A cable channel is standing by a faux-documentary that aired Sunday and brought complaints from viewers. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that Discovery is defending "Megalodon," which aired as part of Shark Week.
Shark Week executive producer Michael Sorensen said in a statement that stories about the creature "have been out there for years and with 95 percent of the ocean unexplored, who really knows?," the story reports.
Sorensen added in the statement that the creature is "one of the most debated shark discussions of all time, can Megalodon exist today?"
The two-hour special included "found" footage and so-called "evidence" that the prehistoric shark is alive today, although the story notes that the megalodon lived about 1.5 million years ago.
The special has been Shark Week’s highest-rated program, drawing 4.8 million viewers and a 2.6 rating in adults 25-54. The program came with three disclaimers, alerting viewers that none of the institutions or agencies in the film had approved its contents, and that while legends of giant sharks continue, "There is still debate about what they may be."
"Despite the repeated notes, many viewers took issue with ‘Megalodon,’ considering the opening special to Discovery’s biggest event of the year to be fact," THR reports.
Actor Wil Wheaton posted a blog entry calling "Megalodon" a "bullshit ‘documentary.’" Wheaton asked for an apology from Discovery, writing that the "found footage" was shot to look professional. He criticized the network for lying to the audience and presenting the animal as if it were real.
"In a cynical ploy for ratings, the network deliberately lied to its audience and presented fiction as fact. Discovery Channel betrayed its audience," Wheaton wrote.
This year’s Shark Week has been Discovery’s most-watched ever. It continues to air this week.