The Discovery Channel defends not feeding Michael Phelps to a shark


Monday, we talked about the Groan Heard Round the World when Michael Phelps’ challenger turned out to be a computer-simulated Great White Shark and not an actual predator racing next to our beloved Olympian. Like, logistics and certain, violent death be damned – when we’re promised a shark race, get that shark a lane and some goggles! People were so upset, that Discovery issued a statement addressing it. They actually felt compelled to explain to their decision to keep Michael Phelps in one piece.

Following fan backlash over the use of CGI in Phelps vs Shark: Great Gold vs Great White, Discovery Channel is standing behind its program. The network insisted that the Shark Week kickoff on Sunday, July 23, featuring Michael Phelps was about creating a fun program, and that it was clear the athlete would not be swimming alongside sharks in the competition.

“In Phelps vs Shark we enlisted world-class scientists to take up the challenge of making the world’s greatest swimmer competitive with a Great White,” Discovery says in a statement to Us Weekly. “The show took smart science and technology to make the challenge more accessible and fun. All the promotion, interviews and the program itself made clear that the challenge wasn’t a side by side race.”

The network added: “During Michael’s pre-show promotion, as well as within the first two minutes of Phelps vs Shark, this message was clear and we are thrilled with the audience and the engagement around the world.”

[From US]

Bruce the Shark has not issued a statement yet.

Did the promotion make itself clear this wouldn’t be side-by-side? I mean, granted, common sense should have made that apparent but when #PhelpsvsShark was trending Sunday afternoon, it became obvious rationality was on a smoke break. Sure, Discovery never said the two would be side-by-side but they didn’t not say that either, did they? They just assumed we would be so wowed with their computer calculations and robo-seals that we’d walk away satisfied. Uhm, no. There were far too many questions left unanswered by this “stunt.” Like, when Bruce jumps the lane to eat Michael, he’s disqualified, right? Does being digested disqualify Michael too? If Bruce crosses the finish line with Michael in his belly, who does the win go to? Was Mark Spitz routing for Bruce or Michael?

So we didn’t get our race, we merely got Michael swimming sideways in a mono-fin. We were bamboozled, hoodwinked, flimflammed. But folks, take comfort – when tragedy strikes, Twitter responds. And they’re still responding. If contract negotiations with Bruce hadn’t gone south, we would never have these:

Also remember that this was Discovery’s statement, not Michael’s. That’s because Michael is still ticked off about the g-d cold water:

This is probably when Boomer found out the shark was a fake:

And course while filming I had to take a little break for some fun😁 #ringbubbles #swimmerlife

A post shared by Michael Phelps (@m_phelps00) on

“You see, the decision to use a simulated shark was based on my desire not to die. Also, have I mentioned how cold it was?”

Photo credit: WENN Photos, Getty Images, Twitter and Instagram

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31 Responses to “The Discovery Channel defends not feeding Michael Phelps to a shark”

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  1. Karen says:

    Seriously who believed Michael would be put in shark infested waters to out swim them, or that a wild shark would be placed in a chlorine filled pool???

    I don’t get this “scandal”

    • LadyMTL says:

      I didn’t watch it, but I saw a metric ton of promos on TV and it was ambiguous. I mean, even that silly “Great gold vs great white” tagline could have been taken either way. So I guess some people assumed that he’d be racing a real shark…maybe not in the ocean but in a controlled environment?

      IDK, I found the whole thing to be quite silly.

    • Goats on the Roof says:

      I thought it sounded fishy from the get, but paparazzi asked Michael a few weeks ago if he was nervous and he said something like, “that shark might eat my hand!” So he definitely played into the falsehood. I think he and Discovery knew a bunch of people wouldn’t watch if they knew it was all simulated.

    • smcollins says:

      Yeah, it’s pretty silly that it had to be defended and explained. My guess is people were perhaps expecting it to take place in a giant tank with some sort of barrier? But since sharks don’t really swim in a straight line it wouldn’t have worked anyway. I was only disappointed that he was outfitted with a special suit and fins. I thought it was a competition based on Phelps’ raw talent & swimming prowess, not trying to make him more Shark-like. 🤷‍♀️

    • Kelly says:

      You know, I thought they were going to use a real shark-not that I thought that they were actually going to toss Phelps into the ocean right next to one, but I thought they’d at least try to film a shark swimming that distance. That was my greatest curiosity-would a shark even swim that far in a straight line. So I’m a little disappointed that they just seemed to take the fastest a shark could swim and measured how long it would take to swim that distance at that speed.

  2. Sixer says:

    The most stupid television programme in the history of stupid television programmes.

    If anybody thought they would actually see Phelps racing a real shark, more fool them.

    If anybody wanted to watch an hour of television drawn out to the nth degree in a failed attempt to make a boring calculation seem exciting, more fool them.

    I am in a misanthropic mood today!

    • grabbyhands says:

      I am also in a misanthropic mood today and agree with everything you’ve said.

      • Sixer says:

        You can sit in the moany corner with me!

      • GingerCrunch says:

        Omg. I can now put a name to my mood for the last year. Thanks for the new word for my vocabulary, Sixer! 😉

      • Sixer says:

        Personally, I think misanthropy is a sensible reaction to the world we find ourselves in right at the moment!

    • freewhitebaby7.0 says:

      Well, not exactly the MOST stupid program ever. Apparently you missed the total excitement that was Geraldo Rivera opening the lost safe.

  3. Jess says:

    It was not clear exactly how this would happen, but me having an obsession with great whites since I was 5 and common sense told me they would not be able to line up a freaking great white and dangle bait in front of it in a lane next to Michael though. Come on, there is no safe way to actually race, not sure why people were surprised lol. I assumed they would just measure his speeds to that of a great white. I fell asleep while watching but it was fun seeing Phelps learn about them and get in a cage!

  4. Jerusha says:

    Why does someone who has achieved what Phelps has lower themselves to do crap like that?

  5. grabbyhands says:

    I’m not sure why anyone thought this was going to be a real thing.

    Even if Discovery had been getting progressively worse over the last few years about how they marketed shows on Shark Week – I think at least one show every year for the last two or three years was immediately exposed as a hoax – did anyone in their right mind really believe that they were going to put a decorated Olympian in open water with one of the most dangerous animals in it? Not to mention, I don’t think you’re going to find a group of great whites casually hanging around hoping someone will swim up and challenge them to a race.

    It’s a shame – I used to love Shark Week and I looked forward to it every summer, but Discovery has gone so overboard with this type of stuff that I stopped watching it.

  6. Maddy says:

    I never thought they would just let Phelps and a shark lose against each other, but I did think they might race in a controlled environment (i.e. aquarium) where they were separated. With the ridiculous amount of hype, and Phelps playing up to it himself in interview, it’s not stupid to think they would be racing at the same time although separately.

  7. Jerusha says:

    Is everyone aware that several years ago when defunding PBS/CPB came up, some Republican legislator said it was not needed because Discovery, TLC, A&E provided educational programming? Hahahahahahaha!! And this was YEARS after they had become the trash can of tv programming.

  8. Destroy Humans says:

    To everyone who believed Phelps was going to race a real great white shark and are now complaining that you were duped, you are why the rest of us can’t have nice things like affordable health care or a working

  9. t.fanty says:

    I’m sorry that everyone is so mad about this. I’m finding this whole story a joy from start to finish. It’s a gift from the twitter gods and I hope that we get a story like this once a week throughout the Trump administration, just to keep me sane.

  10. Perhaps I’m gullible, but I thought they’d be swimming side by side in some sort of controlled environment like another posters suggested. I knew it wouldn’t be in a pool because the shark would die, but I figured they figure something out by closing off part of the ocean. I think it was disappointing all around. They didn’t even use a real shark to test with…it was all simulated! I use to love the discovery channel (I love documentaries) but they’ve became like MTV with all their reality shows so I don’t really tune in that much anymore.

  11. EscapedConvent says:

    I believe yesterday’s Boy Scout Speech Travesty has finally done it for me. I fell into such despair I cannot find the exit. So that pic of the little Boomer is the first smile I’ve had. I may have to keep looking at it, just to stay out of total inertia.

  12. Destroy Humans says:

    Reading “by closing off part of the ocean” and “I use to love the discovery channel (I love documentaries)…” caused me to think of Julie Brown in Earth Girls are Easy.

    “I just want to say
    That being chosen as this month’s Miss August
    Is, like, a compliment I’ll remember
    For as long as I can
    Right now I’m a freshman
    In my fourth year at UCLA
    But my goal is to become a veterinarian
    ‘Cause I love children.”

  13. Wow says:

    Based on a few of the comments I’ve read, people have stated the obvious. I’ll just add that even IF they could have sectioned off a lane in the ocean somehow by creating a caged lane for the shark then they have backlash from very PETA for treating the animal wrong etc…

  14. Lucy says:

    “You see, the decision to use a simulated shark was based on my desire not to die. Also, have I mentioned how cold it was?” LOL. Honestly, people need to chill.

  15. tealily says:

    I just assumed it wouldn’t be side-by-side. It’s Shark Week! This is such a Shark Week thing.

  16. Jezza says:

    Never for a moment did I think they could somehow get a Great White to swim in a straight line againt The G.O.A.T. I think it was the premise and the hype that made it a let down for many. Meh. Calm yourselves, people!

    *sigh* I WISH this was the only thing people had to be outraged about!! What a simpler time that would be!

  17. meh says:

    Why is the world does that child have its own Twitter account? Like, come on, parents.