Dear Discovery Channel: I Am So Disappointed In You

Sunday night, Jack and I were hangin’ in the hizzie all late-night. We like to do this: I go there after work and make him stay up until well past the normal person’s bedtime (he usually naps first), and we watch TV. Sometimes good TV, sometimes bad TV. Sports of some kind. The occasional movie. Whatever floats his boat, as he has the clicker and I don’t really care (even when he’s at my place I give him the clicker; I don’t mind man-handling of the remote). Though sometimes I do catch sight of something on the cable channel guide at the bottom of the screen and hit him in the arm or the leg and go “Ooh!” demand that we watch it.

I mean we talk and stuff, but if it’s not the right weather for balcony cocktails and drunk people-watching (them, not us… well, sometimes us) we watch TV, too.

Sunday night was a particularly bad night for television. The channel surfing landed on the one program we could find with an interesting title:

When Fish Attack 2.

“When Fish Attack 2?! Fish can attack?” I asked.

“Well…” Jack thought about it. He was tired.

“Okay, so, piranha and barracuda. What else?”


“And there are two of these shows?” I wanted to confirm.

“How could one of those shows be enough?” Jack replied.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but we sort of got sucked in. This giant elephant seal was floating around in some ocean somewhere nomming on a guy’s head. You can’t not watch a swimming mass of blubber with a huge proboscis nom on a guy’s head. But something was off. It wasn’t, like, ferocious. It didn’t look scary. The show kept cutting over to an interview with a guy who had a scar in the middle of his forehead that looked like it matched elephant seal teeth, but the video of the “attack” didn’t look very attack-y.

“This video looks like…not scary,” I said to Jack without taking my eyes off the screen.

“No,” he agreed, staring sort of half-consciously. “It doesn’t seem urgent.”

We watched.

“I feel like it’s a dramatic reenactment,” I said, “but I can’t figure out how you get an elephant seal to dramatically reenact something.”

The elephant seal had switched from the guy’s head to his arm. The narrator was talking about how the seal was feasting on this guy’s flesh, but it looked to me like the dude could totally have just yanked his arm out of the seal’s mouth, swum away, grabbed a bushel of crabs and gone for dinner, no problem. There was no blood in the water and this big lug of a swimming blob wasn’t looking very savage. I watch Shark Week. I know what I’m talking about. This wasn’t savage.

“Also I think those things are… um…” I poked myself in the forehead. “What’s the thing that’s opposite of carnivore?”

“Herbivore?” Jack offered helpfully.

Yes. Herbivores. Like, they have kind of flat teeth. So they don’t really maul humans, I don’t think,” I decided.

Okay, so I’ve looked it up and technically elephant seals are pescetarian.   Sting rays, baby sharks, etc. So I was wrong there. But still. No blood in the water, and also the camera, which was held by another diver, wasn’t foundering around like the cameraman was all, “OMG, my buddy is being eaten alive by an elephant seal!”

"I will nom your head! But just a little."

We watched. Silent. Possibly slack-jawed from the lateness of the hour.

A couple of minutes went by.

“That isn’t a fish,” I observed.

“Not a fish,” Jack confirmed immediately on the heels of my observation.



“I mean the show is called ‘When Fish Attack.'”


“Right. But…”

“Not a fish.”

We watched.

“Hey, you know that Hillbilly Handfishin’ show?” Jack was suddenly animated and looking at me instead of the screen.

“Yeah?” We had watched it before on a similarly late night get-together and mocked it and the people on it, and the concept in general.

“So I know these two guys, and they’re gonna be on it.”

“Shut. Up.” I turned my body entirely toward him. “When? How did that happen?”

Jack told me the story of how he knows these guys and how they wound up getting on “Hillbilly Handfishin’,” which involves sticking your hands  – or feet – into crevasses under water in muddy rivers somewhere in the south to snag catfish without benefit of bait or line. It’s ridiculous and the guy who takes these people out on these little adventures is so furry he looks like he’s wearing a sweater when he’s shirtless in the water.

The guy on the right. So furry.

“They’re gonna be on on the… uh… 23rd,” Jack finished.

“We have to watch that!” I demanded. And then I told him about my friends who are going to be on one of those New Homeowner shows on TLC or HGTV or DIY or something, which he was slightly less interested in, evidently because it didn’t involve my friends sticking their feet into crevasses under water to goad catfish into chomping them.

Back on the Discovery Channel, we were now treated to a storyline about a giant whale that attacked a sailboat by breeching and body-slamming it. This was more compelling. This was actually sort of great video of this whale hurling itself out of the sea and ka-powing this boat with this South African couple on it. We were sufficiently impressed by the craziness of this kind of thing happening while you were minding your own business in he middle of the ocean. But…


“Also not a fish,” I said.

“Nope. Not a fish,” Jack agreed.

I found some energy. “This show’s title is very misleading,” I groused.

Jack nodded and made a disapproving face.

“I mean this is the Discovery Channel. It’s supposed to be educational.”

“That’s true.”

“They’re really doing children a disservice,” I opined.

The show moved on to a third storyline, about apparently crazy people who lie on a dock to feed tiny fish to tarpon. Tarpon are sport fish. The guy getting interviewed explained that they are strong and fast and they have gullets that allow them to swallow their prey whole and something about a bone that lets them crush their food as they swallow. And these people were leaning down with little fish in their hands so the tarpon could jump up out of the water and eat them. Sometimes, they’d latch on to the crazy people’s hands and leave bloody marks.

“Augh!” Jack exclaimed, squeezing my knee reflexively, scrunching up his face and curling his upper lip back. Jack doesn’t like blood. He won’t ever watch surgery shows with me, even fictional ones.

Another tarpon fish grabbed a littler fish from some kid’s hand and left a bite.

“Gah!” Jack twisted away, averting his eyes.

“Well, at least it’s a fish,” I said.

Bravo for correctly identifying the species.

He agreed.

“But you know, they’re not really attacking,” I said. “They’re just… eating.”

“Yeah, and the people getting bitten are just holding the food.”


“Which is dumb.”

We watched.

Jack winced.

We watched some more.

“You know, I don’t–”

“This show is very disappointing,” Jack concluded, and flipped the channel.

“And misleading,” I insisted. “Don’t forget misleading.”

“Yes. Misleading.”

“I’m going to write a letter.”

“You should.”

He flipped to ESPN. We compared NFL records and rolled our eyes about people who think they can predict the outcome of the season, two weeks in. And then he started falling asleep and I felt bad, so I left.

It was a good night. For us, I mean. Not for the Discovery Channel. Lying jerks. Fish attacks. Hmph.


8 thoughts on “Dear Discovery Channel: I Am So Disappointed In You

  1. I love quality late night TV, especially when I have someone to critique it with. (Not that I didn’t say what level of quality.) It’s like Mystery Science Theater meets the Discovery Channel in your own home!

    • Exactly. And it’s so much more fun when you have a partner in criticism crime. But I mean seriously. An elephant seal is NOT a FISH! (Also it gives you future inside jokes. Jack emailed me today to complain about a useless co-worker being useless and I replied with a pic of an open-mouthed elephant seal and said we should feed his co-worker to it.)

  2. Oh, the fascinating life you lead.

    I wouldn’t reveal to anyone the banality of the TV-viewing dialogue enjoyed by myself and my stud-muffin, complete with talking to Depends commercials, and open-mouthed snoring when we drop off in the middle of a fascinating program. Might wear away a bit of my mystique.

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