With the release of Racing Extinction, a documentary about efforts to fight climate change and protect endangered species, a new era has been born in American Television. Consider this: Discovery Channel’s massive audience: Discovery Channel’s newest offering is still anthro-centric. The key here is the sort of human avatar for wildness standing center stage. Filmmaker Louis Psihoyos has done it again!
Psihoyos is unabashed about his desire to reach the broadest audience possible. His previous effort, The Cove, won the Oscar for best documentary, but with Racing Extinction, he’s in it for the eyeballs. “I keep reminding myself that the reward is getting potentially a billion people to see the film,” Psihoyos told Variety. “To me, that is way bigger than an Academy Award.”
That goal aligns nicely with the aims of the Discovery Channel, which threw the entire weight of its massive marketing machine behind the film. Discovery Communications, the mothership, is a massive force in television. The flagship needs a flag to plant.
For the Discovery Channel, investing in the this kind of docu means cleaning up the network’s reputation as a purveyor of cheap, non-scientific docu-tainment. They’re on it.
If Racing Extinction is the signal of what’s to come, science is going to have a seat at the table. But the scientists will be supporting characters. The heroes are the activists who get themselves into tight spots in the name of saving the world.