One of the nation’s favorite holidays is upon us: Shark Week.
This year, the Discovery Channel will reintroduce its acclaimed classic. This annual, week-long TV program has been educating and entertaining viewers since July 17, 1988, when it first premiered. Shark Week began as an attempt to attract more viewers to the Discovery Channel when producers noticed an increase in views anytime something shark-related aired. People have always held a fascination to apex predators of the wild; this curiosity for sharks was even more so propelled by the acclaimed film Jaws when it premiered in 1975.
In the past Shark Week has been scrutinized for sensationalizing its programs. Such enquiry occurred during its search for Megalodon, an extinct species of shark that lived approximately 2.3 to 2.6 million years ago. In 2013, Discovery Channel debuted Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, following with the sequel, Megalodon: The New Evidence. Though, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives was Shark Week’s highest-rated program, the network came under fire for portraying such exaggerations as credible data. “It was presented in such a way that you could very easily watch it and not know it was fictional,” said shark expert David Shiffman, according to NPR.
This brings about the question: Has Shark Week always been so sensationalized? According to Laura Rosenfeld of Tech Times, “after the first Shark Week, early programming continued to have titles that seem more appropriate for B movies rather than for science documentary series.” These include 1989’s Shark: Maneater or Myth?, The Man Who Loves Sharks and Teeth of Death.
So what can we expect from this year’s Shark Week? Currently, the most publicized and anticipated event has been Michael Phelps racing a Great White Shark. The public had many questions surrounding the race, such as: will they both be in the water at the same time? How will executives persuade a shark to race in a straight line? Is it safe?
To answer it quite simply: no, the two are not in the water at the same time. However, producers edited the film so that it appears like a Great White Shark is racing alongside Phelps. Yet the shark is not real, and is instead created using CGI software. TYT Network’s Pop Trigger presented a recap of the competition, displaying their disappointment in the race. Host Grace Baldridge said, “The [producers] weren’t dreaming enough, impossible is nothing, why couldn’t he have raced a real shark [like advertised]?” Though expertly designed, the race is unsatisfactory overall and leaves viewers feeling scammed. Spoiler Alert: the shark wins, but only by a mere two seconds.
Overall Shark Week is an event that can be both educational and engaging. For many viewers, this is their only exposure to these fascinating creatures. With the schedule set to include episodes such as, “Shark-Croc Showdown”, “Lair Of The Sawfish” and “Sharks and the City: New York”, this year’s Shark Week will not disappoint. For almost thirty years viewers have cherished this weeklong marathon as one of their favorite summertime memories and this won’t be changing anytime soon. Happy Shark Week!