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.

Surprisingly, man not eaten alive on Eaten Alive

Eaten Alive

Discovery Channel’s happy family holiday special Eaten Alive aired Sunday, rewarding viewers for their two full hours of viewing by ensuring that they spent quality time in the company of others instead of wasting that time doing something else that might not have been as satisfying, such as buying things that have labels which accurately reflect their contents.


Winter 2015 reality TV debut schedule

winter 2015 reality TV schedule

Mark your calendars with all these upcoming reality TV show debuts, including Celebrity Apprentice, The Bachelor, and another season of MasterChef Junior, all of which kick off in early January.

There are also 20+ shows debuting in December--including the one-off return of The Sing Off. No winter break for reality TV.

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.