Documentaries’ truth challenged; fake things in nature documentaries

People are fond of giving reality TV shit for being fake and scripted, even though a lot of it is just produced, not fake (and there is a difference).

Documentary films–including those that have won awards–aren’t immune from criticism, but the genre isn’t as reviled and demonized as reality TV. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. Perhaps that’s because it’s less visible or its sins are less egregious, or there’s just a greater attention to craft, but either way, documentaries also have to be produced, and sometimes that means what’s on screen isn’t exactly reflective of reality.

Cracked has compiled a list of 6 Famous Documentaries That Were Shockingly Full of Crap. For example, it challenges an assertion in Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me that he ate 5,000 calories a day, and notes that college students who tried to duplicate his results didn’t suffer from the same physical problems. Cracked also challenges Bill Maher’s assertions that the Jesus narrative in the Bible was borrowed from earlier civilizations’ stories.

In one item, Cracked links to a CBC list of “notable nature documentaries where scenes were either staged or faked.” Among other things, that points out that Blue Planet had a scene of lobsters spawning that was filmed in an aquarium, and that the bird eaten by crabs in Winged Migration was actually rescued by the filmmakers, who then filmed crabs eating a dead fish.

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.