What in the hell has happened to our beloved Shark Week!?! Sure, it may still be a ratings cash-cow for Discovery . . . but is it worth it? Last year’s ho-hum week would almost be welcome again if the alternative is more like this year’s phony-bologna or Honey VooDoo garbage.
- AIR JAWS: BEYOND THE BREACH – Pretty much another Air Jaws retrospective, but with a little bit of 2014 teaser footage at the end. The teaser was both emotionally strong and visually impressive, so I’m calling this one a win regardless that it was 95% rerun.
- MEGALODON: THE MONSTER SHARK LIVES – A travesty on every level. Presented entirely as factual, this sucker eventually proved to be as bogus as its production values. While many people caught on quickly, others didn’t and suffered through 2 hours of phony bullshit. One could almost forgive Discovery for the Blair Witch-like attempt, except they didn’t even bother making a shlockfest fit for SyFy. Offensively dumb, poorly made, badly acted, boring, and a terrible concept for Shark Week. Sharks are so damn fascinating they already have their own week already, without faux made-for-tv drama. Only a fool would mess with Mother Nature.
- RETURN OF JAWS – Impossibly disappointing. What little “shark cam” footage was shown held interest, but the negative presentation made for uncomfortable viewing. It was almost as if the show suggested that Great Whites wanted to eat people in a New England beach town. Sure, Shark Week gets a lot of mileage out of our innate fear of being eaten alive, that’s a given. What initially made people flock to Shark Week was the excitement – what keeps them is the new knowledge and better understanding.
- VOODOO SHARKS – This piece of shit is a direct result of the travesty which is TLC’s Honey Boo Boo. Or whatever cable channel is responsible for that garbage, I refuse to know any more than I am forced to. Billed as having something to do with Bull Sharks, this hour existed for one simple reason: to present lowly-educated, hard-working, rural Cajun folk as bumpkins. And to show an obese man flailing around shirtless in a shark cage, because that qualifies as entertainment in a post-Boo Boo ‘Merica, fuck you very much. Noticeably directed and arguably scripted, this was another example of Discovery’s apparent belief that we’re all a bunch of simpletons.
- I ESCAPED JAWS – Billed as “not re-enactments,” this show sure seemed to have a lot of . . .uhhh . . . re-enactments. *squint* For the hardcore fan, the gorier reality of shark attacks was a big win here. Casual viewers might have had a harder time with it. Once again, a noticeable emphasis on sensationalism gave long-time Shark Week fans an uneasy feeling.
- SPAWN OF JAWS – That uneasy feeling? Only got stronger with this segment. The entire show involved the tagging of various sharks, leading up to one Great White. With huge, encumbering tags drilled into each shark’s dorsal fin – this one was often too upsetting for any shark lover to suffer through. Headed by fishermen and not scientists, it was clear what side of the shark conservation line this show was on. For the final ten minutes of the hour, the fishers/taggers bitched loudly about how difficult this method of tagging is and how much more work it is for them – they’d prefer to do it the old way, which was much more stressful on the animals. Because hey . . . who cares about the sharks on Shark Week anyway, right? *rage*
- TOP 10 SHARKDOWN – How bad were things at this point in the week? So bad that this show – which was essentially an updated rehash of a previous top 10 show – was one of the best. Definitely the most welcome as again we were treated to an appreciation of the amazing creatures, instead of the negative and decidedly non-conservationist feel of the entire week.
- GREAT WHITE SERIAL KILLER – The title says it all. While this had some nice footage of Great Whites in it and a cautionary tale of surfing in known Great White hunting grounds . . . it was primarily an hour of trying to scare non-shark lovers to death. Gratingly, the show posits that a shark might be Jawsing the same beach location every two years. They briefly mention this might be the Great Whites’ breeding grounds and, hey that might be the real reason, BUT NO OMG WE MIGHT HAVE A REAL LIFE JAWS !! #sensationalismasjournalismhooray
- SHARKPOCALYPSE – Maybe you didn’t even watch it, because fuck Discovery Channel by this point, nut if you managed to hang on and find one of the few positive spots in the week. Kudos to you, you brave soul you, because this was it. The title fooled me into accepting another gut-punch of an hour, yet unfortunate titling aside, this was a pretty cool hour. Easily the best new footage of the year – with a simple, temporary “dorsal cam” – these two shark researchers and videographers got some nifty new video. Plus the amiable fellas really seem to appreciate and love sharks, even seeming to joke about sensationalism and fear-mongering.
- ALIEN SHARKS OF THE DEEP – The sharks featured in this show are rare, exciting and interesting. Somehow this hour presented them without eliciting any enthusiasm whatsoever. It could have been a preponderance of past footage of unusual creatures like the Goblin Shark, Cookie Cutter Shark, Greenland Shark, and others used. Somehow, this hour was no where near as interesting as it should have been.
- GREAT WHITE GAUNTLET – Titled this way strictly to be space filler during Shark Week, this special focused entirely on a group of abalone divers off of the Australian coast. With only a handful of Great Whites shown, it was a strange way to end a week about the animal every is tuning in for. Abalone diving is cool and all, but ending the week on yet another note of “sharks are bad guys” was fairly distasteful. Respect for those who choose to risk their lives so that others can eat abalone and all that (said as a fan of Deadliest Catch), that still doesn’t make this a installment fit for Shark Week.
- SHARK AFTER DARK – Last and very, very, very least was this dreck. Admittedly, I might have gotten my hopes up. The idea of a cheesy, nightly, shark-related talk show gave me visions of Craig Ferguson. He was fucking terrific as Shark Week host a few years ago and now CraigyFerg hosts a talk show. It just seemed to make sense. And he was involved in this puke too – his daily 60-second Sean Connery gags were the only positive thing to be found here. Hosted by supposed comedian Josh Wolf – a man with zero respect for sharks, women (almost always the butt of his “jokes”), or himself – it started out terribly and only got worse. Poor Dominic Monaghan appeared genuinely unhappy to be there on the first day and winced openly at the host’s misguided attempts at humor. After this, the daily guest list went further and further down the D-list. By the end of the week, apparently The Hoff showed up. And sang. I have no fucking clue, I didn’t bother watching. I hear Tara Reid made an ass of herself again. Yay, Shark Week?
So there you have it. This long-time Shark Week fan joins the legions wondering what to do next year. Because if 2013 is any indication of where Shark Week is headed, you can count me out. As it was, this year I flipped over to – and enjoyed – National Geographic Wild’s Shark Fest 2013. Sure, a lot of their programming leans toward the “Panic in Paradise” style . . . but there’s also a good deal honoring sharks too. And that’s what’s it’s all supposed to be about.