BY HEATHER MARLETTE
With the beginning of my happy time comes the knowledge that in a few days time, shark week will be over for the year. I always enjoy the programming, but every year I have a worse feeling that the true essence of what shark week once was is disappearing. 26-years ago, this was a week of what it set out to be – using the popularity of television and channels like the Discovery Channel to bring attention to the most misunderstood, scapegoated animals roaming – technically swimming – the planet today. Over time, there have been many changes to the weeklong programming, which incidentally is considered the longest running cable programming with 26 consecutive years having it.
For 16 years Shark Week was aired with no host from 1987-2003, and for some reason the Discovery Channel decided that in 2004 they needed to remedy this. In 2004, the cast of American Chopper hosted, and then in 2005 the hosts continued up to this year. From 2005-2009 the hosts were the popular faces of the Discovery Channel, then in 2010 it all kind of went to hell. That was the year when there was no need to be a scientist at all to host shark week, with late night talk show host/actor Craig Ferguson taking the helm. Discovery Channel stayed with funny men, and in 2011 it was Andy Samberg, 2012 brought Philip DeFranco – online journalist, social media icon and this year we had comedian/actor Josh Wolf as our Shark Week Captain. Okay. I do not truly know why they ever introduced a “host.” I did not mind so much when it was the MythBusters, Les Stroud (Survivorman) or even Mike Rowe who had some kind of connection to Discovery Channel and added to the programming. I can almost give them this year, as Josh Wolf showed an enthusiasm that led to high ratings and interesting conversation on the new addition Shark After Dark a late night talk show that blew away the competition this week.
New additions are nothing new to shark week. Every year they save the primetime rating hours (generally 8 PM – 11 PM) for their new shark programming. Every year they have about 5 – 7 new shows that they premiere to the devoted and often outspoken shark week fans, and yes, in that description me is included. More and more though, I have noticed that they are getting away from the shows that drew me in to begin with. I am not quite sure when shark week turned into Great White and a few other more well known Sharks Week but it does appear to have. There are few exceptions lately, and especially this year. I will give you that the above mentioned Shark After Dark was quite enjoyable. I will also say that I enjoyed Air Jaws: Beyond the Breach, but it was not as good as Alien Monster Sharks, Spawn of Jaws and Return of Jaws. For new programming, that was about it.
I am a huge Air Jaws but this behind the scenes look seemed to be just an attempt to fill a time slot with the progression of the scientist team over the years – but we have seen them, we know who Chris Fallows and Jeff Kurr are. I am excited to know they have a show coming next year, searching for Colossus who was introduced in last year’s Air Jaws. We have seen them get shot after shot people told them they never would – their shows depict the Great White as an apex predator, and not as a Great White Serial Killer – do NOT get me started. The rest – please. Great Whites are starting to target and hunt humans? Voodoo Sharks had potential had they gone with the Bull Shark science, but instead they chose to follow the people hunting down the non-existent giant mutation of Bull Sharks and I couldn’t even make it through it. The updated Shark Countdown was ridiculous and seemed an attempt to throw some new names out there and have some kitchiness going on. AND OH THE GREAT WHITES.
Is Discovery Channel aware that there are other sharks? Not just the Bull, Tiger, Sand Tiger and Hammer Head, but Blues, Whale Sharks, All Reef Sharks?? How about more on the deep water sharks, or some specials on those who hunt the sharks and why? Instead of some REALLY STUPID AND NOT WELL DONE mockumentary – I mean, did you see those special effects? – how about an expose on Finning or sports hunters. That is really all I can say on that. That mockumentary was a disgrace, and defending it by saying well, you know, maybe Megalodon is out there, it’s a big ocean is UNFORGIVEABLE. With the seriously just flashed disclaimers that showed for seconds at most, people believed that show. They thought that this was a documentary presenting real evidence and there is no excuse allowable for Discovery not making the truth clear before the show, going to and coming back from each commercial break and at the end. Despicable.
I get that the attack shows and the Great Whites draw people that are not geeks, shark enthusiasts and science aficionados in for ratings but for some of what happened this year…wow. I will vote for more Shark After Dark, and even I enjoyed good old Bob the Shark and who could not get into the Snuffy promos. Shark enthusiast, including myself, can only hope that Discovery Channel takes a look at their programming and realize that when you are presenting this information to the public as a whole, they take it as their shark knowledge and run with it. Most people aren’t like me and my fellow sheeks (yup, that is how I refer to us shark geeks, you know you love it). They won’t go out and learn about sharks on their own. They aren’t going to research the details, or study the history. They don’t want to; they trust the Discovery Channel to present them with the actual facts, not theories, skewed views and outright lying mockups. So yes, I still love me some Shark Week, and can NOT wait for Shark Week 2014, I just hope that there is a return to basics somewhere in the future.