dinosaur hunt is still a priceless gem of gonzo-fakecumentarism.
Mermaids: The Body Found
Now conveniently dubbed “docufiction” (an oxymoron in itself), Mermaids caused quite a stir when it aired in 2012. In a fashion similar to alien conspiracy narratives, the eighty-minute special “documents” contact between humans and mermaids (who are said to descend from “aquatic apes”). Videos of grainy CGI encounters and expert testimony is backed by cheesy looking dramatized scenes from the everyday life of mermaids under water. The “amateur recording” above is straight out of Blair Witch Project.
Amish Mafia is Discovery Channel’s piece-de-resistance. The idea that the Amish community—an isolated, strictly religious society of Anabaptists who appall violence and steer clear of contact with the outside world—is governed by a group of plain-dressed machine gun toting mobsters is ridiculous. The (terrible) actors deliver lines—that sound like they came from Scarface—off a teleprompter with zero conviction and wander around the fields of Pennsylvania plotting nonsensical schemes. Most gun violence in the show, when there is any, is directed at inanimate objects like old clunkers or the occasional horse buggy.