Greeting chums! Summer is officially here. It’s a time of sun and fun, and that means people are relaxing at the beach, catching up on their favorite books or floating aimlessly on donut-shaped inflatable inter-tubes, splashing around, while their feet and arms dangle precariously over the sides, watching as the waves crash onto the shore only to acquiesce back into the sea. The water’s fine, come on in. It’s so hot, let’s go for a swim. Race you to the buoy! Almost there. Wait, something bumped me! Gah, it has me! SHARK!!!! Whoa, that escalated quickly, huh? That’s how it always happens. You think you’re safe, then unexpectedly, out of the blue, something silently creeps up on you from the depths, grabs your leg and rips it off. That’s how I felt when I realized that I almost missed one of the best weeks of summer television during the year, that annual tradition, a celebration of all things fishy, teethy, bitey, and breachy, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. The official kick-off to Shark Week was Sunday, June 26th. I assume you were watching the “Game of Thrones” season finale, so don’t fret, there’s plenty of time to nibble on some great programming because the kill-time event continues through July 3rd. Before we look at this year’s must see shows, we must acknowledge the reason for the season, the recent criticism, and why it’s safe to go back to binge-watching the program again.
In 1971, a young freelance writer named Peter Benchley, struggling to support his family, made one final attempt to keep his head above water, pitched a few ideas to a couple of publishing houses. One of Benchley’s ideas involved pirates. The other, was a tale of an enormous great white shark which terrorized a fictional touristy New England town. As you already know, the shark tale got a bite, and the novel “JAWS” was published in the winter of 1974. The book became a massive hit, and was quickly turned into the iconic summer blockbuster of the same name. Directed by Steven Spielberg and released in theaters during the height of summer in 1975, “JAWS” proved to be a monster success, one that birthed an entire genre predicated on the ocean’s top apex killer. In fact, over the last 45 years, there have been nearly 70 Sharkploitation films starring Carcharodon carcharias, aka White Pointer, White Death, Bruce or The Great White Shark as their most commonly called. Sure, there have been some makos, bulls, sharktopuses, and megalodons featured, but the great one still reigns supreme.
Before “JAWS”, scientists had limited knowledge of mating, habitats and even shark behavior. The movie’s massive appeal was both beneficial and disadvantageous to the shark population. “JAWS”, supplanted sharks in the social consciousness and the result was two fold. Sharks were feared and incorrectly stereotyped as mindless, vengeful, man-eating killing machines. This resulted in the deaths of countless animals at the hands of fisherman who hunted them as sport. During this same time, sharkaphiles eager to learn more about these creatures of the deep were in luck, as scientists (elasmobranchologists) began setting out to research these misunderstood giants of the deep.
Shark Week, began airing on the Discovery Channel in the summer of 1988, and primarily served as a week long educational and conservational endeavor to highlight the ongoing research into sharks as well as debunk the negative stereotypes which had caused panic and fear in beach-lovers everywhere. Despite being highly informative, scientific as well as entertaining for nearly 30 years, Shark Week has recently come under criticism lately due to its shift in programming. In the last couple of years, ratings ebbed and flowed and audiences have complained that the show had, you guessed it, jumped the shark. Instead of focusing on science driven content as it had for so long, the line-up began to feature episodes which could be best described as docufiction. These shallow films only fed into the negative stereotypes of the shark-porn genre. Like many other Shark Week enthusiasts, I feel there’s certainly a place for bloody, killer-shark films like “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives” and its sequel, “Megalodon: The New Evidence” to exist, but Shark Week isn’t necessarily the best platform for them. Due to the condemnation from viewers and to a larger extent, the scientific community, execs at The Discovery Channel have vowed to return back to what makes the week-long program so engrossing, entertaining and scientific programs instead of pseudoscience and fear-mongering shows. By the looks of 2016’s line-up, it’s safe to go back to binge-watching Shark Week again!
So, what should you sink your teeth into this week? Below are my daily picks for the best programs Shark Week 2016 has to offer.
Monday, June 27
“Jaws of the Deep” (9 p.m. EST)
Lurking off the coast of Guadalupe Island, biologists armed with REMUS the SharkCam search for and track Deep Blue, one of the world’s largest white sharks.
“Shark After Dark” (11 p.m. EST)
I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t the hottest adult shark porn in the ocean, it’s a nightcap where filmmaker Eli Roth, comedian Chelsea Handler and shark expert Dickie Chivell discuss their love of sharks.
Tuesday, June 28
“Return of the Monster Mako” (7 p.m. EST)
Lurking in the Gulf of Mexico fisherman come face-to-face with the great white’s menacing cousin.
“Air Jaws: Night Stalker” (10 p.m. EST)
Chris Fallows veteran photographer and expert on white shark behavior is known for capturing some of the most memorable shark breaches on film. This time, Fallow’s and crew set sail to observe the nightly hunting habits of these mysterious animals. This episode is narrated by none other than Cersei Lannister.
Wednesday, June 29
“Deadliest Sharks” (9 p.m. EST)
Selfies kill more people every year than shark attacks, but one shark in particular is known to have killed more people than any other shark in recorded history. You guessed it, the Oceanic white tip shark! Find out why in this episode.
“Sharks vs. Dolphins: Face Off” (10 p.m. EST)
What it is: Adversaries go fin-to-fin. What it’s not: In order to stop a homicidal shark from terrorizing tourists, a dolphin undergoes a highly experimental face transplant to take on the appearance of the shark. However, the shark learns of the plan and in turn, takes on the appearance of the dolphin.
Thursday, June 30
“Nuclear Sharks” (9 p.m. EST)
What effects have the nuclear weapon tests conducted around the Marshall Islands had on the ecosystems and and shark population there? Tune in to this episode, it may surprise you.
Friday, July 1
“Shark Bait” (9 p.m. EST)
Shark bait hoo ha ha! Great whites hunt seals off Cape Cod. Nuf said.
Saturday, July 2
“Sharksanity 3” (11 p.m. EST)
Essentially a chum bucket style highlight reel from the entire week, as well as clips from previous seasons.
Sunday, July 3
“The Killing Games” (9 p.m. EST)
Sharks are the ultimate apex predators of the ocean and in this final episode, white sharks are not only stalking and killing seals, their favorite prey off the coastline, but also on…wait for it…the beach itself.