Discovery Channel is evolving into the Men’s Pulp channel

Several years ago, the Discovery Channel had this successful promotion featuring people singing “boom de yada” while doing awesome sciencey things, mostly. They were also promoting shows about fishing and blowing things up, but OK, it was sweet and memorable. It also featured brief clips of women doing things.

I guess they tried to repeat the success this year, only they forgot someone.

OK, all the stuff about manly men cleaning crab and driving cars and blowing stuff up again is…well, all right, it’s a way to get people interested in science, at least, even if it is only tangentially related to science. I try to be open-minded about approaches to stirring up enthusiasm for science. But it’s all men doing stereotypically masculine activities — there is precisely one woman in the whole thing, she doesn’t speak, she’s wearing skimpy clothing in a long shot as she walks through a forest. That’s it!

Come on, Discovery Channel. I know actual intellectual, thoughtful content isn’t on brand for you, but could you at least have a woman blowing up a truck while swimming with a shark or something?

It reminds me of all those men’s magazines from the 1960s which showed men in dangerous situations (everything in Nature is trying to kill you, you know, even turtles, and your role is to fight them off to rescue Your Woman). Discovery Channel is regressing. Maybe they should rename themselves the Saga or Argosy or True Men channel.


  1. starfleetdude says

    Animal Planet used to have shows about animals, but now it’s more about reality TV featuring bold and stupid men too.

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    What was it the TERFs say? That my mere existence reinforces patriarchy? Someone forgot to tell the patriarchs that.

    It does seem rather odd that both TERFs and Macho-Macho-Men seem to share the same insecurities about gender.

  3. eliza422 says

    Discovery has been going downhill for years. The last remnant I watched was the original Mythbusters. I’m now completely off them. It’s all a big nothing now.

  4. says

    I remember the discovery channel special “Search for the Giant Squid” or something similar. They were using a clear diving ball to reach the depths where giant squid had been accidentally netted as by-catch in the past. They were trying to film a live GS in the wild for the first time. They got nothing.

    This isn’t bad, and frankly I would have watched the episode even if they had come out in the promo materials and said, “We got nothing.” Maybe viewership would have been less if they hadn’t promoted it the way that they did, so maybe what they did was important to make their money back. But instead of honestly portraying science as a process which requires multiple trials until success and the prior trials as important contributions to the eventual success, they hyped the show as actually having GS footage and then literally called the expedition a failure near the end of the show, albeit a failure that wouldn’t hold the expedition leader from trying again.

    To me calling it a failure was itself a bad move. But it was all the worse in the context of the misleading hype. I’ve never been interested in Discovery Channel since. Even if there was a program that seemed on the surface as if it might be interesting, I neither trusted that it was going to be as advertised nor that they would do it well.

  5. anchor says

    “OK, all the stuff about manly men cleaning crab and driving cars and blowing stuff up again is…well, all right, it’s a way to get people interested in science, at least, even if it is only tangentially related to science.”

    Nope. Sorry. That isn’t science programming. It’s just commercial shit disguised as science programming. Its not even decent tech or ENGINEERING programming. It’s the equivalent of the fashionable YouTube fare involving stuff that manly-man-boys get jazzed up over, including cleaning crab, things that go fast or stuff that blows up real good.

    Where do you think the producers of these ‘Discovery’ Channel shows get their notions of what’s ‘trending’?

    That crap does not in the slightest get people interested in science. But it does get people in the habit of utilizing that meme because its cool to do so. Nerdiness has established a niche of popularity and therefore of profitability. Because, sciiiiieeence.

    The target audience aimed at will just as readily check out the next World Wrestling extravaganza next.

    Don’t let the ratchet ping another notch backward just because these producers pretend to have enlightening the public in mind by spritzing their shit with sweet artificial odors designed to encourage a cheesy association with either science or sincerity. It doesn’t in the slightest help make for a well-informed and knowledgeable culture. I’m sure you’ve noticed.

    Sorry. I’m a little cranky today.

  6. UnknownEric the Apostate says


    Hmm, that killer shark is on top of a mountain and looks extremely cat-like!

  7. says

    Not-really-funny answer: THE MAN WHO BECAME A WOMAN is 95% likely about Christine Jorgenson.

    If the channel did become TRUE: THE MEN’S CHANNEL, I’d hope they’d have some of the great cartoons that I’ve saved paperback collections of (even coverless ones) for decades. Besides the crown prince, Virgil “ViP” Partch, they also had some remarkable-in-retrospect entries from names who became famous in other venues, like Johnny Hart, Mort Walker, Jerry Marcus, and even John Dempsey, along with another half dozen my brain is holding onto as collateral for some future deal it thinks will happen.

  8. jrkrideau says

    OK, all the stuff about manly men cleaning crab
    Oh, I thought it was some idiots making funny noises such as one would expect from a US college fraternity house.

    I completely missed the significance of the “manly men cleaning crab”. As an in-land Canadian, it still means nothing to me except “idiots making funny noises” This is about as manly as a pig pen at feeding time (and I have been there).

  9. microraptor says

    Discovery, Animal Planet, and the Science Channel have all done a nose dive in the last decade. I liked Mythbusters for a long time, but it was obvious for the last few seasons that they’d run out of anything actually worth investigating and were just smashing or blowing things up because that brought in ratings.

    I haven’t watched Discovery in years and in fact canceled my cable subscription entirely and haven’t regretted it.

  10. DLC says

    The Man Who Became A Woman. . . Uh… Wait. . . becoming a woman is a Manly topic ? since when ? I want Manly topics in my manly man Magazine. Like fighting a leopard on a mountain while running from the invisible Shark. Well forget it then ! this must be why the magazine failed. Not enough manly topics, like … doing manly things, amongst other men!
    But really — The problem is, these channels found that science puts silver in their pocket, where “reality tv” puts folding money in their pocket.
    (The part in italics is of course satire. )

  11. ridana says

    #6 @ Crip Dyke:

    But it was all the worse in the context of the misleading hype.

    This is my complaint against a lot of Science Channel programs, particularly Strange Evidence and What on Earth. I am endlessly fascinated by aerial and satellite images, so WoE should be right in my wheelhouse. But the way it’s presented is so aggravating I can’t watch it anymore. The narrator’s voice drives me up a wall for one thing. But they’ll show something interesting and then ask all these various “experts” about what it could possibly be, in the most lurid, fear-mongering terms, before finally telling you what benign thing it really is.

    They did one on these strange arrows that could be seen from the sky at various points across the US. Could they be signaling aliens? Could some secret society be marking a route to treasure? I forget all the ridiculous possibilities they manufactured before finally admitting they were old navigation markers for Postal Service airplanes.

    Strange Evidence just did one where they showed some bright lights explosively lighting up Dallas or Houston at night. Could it be a nuclear attack (I suspect we might’ve heard about that)? A terrorist EMP device crippling our infrastructure (complete with scientists showing how EMP fries electronics)? Aliens? Would you believe lightning from the storm that night striking a transformer resulting in a cascade of blowouts?

    These series would be fun and interesting if they’d just tell us straight up what’s going on, instead of spending half the show teasing conspiracy theories and hyping nonsense. I don’t know how they can call themselves The Science Channel with such non-scientific dreck in their programming.

    I do still kinda like Outrageous Acts of Science, though a lot of it makes me cringe because I know “don’t try this at home” disclaimers aren’t enough. But there’s some pretty amazing stuff in there and they explain how it works too, so that’s nice.

  12. M'thew says

    And don’t forget all these reality programs about manly men bringing in huge diggers and other equipment into pristine nature to tear everything up in search of gold or opal or whatever. With numerous instances of hydraulic lines failing and spraying the fluid all over the place etc. I absolutely loathe it.
    Crab fishing I can get, but the wilful destruction of nature that is portrayed in shows like Gold Rush is disgusting.

  13. cartomancer says

    Remind me again why Capitalism is the best system for ensuring high-quality output and constant innovation?

  14. cartomancer says

    Also… “cleaning crab”? That’s got to be a euphemism for something sexual, surely?

  15. says

    The most ironic thing is that those “manly magazines” were a huge undercover way for closeted gay men to acquire homo-erotic material..

    (just to clarify, it is ironic because still nowadays the uber-macho broh would stil regard “gay” as the opposite of manly.. not because I think that gay, lesbian or any identification can be “manly” however they want to define it..)

  16. says

    The one woman was not “scantily clad,” she was unclad. That was a clip from the ridiculous “reality” show, Naked and Afraid.

    Let that sink in: the one woman in the promo was naked and afraid.

  17. hemidactylus says

    The crab show was Deadliest Catch? The show I enjoyed on Discovery was Stormchasers. Yeah there are issues with that kind of sensationalism, but damn some of that footage up close to a twister was phenomenal. A couple years after its cancellation the dangers got real with the death of Tim Samaras.

    I recall an episode of Mythbusters where they tested intercept vehicles of Timmer and the IMAX guy.

  18. snuffcurry says

    Let that sink in: the one woman in the promo was naked and afraid.

    So, this channel is what National Geographic was for school-age boys of a certain generation. Where one is encouraged to regard women are quasi-animal objects of pseudo-anthropological “study” (mostly one-handed, sometimes double-fisted). Cool, cool.

    I’m expected to treat the continued existence of Real Housewives and Kardashian-style soaps like they’re evidence of our collective intellectual decline, but at least the scripting is honest, the line-readings enthusiastic, and the storytelling, though generic, crafted well enough with plenty of old-fashioned cliffhangers and kayfabe. But, yeah, endless variations of dudely bootstrapping caveman cosplay shot on the cheap and looking so, too: so science-y and rational, the chicks just don’t get it. Like self-styled amateur historians with an unofficial doctorate in Hitler studies from The History Channel.