Monday, August 18, 2014

Discovery Slowly Sinks into the Sunset

All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching? ~Nicholas Johnson

I admit it: I am a veritable broken record when it comes to the subject of the so-called science and history channels. Note: If you're lucky one of the history channels will tell you what a “broken record” might be. Well, b'gosh, someone else has noticed. Over at Quartz.com, Adam Epstein takes issue with the Discovery axis and has a probable explanation for why it isn't going to get better any time soon.
I had seen articles elsewhere about scientists being ticked off that their quotes were taken and put into the context of some hokey monster shark expedition that had nothing to do with them. This isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened. One famous example was the Jesus tomb debacle that had experts coming out of the woodwork to complain about how their quotes were used. Given the route Discovery seems to be going, they won't be able to get reputable experts to speak to them. Not that they'll be bothered about it; there are loads of hokey experts available to throw out a meaningless pithy quote.
However, the depth to which Discovery will probably sink is indicated by the fact, as Mr. Epstein reports, that they have severed their ties with the BBC. The BBC, as can be seen by glancing at the credits of any decent non-fiction program, puts out most of the good stuff on Science, History, and formerly on Discovery. Now that Discovery is not going to have a relationship with them, how long before Science goes that route as well? Science Channel has pretty much become a YouTube outlet, with supposed scientists commenting on idiotic videos of people trying to do harm to themselves and others. That's about as low-budget as it gets.
History and Science have themselves devolved into UFO and “unexplained things” networks. There's the idiocy of Ancient Aliens. Constantine didn't see a flaming cross; he saw an airplane. It's “misunderstood technology.” The only thing that's misunderstood is that there is no proof, even indirect, circumstantial proof, that aliens have landed on Earth. Frankly, if they start getting our TV transmissions, they'll decide to avoid the place like the plague, if they're looking for intelligent conversation. On the other hand, if they're looking for an easy mark to exterminate through trickery, they'll recognize easy pickings when they see it.  They could destroy humanity with a couple of well-place infomercials.
It's not that these stations don't occasionally screw up and show something intelligent. It's just that the good stuff is often 5 or 10 years old. There hasn't been a good paleontology series since around 2000. Even Nova on PBS is guilty of this. Fortunately they redeemed themselves a bit recently with a good series on the paleo history of Australia, which was definitely worth watching. And Science claims to be showing new episodes of How the Universe Works, but the series seems to have gotten kind of hung up on catastrophes like:
  • An asteroid is going to hit the Earth, and wipe us out.
  • A nearby star will go supernova, and wipe us out.
  • A black hole will wander through the solar system, and wipe us out.
  • The universe will under go a phase change, and wipe everything out.
I mean, I know nothing is forever, but aren't there any subjects you guys can talk about that don't end with me and my nearest and dearest all turned to cinders?
At any rate, there's no sign that it's going to get better any time soon. In fact it looks pretty grim with no BBC programming coming to Discovery, which will now enthrall us with more Scandals of the Amish or Cursing Fisherman Who Might Die on Camera If You're Lucky.
Looks like I'm going to be able to catch up on my reading.