Discovery Channel’s new boss Rich Ross is making some big changes at the network and I’m kinda disappointed.
Ross, who was formerly a Disney executive, wants to rein in some of Discovery’s more fantastical shows, focusing instead on realism. Translation: So long mega-sharks, mermaids and man-eating snakes.
“Brands are all about trust,” Ross said during an interview on Thursday. “You can expand the universe of what people think you are, but there’s only so much elasticity. On Discovery, that’s why I talk about authenticity. Authenticity is job No. 1, 2 and 3.”
These fanciful tales bring in lots of great ratings for the show, but not a lot of support from the scientific community, according to Fox News. Animal rights activists weren’t fans of the “Eaten Alive” premise that suggested an explorer had been swallowed by a giant anaconda. The truth wasn’t as dramatic as the show had depicted. Other shows the network has done recently that have received criticism include Shark Week features called “documentaries” about megalodons and programs about a suspected Russian yeti.
Ross took the interview to declare his no more bullshit policy for the network.
“It’s not whether I’m a fan of it,” he explained. “I don’t think it’s actually right for Discovery Channel and it’s something that I think has, in some ways, run its course.”
But Ross’ plans for future content has me nervous. The fantastical plots of some of the shows are extremely interesting and any educated viewer is going to know to take these things with a grain of salt. The programs are openly sensational. Opinions about life should be based on having a full view of knowledge and understanding of the world, even with suggestions that sometimes don’t make sense in the broader context of the world, but people still choose to believe. Limiting that because the network doesn’t want to seem too “out there” makes me feel like I’m being cheated.
Furthermore, Ross has some ideas to replace this fantastical content that I just don’t think will sell well on the network, like a scripted show and more shows that look at history. (We have a History Channel for a reason.) Also according to Fox News, Ross is anxious to consider “projects about episodes in history that echo what is happening in the world today.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could tell stories that are actually indicative of behaviors and situations and see if we can alter them in a positive way?” he asked. “That’s my kind of interactive — make people care.”