River Monsters


Whenever someone starts talking about TV shows and asks me what I like, especially now that I’m in grad school, I almost feel bad when I answer with programs like South Park, Family Guy, or Tosh.0 because it seems like everyone else loves shows like CSI, NCIS, SVU, or anything else titled with an acronym.

 


I guess that’s one of my biggest character flaws. I can’t watch serious shows, or movies for that matter. 90% of the time, if someone asks if I’ve seen a particular movie, I’ll say no, and their eyes will get wide and they’ll look at me like I just pressed down on the soft spot of a baby’s head like you do to mashed potatoes before you pour the gravy on.

Like this.

I just can’t do it. You can blame it on my ADD, like Awolnation, but I blame it on the fact that, as someone who writes a lot, I’m always looking too far into the plot. Rather than just seeing where the show or movie takes me, I’m always assuming (correctly most of the time) that it will end a certain way.

 


Movies, especially, are like this. Take any superhero movie ever made, for example. The hero always struggles to win, only to seemingly lose to the villain with 15 minutes left in the movie; but then, by some miraculous occurrence, finds a loophole, defeats the villain, and comes out on top, a better person from the experience, and hero to all.

 


I guess that’s why I like what I like. Stuff that people with class and sophistication look at as tasteless, crude, empty entertainment. But that’s kind of my thing. I like tasteless and crude. I like going for the joke. It’s my defense mechanism. I smile when bad things happen. I’m sorry, but after the fourth or fifth time they showed that old man buckle at the Boston Marathon right when the bombs exploded, I snickered a little bit. Does that make me a horrible person? Probably, but that was the slowest fall I had ever seen and it entertained me. Plus, he lived. So it’s okay.

In my defense, it literally took him 5 minutes to fall.

I laugh when bad things happen not because I think they’re actually funny or that I get some sick pleasure out of people’s real suffering, but because I have such an aversion to sadness that I try to avoid it at all costs.

 


I can’t watch reality TV either, and it’s not because I take a strong moral stance against TV corporations exploiting stupid people for being stupid. It’s because I’m too busy living my own life. I’m not so detached from the real world that I need to be involved in the real lives of other real people doing pre-planned, semi-scripted things. I know what life is like. I don’t need to watch people live it.

 


If I’m going to watch stuff that isn’t funny, I’ll watch stuff like No Reservations or Bizarre Foods – something with literal substance that I can enjoy. As much as I would love to watch the History or Discovery Channels, they too have fallen prey to a constant theme that is too transparent to fool me with anymore.

 


It’s almost always one of two things. Sometimes it’s the History Channel making a documentary about some historical event and claiming that aliens were involved. For the full hour or two, they’ll present anomaly after anomaly about how aliens impacted some historical event. They’ll get you to the end, where you’re almost convinced aliens are real, and they’ll hit you with something like: “While evidence suggests the Egyptians used Israelite slaves to build some of the pyramids, there is NO evidence to suggest that aliens DIDN’T build them.”

Aliens.

Other times it’s the Discovery Channel making some outrageous claim that scientists have found something groundbreaking and earthshattering. Whether it’s a medical cure or a claim to have found a missing link in the evolutionary chain, the storyline remains the same. They build it up and build it up until the end, where the main outspoken scientist, who had blabbed on and on for the past hour about all of this evidence looks the camera dead on and basically says, “Mehh, I don’t know.” The credits roll and the screen quickly transitions into “The Deadliest Catch.”

 


Yet there I sat one Sunday night, flipping through the guide to see what was on. I scrolled across Animal Planet and saw “River Monsters.” I pulled up the description and saw “Face Ripper” as the title. I’m a guy. I love things that rip faces. If you’re going to show me an animal that rips faces, I will give you my undivided attention.

 


Not thinking about the consequences, I chose to record the two hour show because I have a DVR and I hate commercials. After all, it was Animal Planet, the channel that should exist only to have reruns of The Dog Whisperer and act as a place to house that depressing ASPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan.

“In the arms of an angel…weeaaaahhhhhhh”

Nothing kills your happiness like that commercial. I don’t know how many times I’ve come out of another hilarious segment of South Park only to be greeted by a puppy with big glossy eyes, shaking ever so slightly as the song begins to play. And it’s not like I can turn away for 30 seconds and come back to an AT&T commercial where a guy is being hilariously condescending to a bunch of small children; no, the ASPCA fills a two minute block of commercials with sad, decrepit animals.

 


So I start watching “River Monsters.” The show is hosted by Jeremy Wade, human/turtle hybrid and British biologist. He has the stereotypical British teeth that look like they could rip the bark off of any tree and I almost began to discredit the entire show. But then he started talking. I now understand why women almost immediately fall in love with anyone with an accent.

He kind of looks like a turtle.

Hypnotizing me in his gorgeous British accent, Jeremy told me about a man who jumped in a river in the South American jungle and immediately had his face ripped off by some evil man-eating fish. All right. Cool. I’m a man, you’ve introduced a gruesome yet awesome story about an evil face ripping fish – you’ve lured me in (pun definitely intended).

 


For the next hour and a half I watch as he travels between Bolivia and Suriname in the deep South American jungle, fishing for some prehistoric man eating creature. Was it really a fish? Maybe the guy got murdered. Was it piranhas? Piranhas don’t attack people, he said. Maybe it was a previously undiscovered species of fish that attacks people. All of these possibilities played out in front of me.

 


I’ll give him credit. He showed a few fish that scared the hell out of me, like the one fish with six-inch-long fangs appropriately named “The Vampire Fish.” And as the time began running out on the show, I wondered if I had fallen prey to the same bait as before (pun totally intended), or if I was about to see some demonic looking, sharp-toothed creature pulled from a muddy South American river.

Holy hell.

Everything got me hooked (do you hate me yet?) – the title, the setting, the British accent. And for the first ninety minutes he sold it. He built up this incredible story. He traveled around. He fished around and searched for the evil face ripping creature he was certain had to exist. The evidence mounted. He was certain it was some new breed of man killing creature lurking in the murky waters of the South American Amazon basin.

 


Then I began to realize his biggest flaw. He was a typical dude – stubborn and unwavering. He got an idea in his head and he ran with it, totally refusing to change his mind. Maybe that was the British side of him, all smug and what not. He had a right to be.

 


Currently, the UK ranks 6th in the world in total education, whereas the USA ranks 17th behind countries like Singapore, Finland, and Canada. When Canada is theoretically smarter than we are its time to cut the crap and turn this thing around. We can’t be having a bunch of lumberjacks and hockey fans asserting their intellectual dominance over us.

 


I continued to watch, hopelessly glued to the TV in hopes of seeing a really awesome and demonic looking creature. And as the final credits began to roll as Jeremy held up another fish, he did his best to act like he was right all along, and that he knew what ripped the man’s face off. But really, no one knew. Curses, foiled again.

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