Animal Planet is doing something truly bizarre right now: airing seven-year-old episodes of Whale Wars with a new title and season numbers.
In its preview of tonight’s TV, The Los Angeles Times says that the 8 p.m. episode is “the opener of the two-episode season premiere.” But both of those episodes actually premiered in 2012. I loved Whale Wars, but this is truly bizarre.
“Whale Wars: Watson’s Last Stand” premiered at 8 p.m., and is listed as episode 1, season 1 on my DVR. The episode is two hours long. But it’s actually Whale Wars season 5, episodes 1 and 2, from 2012, with a new title and slightly rewritten description.
The description for the first episode of “Whale Wars: Watson’s Last Stand,” a two-hour episode, says this on Animal Planet’s web site and on my cable box’s guide:
“After seven years battling at sea, the Sea Shepherd’s victory is short-lived after Japan promises to resume hunting whales in Antarctica. Later, the Bridgitte Bardot is struck by a rogue wave and her crew prepares to abandon ship.”
Here’s the description for episodes 1 and 2 of Whale Wars season 5:
“After seven years of intense sea battles, the Sea Shepherds believe they have driven the Japanese whaling fleet from the Southern Ocean. But Japan promises to return to Antarctica to resume its hunt.”
“The crew aboard the Steve Irwin spots a ship and suspects that it is the Nisshin Maru. Already short on fuel, the Brigitte Bardot is struck by a rogue wave and her crew prepares to abandon ship.”
Likewise, the second episode of “Whale Wars: Watson’s Last Stand” is described like this:
“Terrified of the Brigitte Bardot capsizing, its crew begins to panic. While a Japanese security vessel lurks nearby, the captain finally orders an evacuation. In Antarctica, crew from the Bob Barker go after a harpoon ship.”
“The terrified crew aboard the damaged Brigitte Bardot issues a distress call, but help is far away. As raging seas pound the fragile craft, the crew begins to fall apart, fearing they will not survive.”
“With the Japanese fleet’s security vessel on the horizon, the captain of the Brigitte Bardot orders his crew to evacuate the boat. In Antarctica, the Bob Barker tries to disable the Yūshin Maru No. 3.”
The same is happening next week: Episode 3, titled “On the Offense,” and episode 4, titled “Radio Silence,” are episodes five, six, seven, and eight from season five. That’s an entire season in two weeks
So Animal Planet has taken two episodes, put them together, given them a new title, rewritten the descriptions, and is acting as if this is a brand-new show and/or season.
Watson’s Last Stand isn’t new, but there is something new coming to Animal Planet
So what is going on? A partial answer came from Sea Shepherd, which tweeted that the network “will also be airing episodes of Whale Wars every Thursday” from Dec. 5 to Dec. 19, starting at 8 p.m.
That’s in advance of “the television debut,” Sea Shepherd said, of the documentary Watson.
Animal Planet will air the documentary Dec. 22 at 8 p.m. ET.
Earlier this fall, “Animal Planet announced the acquisition of worldwide television rights to Participant and Terra Mater Factual Studios’ documentary,” according to a press release.
In it, Susanna Dinnage—who was then president of Animal Planet, but left at the end of October when Discovery gave Animal Planet to Nancy Daniels to oversee—said this:
“Animal Planet has partnered with Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd for many years to shine a light on their incredibly important work on behalf of our oceans. We are therefore all the more delighted to share this beautifully made film chronicling his remarkable, courageous life with our global audiences.”
The documentary is directed by Lesley Chilcott, and the press release described it this way:
“Captain Watson and his crews have confronted whaling vessels from Europe to the Southern Ocean, seal hunters in Canada, and shark finners in Central America. WATSON blends revealing contemporary interviews with Captain Watson, archival clips of Sea Shepherd’s dramatic encounters, and spectacular underwater nature footage, as award-winning documentarian Lesley Chilcott (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for ‘Superman‘) paints a fascinating portrait of a man willing to put his own life at risk in a relentless quest to protect the oceans and the marine life within.”
It makes sense that Animal Planet is airing reruns of the original series in advance of the documentary—and I’m always glad to see it on TV, and give people the opportunity to discover it or re-watch.
But pretending it’s a brand-new show is very weird. Why be deceptive? Of course, I get the strategy: it tricks people into recording and/or watching, thinking it’s new.
But why not just air a marathon—which Animal Planet did this past summer—or at least just label these episodes accurately? Why lie?