How Shark Week Became A Cultural Phenomenon

Entertainment

NPR 12 July, 2021 - 09:41am 3 views

When does Shark Week Start?

Shark Week - Shark Week 2021 (not to be confused with SharkFest over on National Geographic) starts today and runs through July 17, and has special programming featuring Tiffany Haddish, William Shatner, Brad Paisley, the cast of “Jackass” and of course, dozens of expert marine biologists. Raleigh News & ObserverWhat to Watch on Sunday: Highlights of Discovery’s Shark Week 2021

Is Shark Week on Hulu?

Below, find the complete Shark Week 2021 TV and live streaming schedule. All times ET on The Discovery Channel. All content available to stream on fuboTV, Sling, AT&T TV, Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV. syracuse.comHow to watch Shark Week 2021: Schedule, time, TV channel, FREE live stream

This week, Discovery celebrates the 30th anniversary of Shark Week. Do you understand what that means? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

Well, not nothing. It means that if you are under 30, Shark Week has existed since before you were born. You have never not known Shark Week! On the day you were born, someone could have said, "Boy, I'm really looking forward to Shark Week next year." And the other person would hopefully have squinted and said, "Are you?"

It hasn't always been quite the phenomenon it is now. Perhaps Shark Week reached full maturation in November, 2006 when Tracy Jordan, played on 30 Rock by Tracy Morgan, gave Kenneth the page these words of advice: "Live every week like it's Shark Week." If you care to use the search engine of your choice, you will find that there is abundant bootleg merchandise carrying this very slogan, ripping off both 30 Rock and Shark Week simultaneously.

Since then, Shark Week has been ubiquitous. How much so? It even came up in an interview with Stormy Daniels that aired earlier this year on 60 Minutes.

The saga continues. This year, Discovery is airing specials including Alien Sharks: Greatest Hits, Cuba's Secret Shark Lair, Guy Fieri's Feeding Frenzy, Shark Tank Meets Shark Week, Sharkwrecked, Great White Shark Babies, Sharks Gone Wild, and my personal favorite — an adaptation of an existing Discovery property — Naked and Afraid of Sharks. Shark Week is now fully exploiting every other cliche in reality/unscripted television: celebrities, food shows, baby animals, nudity, brand extensions ... this thing is a machine. They're even revisiting their disastrous Megalodon special from 2013, which made fiction look like science to the point where the entire network's credibility — and yes, it originally had quite a bit of credibility — was damaged.

And what, after all, is more fundamental to the culture of our collective moment than getting more attention for wallowing in your worst decisions?

This year, you can get a plethora of shark tie-in products that allow you to advertise a cable programming event yourself! You can build a shark at Build-A-Bear workshop, buy Shark Week neckties, or eat some Swedish Fish out of a Shark Week bag!

Look: The phenomenon of Shark Week is, at a fundamental level, very ... weird. (That's a highly technical term from the TV industry.) It began as a Discovery Channel marketing flourish — a way to draw viewers over the summer by yelling BOO! about beaches and oceans using the power of science. They've also used it in the past to encourage conservation and to highlight the problems that shark populations face, and they still say they do, to a degree. But that's not why there's a special this year called Sharkcam Stakeout. Sharks represent an example of a common fear that, while real, is wildly unlikely to ever affect an individual person. You couldn't attract big audiences with the thrills of Diabetes Week or Car Accident Week. The dangers of sharks bring to mind exactly the menace and exactly the distance that this kind of exploitation requires. It's right in the pocket: it's exciting, but the odds are very small that this is how you're going to die. Try that with Increasingly Unstable Weather Patterns Week.

But at some point, Shark Week began to be treated like a real point in time, like Flag Day or October. It's spread beyond Discovery. Now we also have a Sharknado movie every summer. (The Last Sharknado: It's About Time premieres on August 19, and it involves time travel.) (I know. Believe me, I know.) Nat Geo Wild — which didn't even exist when Shark Week was invented — now runs the very similar competing "Sharkfest," which will be two weeks long this year and is already underway. (Offerings include Shark vs. Tuna, The Whale That Ate Jaws: New Evidence, and Shark Kill Zone.)

This must stop. Shark Week is not Earth Day. It's not even as charming as Valentine's Day, and Valentine's Day is a scam! At least other invented holidays are invented for the purposes of getting you to buy gifts. Shark Week is just there to make you watch Shark Week.

There's a lot of science on television — public television, especially. There are a lot of wild animals on television, too. But when Shark Week is holding a crossover with Shark Tank simply because they both have "Shark" in the title, and when they're making Naked and Afraid of Sharks just for the guffaw you get when you read the title out loud (just did it; just got one), you've gotten pretty far afield from science and conservation. The key is not to live every week like it's Shark Week. The key is to live Shark Week like it's any other week. Because it is.

Read full article at NPR

‘Sharknado’ is back — in a Shark Week special that wants to prove sharks aren’t ‘crazed lunatic man-killers’

The Washington Post 12 July, 2021 - 03:00pm

But then he heard more details: Not only would he be paired up with “Sharknado” stars Tara Reid and Ian Ziering to debunk the wildest aspects of the movies and demonstrate how sharks are not actually “crazed lunatic man killers,” but the special would also include scientific exploration of how sharks actually behave during storms. Plus, although the franchise was absurd, he had a soft spot for the mindless entertainment it provided millions of viewers.

Thus, “The Real Sharknado” was born, continuing the phenomenon that started with the first “Sharknado” movie eight years ago and caused viewers to ask: “Am I hallucinating?” The special airs July 14 on Discovery Channel and will stream on Discovery Plus as part of the network’s hugely popular Shark Week. Over the last three decades, Hollywood stars have become increasingly involved in Discovery’s annual exploration of the animals, but this is the first time anyone from the “Sharknado” universe has converged with a Shark Week show. The special asks everything from “Are sharks as dangerous and vicious as their films lead us to believe?” to “Can sharknados exist?” (Spoiler alert … actually, no, we won’t spoil it.)

“Sharknado,” if you recall, started as a throwaway joke in the 2012 Syfy film “Leprechaun’s Revenge.” As “Sharknado” writer Thunder Levin recalled, one character said, “Gosh, I hope we don’t go the way of that other town. They never recovered after the sharknado hit.” This cracked up the Syfy executives so much that they decided to make a movie about it the following summer. Though the low-budget project aired on a random Thursday night with little promotion, it quickly became a Twitter frenzy that turned into a phenomenon, spawning six movies with a slew of celebrity cameos.

When Ziering was initially tapped to star in the first movie, he only said yes because he needed to have enough acting credits to stay on the Screen Actors Guild health insurance plan, he said. He was so mortified by the role that he didn’t tell anyone about it in advance, so he was shocked by the intense social media reaction when it premiered. Syfy re-aired the film multiple times throughout the summer as viewers clamored for more.

“‘Sharknado’ is so popular [because] it’s escapism, it’s fantasy. Everyone has a healthy fear of sharks, because we don’t see them and there’s a tremendous amount of mystery involved. We brought them to life and put them in a different environment,” Ziering said, ticking off some of the bonkers situations that occurred throughout the films in which he and Reid’s characters tried to save the world from cyclones filled with sharks: He used a chain saw to kill a shark. There were sharks in space. Reid’s character literally had a baby inside a shark.

For the special, Ziering and Reid joined Guttridge near Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, where the crew filmed them interacting with all manner of sharks. The first task: proving that humans “are not on their menu,” as Guttridge put it. “Sharks have no interest in us from a food perspective.”

They sent Ziering and Reid underwater to see sharks close up, which Ziering said was actually rather tranquil — even when there was a 13-foot tiger shark headed his way. “I didn’t feel threatened, but my heart started to race a little bit,” he admitted. Then Ziering and Reid got in a glass-bottom kayak with bait tied over them so Guttridge could prove that sharks won’t really jump extremely high in the air. (This is something that happens frequently in “Sharknado.”)

Guttridge also educated the actors on how sharks behave in a hurricane, and added that he hopes that topic brings awareness to another issue. “I think it’s a reminder to everyone of how we do seem to be getting a lot more extreme weather these days,” Guttridge said. “It is interesting to see how the climate change and how these animals, these sharks in particular, are responding to these extreme events as well.”

Meanwhile, Ziering can’t believe that the movies he was once too embarrassed to talk about fueled a franchise that people still want to discuss to this day.

“It just taught me a lesson me not to really judge a book by its cover,” he said. “Just to be open to whatever the universe has for me, and don’t rush to make decisions that could have lifelong consequences.”

Shark Week’s sketchy history

reality blurred 12 July, 2021 - 03:00pm

Shark Week held such esteem in my heart that, when I was doing mud and obstacle races in the early 2010s, I’d wear a Shark Week swag t-shirt that said “Bite Me,” because it somehow felt both geeky and bad-ass at the same time, and that’s what I wanted to project as I ran three miles through mud. (Here’s proof.)

Then Discovery Channel decided to lie: to its viewers and even to the scientists it was featuring. I’m sure some Shark Week content was problematic before then, but when it aired a fake documentary—and then defended it! And then aired another one the next year!—the facade fell away for me. Jaws freaked me out, but it turns out Shark Week, too, was often making sharks seem far scarier and deadlier than they actually are—which contributes to further endangering them, ironically enough.

Unfortunately, Shark Week seems to be more about making money than anything else. If you’re laughing right now, I get it: That is, of course, the point of all television. Networks are businesses trying to maximize the number of people who will pay for their shows, which in Discovery’s case, maximizes value to their shareholders. That explains decisions like this, and why what they say and what they do don’t always align.

Today, it’s obvious that Shark Week is an ATM for Discovery: the second paragraph of this year’s press release announcement is about “new and returning partners,” not shark science. On TV, they’ll air a competition series, Shark Academy, on which “eight men and women who will compete to secure a coveted crew spot on shark scientist, Dr. Riley Elliott’s next great shark diving expedition.” Actual shark scientists have described the show as “a joke” and “a disgrace.”

Its first four 2021 premieres are all celebrity-focused, starring the Jackass crew, Tiffany Haddish, Robert Irwin, and David Dobrik “and his friends.” Yep, Discovery+ is actually streaming a special starring Dobrik despite all the “allegations of sexual misconduct and bullying against him,” including two people who said they were sexually assaulted while being filmed by him.

Honestly, I’m just disappointed that Discovery just doesn’t seem to care about the damage they’re doing. Of course, there are good Shark Week shows. So how can you tell when you’re getting good information or seeing truth versus fiction?

I’ve learned so much following shark researchers and scientists on Twitter, starting with Dr. David Shiffman, who tweets as @WhySharksMatter, who may be Shark Week’s best-known fact-checker. While he won’t be live-tweeting programs this week, others will be. Here are a few recommendations (e-mail me if you have others!):

As Macdonald tweeted, “have fun, be safe, and keep those critical thinking skills at the ready.” And you can also read up on some of the bigger moments in Shark Week’s history, starting with a high and also covering the many lows:

Over its 33 years, Discovery Channel's Shark Week has had some highs and lows, celebrating and educating us about sharks, but also presenting fiction as fact, lying to scientists and misrepresenting what they say, and making sharks seem scarier than they are. Here's a look at Shark Week's history, and why it's so disappointing.

"To say that there aren't women in shark science is utterly ridiculous," marine biologist Jasmin Graham told me. Yet that's what Discovery's Shark Week and National Geographic's Sharkfest claimed when I asked them why they focused on white male shark scientists in their marketing and casting. An investigation.

The director of Starz's The Chair also was responsible for filming a memorable shot of a shark grabbing a (fake) seal. Here's how he filmed it.

"Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives" was a fictional show with fake footage that Shark Week presented to its viewers, pretending it was nonfiction, and destroying its credibility.

Discovery Channel is defending its decision to betray its viewers trust in the network by acting as if science doesn't really matter.

Despite getting criticism for its fake Megalodon special, Shark Week returned with "Megalodon: The New Evidence," a new piece of fiction pretending to be factual.

Shark Week ate through one of the last barriers between facts and make-believe in our culture, and made it even more difficult for people to know who to trust and what is true. Sound familiar?

In 2015, Discovery's new president, Rich Ross, committed to moving the network away from fake documentaries and dumb stunt programming. Here's what he said. (He left the company three years later.)

Did the Discovery Channel live up to its promise to eradicate fiction? Was there a new commitment to science and scientists? And how did it do in the ratings?

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Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

I’m Andy Dehnart, a writer who obsessively and critically covers reality TV, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

On reality blurred, which I created 20 years ago as a place to collect interesting links I found, I now review and recommend reality shows, documentaries, and nonfiction entertainment; analyze news and report from behind the scenes; and interview people who create and star in reality TV shows.

Learn more about me and reality blurred, and what guides my writing here.

reality blurred is your guide to the world of reality TV and unscripted entertainment, with reality show reviews, news, and analysis. It was created in 2000 by Andy Dehnart. He's still writing and publishing it today.

reality blurred is regularly updated with highlights from the world of reality TV: news and analysis; behind-the-scenes reports; interviews with reality TV show cast members and producers; and recaps and reviews of these reality TV shows, including Survivor, Big Brother, The Great British Baking Show, Shark Tank, The Amazing Race, The Bachelor, Project Runway, Dancing with the Stars, Top Chef, and many more.

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