129th Skeptics’ Circle: How the Discovery Channel has Fallen

Dripping faucet at a 2000th of a second.

(Super-awesome photograph by Ron Britton)

I haven’t been trying to neglect the blog lately. I was hoping to cut back to two or three articles per week, not two or three weeks per article. It’s amazing how merely re-prioritizing the blog from #1 hobby to #2 hobby has robbed it of so much attention. The photography class I’m taking ends in March, so this isn’t permanent.

The latest edition of the Skeptics’ Circle has just arrived at The SkeptVet Blog. It’s definitely a good one. It’s jammed full of great articles. You need to go check it out.

The best article of the bunch is “Discovery Channel: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” by Akusai at Action Skeptics. I gave up my cable TV almost two years ago, so I still have favorable memories of the Discovery Channel. This was the home of Mythbusters, after all. Sure, many of the Discovery Channel’s shows had succumbed to the Least Common Denominator, but at least they didn’t have any of those horrible ghost-hunting shows. Then lately I started hearing about some horrid dreck called Ghost Lab. And it’s on the Discovery Channel! How depressing.

Anyway, Akusai fills us in on what little is still good on the Discovery Channel. He lists Mythbusters first, but even that is apparently sliding. Say it isn’t so!

He also mentions a show I’ve never heard of: Time Warp. Apparently the program is full of all sorts of amazing footage of ordinary things photographed in high-speed video. That sounds like a great show. In fact, I was experimenting with high-speed photography myself last Sunday (See result above. That was shot at 1/2000th of a second.).

Akusai then goes on to tell us about the Bad and the Ugly on the Discovery Channel. Some of it sounds very ugly. If you’re as disgusted as I am with the dumbing-down of science television, you should go read “Discovery Channel: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”. After that, check out the remainder of the Skeptics’ Circle.

15 Responses to “129th Skeptics’ Circle: How the Discovery Channel has Fallen”

  1. Imroy Says:

    No mention of Punkin Chunkin?

    The Onion: Science Channel refuses to dumb down science any further.

  2. arkonbey Says:

    Yeah, like that’s news? I remember when The Learning Channel actually showed educational stuff. That’s where I discovered James Burke’s “Connections”. Now they show Miami Ink. WTF?

    I think it’s strange. It can’t be that they can’t find advertising sponsors. I mean don’t companies like BP and Microsoft want kids to grow up smart to work for them? 😉

  3. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Punkin chunkin is awesome!

    I wouldn’t say that Mythbusters has slid down hill per say. At least as far as their principals are concerned.

    The main problem the Mythbusters face is the fact that there are only a finite number of myths to bust that provide interesting television. I remember seeing an interview with Jaime when they had their some significant number of episodes celebration (forgot which one) and he thought after the very first special (when it was just him and Adam only) they had already basically run out of myths to test.

    So, yea, you tend to get filler episodes where they revisit myths but just use bigger explosives, or they bust a myth nobody in the entire universe has ever heard of (probably made up just to blow something up), and so on.

    Still, I would say even the worst episode has really good TV and, more importantly, good science moments.

    As for TLC. Jesus, grandpa. TLC hasn’t been “the learning channel” since like 1998. lol. Hey I liked the older TLC too, don’t get me wrong (Connections ROCKED), but even after they abandoned learning for “life unscripted” there were some neat little shows here and there. And despite the endless supply of ‘dwarfs can do ordinary things that everybody else does’ shows, they still air medical mystery style shows from time to time to redeem their value. That and Cake Boss is freaking hilarious even though its mindless reality teevee filler.

    As for the ink shows? Jesus after two episodes you have seen it all. How the hell do they stay on?

    Okay, back to the point. Yes, Discovery has gone downhill in the sense that science doesn’t sell anymore (Mythbusters and Time Warp excluded) on the flagship channels, but we really need to keep some perspective here.

    Back when Discovery and TLC were mostly educational, there was no Science Channel, no Discovery Health, no Investigation Discovery, and no Planet Green.

    Discovery and TLC are now brands. They take something with a vaguely educational (stretched to the limit) context and then spin up a LCD plot around it. It works for making money. Good for them. Whatever. Then they put the actual Old Skool Style science and put it on Science Channel and Discovery Health. They take the crime solving stuff and put it on Investigation Discovery. And, finally, they put all ecological oriented stuff on Planet Green.

    Yea, yea, so the ghost investigation crap formerly dominating SyFy (appropriate genre) is penetrating Discovery proper. But the science is still on the child stations. So what’s the problem?

    Really, the only egregious offense Discovery commits (in my opinion) is the airing of the Family That Shall Not Be Named. Does it make me a bad person for experiencing schadenfreude at the premature birth of the latest part of their litter?

  4. TheRealistMom Says:

    If you’re a bad person Parrotlover77, then I’m a downright evil one. I halfway expect her uterus to pack up and leave in the middle of the night…

  5. Jeff Eyges Says:

    Someone on some blog somewhere said, “It’s a vagina, not a clown car.”

    (Which reminds me of this.)

    Very cool photo, Ron.

  6. Ron Britton Says:


    Yes. You might have seen that on some blog. (It’s attributed to some guy named Neilcato. I don’t know if he created it.)

  7. Lindsay Says:

    Hmm…I actually enjoy the ghost hunting shows. It’s odd believing in ghosts and being atheists, but I’ve had enough weird shit happen to myself that makes me question what is going on. However, I don’t necessarily believe it is a soul or in any way, shape or form religiously related. I put it in the realm of something that science has yet to explain.

    Though watching those shows, half the time I say “really?” when they say they can make some sense out of a phrase on an EVP or when they claim a misty cloud like form is the shape of a person.

  8. Jeff Eyges Says:

    Actually, I think I saw it somewhere else. A woman put it in a comment, as I recall. She must have been quoting your source.

    I just read that Mark Morford article. The comments are frightening. I give up, I really do. After they’ve finished raping the planet and have rendered it completely incapable of sustaining life, the last Christian will, with his/her dying breath, still be cursing the liberals, the atheists and the gays, blaming them for civilization’s demise.

    We joke about this all the time, but they really are incapable of rational thought.

  9. Parrotlover77 Says:

    My wife LOVES the paranormal shows, much to my shigrin. She doesn’t buy any of it and is constantly yelling along with me things like, “wtf? that’s no spirit orb! That’s an out of focus dust particle!”

    Still, there’s a market. Sigh.

    You know, I’d actually welcome a show with true scientific analysis of the “haunted” places in the same format as Ghost Hunters or whatever, as long as real science was being performed. The fact is they take it as fact that EVP can actually contain real ghostly voices. Even if a real voice is discovered (and I have yet to hear anything other than microphone noise or mpeg compression artifacts mistaken for phonics), how do you know it’s from a ghost? What if it’s an alien? Or God? Or some dude on his ham radio?

  10. Syldoran Says:

    I love all the flack I get from people at my school because I don’t believe in ghosts.

    For us skeptics, I offer a clip from the goodness known as South Park.

    Also, excellent picture.

  11. qwertyuiop Says:

    Mythbusters has gone downhill this last season. Many times they either half-assed the experiments or just completely dropped the ball. They screw up and say the myth is busted when they just flat out messed it up.

    If anything is busted, it’s them. Lately anyway.

  12. sue blue Says:

    I don’t know if it was just an o-dark-thirty hallucination or some horrible waking nightmare or what, but last Friday morning at 4:00 am I flipped on the TV (couldn’t sleep – big exam) and saw Joyce Meyers on the Science channel. Yes, I’m talking about the female god-hucksterette, on the same channel with shows about physics, astronomy and medicine (some of which are really good). Was someone asleep at the switch over there, or are they just hoping to catch a few atheist early-birds at their most defenseless? That fucked up my day more than any exam.

  13. Sunny Says:

    I have to agree with the total scriptedness (is that a word?) of MythBusters. It makes the show downright painful to watch, especially since it has so much untapped potential.

    Dirty Jobs? I love Mike Rowe. Aside from his rugged attractiveness, he’s actually very intelligent. A few months ago I stumbled upon this video…
    (warning… graphic description of lamb castration)

  14. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Was someone asleep at the switch over there, or are they just hoping to catch a few atheist early-birds at their most defenseless? That fucked up my day more than any exam.

    If it was 4am, I’m hoping it was just an infomercial.

  15. OtherRob Says:

    That was my thought, PL. Last year, after my daughter was born, I would cuddle her downstairs while my wife was upstairs trying to get some sleep. There are a *lot* of infomercials on at 4 in the morning for a *wide* variety of products.