Discovery: We Never Promised You A Real Shark

As Discovery Channel should have learned after the wholeEaten Alive debacle a two-hour special in 2014 that promised to show a guy getting eaten alive by a snake, but then didnt viewers arent going to react too kindly when a promise for drama doesnt pan out.

Unfortunately,it seems the channel didnt quite take heed of this lesson. Viewers on Sunday were incensed when a Shark Week special, featuring what had been touted as a spectacular showdown between Michael Phelps and a great white shark, culminated in a 100-meter race between the Olympic swimmer and a computer-generated animal.

I feel robbed, wrote one disgruntled viewer on Twitter.

Huge letdown, said another.

Responding to the outpouring of viewer disappointment, Discovery issued a statement Monday defending its promotion for the show, stressing that it did not mislead viewers into thinking that Phelps was racing a real great white.

All the promotion, interviews and the program itself made clear that the challenge wasnt a side by side race, Discovery said, according to Us Magazine.

InPhelps vs Sharkwe enlisted world-class scientists to take up the challenge of making the worlds greatest swimmer competitive with a Great White, the statement said. The show took smart science and technology to make the challenge more accessible and fun.

Indeed, there is evidence to support Discoverys assertion. In the days before the show aired, some reports,includingthis Vanity Fair article, made clear that Phelps wouldnt be facing a real live shark.

I dont think that would probably end very well, the swimmer himself told the magazine.

Still, some of Discoverys promotional material seemed deliberately ambiguous. The worlds most decorated athlete takes on the oceans most efficient predator: Phelps V Shark the race is on! declared a press release, which left news outlets and viewers both intrigued and baffled. How could such a race even be possible?

HuffPost was among the news outlets to report in June that Phelps was racing an actual shark on TV.

In the one-hour special, Phelps was seen coming face to face with some real sharks but only while cage-diving. For the 100-meter race, the climax of the show, Phelps is seen swimming next to a computer-generated great white. The Discovery team had previously recorded a real great white shark swimming that same 100-meter stretch. Phelps lost to the shark by 2 seconds.

Amid the angry responses, there have been some viewers whove defended Discoverys approach, saying it was unreasonable to have expected Phelps to swim with a real great white and that the channel still created good TV with the material they had.

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