It’s that time of year again. Shark Week. After the media firestorm created by last year’s highly controversial docudrama, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, Discovery really tried to capitalize on the monster trend. Most of the new specials this week focused on the monster movie aspect of things rather than the science side. Can’t say I was thrilled with the change. A lot of the shows were fun, but they did get tedious after a while. Can Shark Week mix it up a little more next year? I mean, just looking at the titles you can see the vibe they were clearly going for. Alien Sharks, Zombie Sharks, Spawn of Jaws? Message received, Discovery. Time to back off.
Air Jaws: Fins of Fury
Certified Shark Week celeb Chris Fallows attempts to find Colossus, a very large shark he and his crew saw a few years ago. Why? Uh, because he was big? It was a decent special but I just couldn’t get over the randomness of their mission. Looking for one particular shark in the entire ocean seemed a little...crazy and pointless? And some of their methods (i.e. put a guy on a floating cut out of a shark and waiting for other sharks to approach it) reminded me of watching drunken frat boys attempt to catch bunnies in college. If, you know, bunnies were two thousand times larger and could easily kill you.
Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine
After the success of last year’s controversial docudrama Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, Discovery tried their luck again with the same formula. The results were, in my opinion, much better. Unlike Megalodon, Shark of Darkness cops to its fakeittude from jump street. Also different, Shark of Darkness is actually based on something. That something might be an urban legend from the 1970s, but it’s better than nothing. According to the show, Submarine is a magical shark not only twice the size of most other great white sharks but a super smart great white shark which has learned how to breathe without moving, remain vertical prior to a predation to lull its victims into a false sense of security, scare off other great white sharks, and kill prey with waves, which it learned from watching orcas (what?). Also it’s favorite food is people according to the show’s “expert.” As the show admits Submarine is only sighted once ever ten years or so, one can only assume Submarine is on a diet. It was entertaining with features like terrible reenactment acting, bad CGI, and super fake found footage. The show reminded me pleasantly of watching Unsolved Mysteries reruns on Lifetime as a kid. The disclaimer at the top of the program insists that some still believe in Submarine, which I’m sure is true. The same people who believe the moon landing was faked and Elizabeth I was the real William Shakespeare, no doubt.
Jaws Strikes Back
A continuation of last year’s shark cam project, a team attempts to catch a great white shark attacking an elephant seal off of Guadalupe Island. The manage to film great white at record depths and get some really amazing footage (mostly of sharks attacking their camera, but it still counts, right?). If you’re not a fan of the fantastical turn Shark Week has taken in recent years, check this one out. Bonus: they get footage of possibly the largest great white shark ever filmed. And they didn’t spend weeks searching two different oceans for it.
Another urban legend of a massive shark is investigated, this one a seventy year old great hammerhead from Tampa Bay. But actually investigated. Scientists measure things and tag sharks and everything. There are even lasers. Old Hitler, a name rife with single entendre, has been sighted off of Florida since (duh) World War II while The Harbormaster has been rumored to be stalking the beaches of Bimini. Could these two sharks be the same giant great hammerhead? The hammerhead is a nice change of pace for Shark Week which is usually very great white-centric. I have to point out, however, that, big as they are, great hammerheads have never been responsible for a fatal attack on humans - that we know of.
Alien Sharks: Return to the Abyss
Revisiting the concept of last year’s Alien Sharks, Return to the Abyss takes a look at little studied and little understood deep water sharks including the goblin shark, the ghost shark, the lantern shark, and the frilled shark. Deep sea fish are always fun because they’re so...weird looking.
Lair of the Mega Shark
Rumors of giant great white sharks are chased, this time off the coast of New Zealand. At this point, I can’t help but wonder if whoever planned the schedule for this year’s Shark Week has some sort of inadequacy problem. So many of this week’s specials seem to be focused on finding the biggest animals possible. It’s officially tired. Besides,
Something is killing sharks. What and how? Killer whales and tonic immobility, it turns out. Orcas, one of the smartest animals on the planet, know that if they grab sharks and turn them upside down they stop moving and become really easy to kill. I really love orcas so I enjoyed this one. I wish they’d included more about them. What about a Killer Whale Week? Yes? The one thing that really annoyed me about this one was the title. It so obviously didn’t fit the tone of the episode and was just chosen for the sensationalism.
Spawn of Jaws: The Birth
Studying the reproduction of great white sharks, Dr. Michael Domeier tracks a pregnant great white shark named Gillrakers. He follows her into the Sea of Cortez, a possible great white shark pupping ground. I liked this special a lot because it was one of the few programs this year that talked about the problems sharks face in the wild (i.e. being illegally killed for their fins which are worth a fortune on the black market). The show featured the late actor and marine biology enthusiast Paul Walker and included a really touching tribute to him by his friend Domeier.
I Escaped Jaws 2
Different shark attack survivor stories are told. I will say I generally prefer shows with a more structured format than this program had. They jumped between stories too frequently and, in my slightly feverish state, I had a hard time remembering which story we were supposed to be on and what was happening.
Experts look at a recent spike in shark attacks in Hawaiian waters. The resurgence in the green sea turtle population, an increase in spear fishing, the geography of Hawaii, and protected wildlife areas are all considered as possible causes. A refreshing scientific break in the ‘let’s find big sharks and get super close to them’ madness. Although a guy did jump into the ocean with a dummy green sea turtle to see which tiger sharks would attack first, so it wasn’t like it was dull.
Megalodon: The Extended Cut
I watched this (although I am not claiming to have given it rapturous attention). I can’t say for sure what was different from last year’s version. I did notice that Megalodon’s disclaimer was bigger, up for longer, and at the top of the program rather than the end.
Megalodon: The New Evidence
This turned out to be a dramatized interview of a Megalodon expert, set in a world where the events of Megalodon were fact. The script was almost as terrible as the acting. I actually turned this off halfway through.
Great White Matrix
Shark attacks are on the rise off the coast of Australia. Experts investigate whether juvenile white sharks are responsible.
This rundown of Shark Week 2014 was hosted by Bob the shark. The best part of the special were the clips featured from previous years, as we had just seen Shark Week 2014.