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Human World on Aug 04, 2013

Shark Week 2013 brings new sharks and live talk shows

Shark stories, tweets, a Google hangout, comedy talk shows – and why it’s a bad week for a seal named Snuffy – in Discovery’s 26th annual Shark Week.

The Discovery Channel’s 26th annual Shark Week began on Sunday August 4, 2013 in the U.S., with almost round-the-clock documentaries about sharks, including 11 hours of new material. Among the highlights will be a provocative documentary about the extinct giant shark megalodon possibly still lurking the oceans, freshwater bull sharks near New Orleans, a revised top ten sharkdown of the most dangerous shark species, and a look at extremely rare deep sea sharks. Discovery is also introducing a new feature to Shark Week, a live talk show hosted by comedian Josh Wolf called Shark After Dark.

Did the Discovery Channel pay me to write this? No. I just like sharks! And so do a lot of other people. Sharks are a pop culture sensation. With body and behavior crafted by millions of years of evolution to emerge as the apex predators of the ocean, sharks are often regarded as quintessential killing machines. Perhaps that’s why people seem to have a visceral reaction to sharks, whether it’s deep fascination, profound awe, or sheer terror. For me, I guess, it’s a bit of all three. For many, sharks capture our imagination like no other creature.

[Ominous music playing ...]  Shark Week starts August 4, 2013 on the Discovery Channel!

Shark Week! Starts August 4, 2013 on the Discovery Channel.

Megalodon with the whale shark (purple, 9.7m), great white shark (green, 5.2 m), and a human for scale (Great White Shark, 5.2m), Rhincodon typus (Whale Shark, 9.7m) and conservative/maximum estimates of the largest known adult size of Carcharodon megalodon (16-20m), with a human Homo sapiens (1.8m).

Estimates for size range of extinct giant shark megalodon (grey and red) with the whale shark (purple), great white shark (green), and a human for scale.

Great white shark. Image credit: Andrew Brandy Casagrande/Discovery Channel

Great white shark, found in all the world’s oceans. This shark matures at age 15 and can live to over age 30. It’s a primary predator of marine mammals. Image via Andrew Brandy Casagrande/Discovery Channel

Of course, sharks don’t necessarily live up to their pop culture reps. Ever since the 1975 movie Jaws created a terrifying mythical monster out of sharks, scientists and conservationists have been trying to repair the tarnished image of sharks. Discovery has also been trying to do its part, contributing to our knowledge of sharks, by featuring the work of some scientists at the forefront of shark research, and working with highly-skilled underwater videographers to obtain our best views yet of sharks in the wild.

But Shark Week isn’t just about education, scientific research, and conservation. It’s also entertainment. While sharks are the main attraction, producers can’t seem to resist throwing out some ratings chum to lure in more viewers: menacing music, ominous-sounding deep-voiced narrators, and gory re-enactments. Perhaps it’s a small price to pay for presenting a somewhat more balanced view of sharks.

Discovery released a commercial for Shark Week 2013, and I’m still in shock over it, not sure whether to laugh or cry. This year’s tag line for Shark Week is:

It’s a bad week to be a seal.

Yes, a bad week indeed, if your name is Snuffy. To understand, watch the commercial for yourself, below. Don’t let little kids watch it!

What started out as a television event has now been extended to social media platforms. Shark Week has its own Facebook page, which, at this writing, has more than 772,000 “likes,” and over 117,000 Twitter followers. During Shark Week, a show called Sharktweeto will air on most days, featuring live tweets about sharks, and there will be a google hangout late Sunday night, on August 4, at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland.

Sharknado movie poster. Image credit: The Asylum, via Wikimedia Foundation.

In an amusing twist, Shark Week 2013 has arrived in the wake of an unexpectedly popular movie that aired in early July called Sharknado. It’s the latest in a long line of outrageously campy shark movies by the SyFy Channel, about sharks carried aloft in waterspouts, then flung out over land with jaws agape to take one last chomp out of unlucky Los Angeles residents. It generated over 300,000 tweets during its first broadcast, which led to re-airings of the movie and even sold-out cinema screenings. The sharkmentum from Sharknado seems to be welcomed by Discovery; they’ve booked Sharknado star Tara Reid for an appearance on Shark After Dark.

The 2013 sharkathon ends on Saturday, August 10, 2013. As shark enthusiasts, myself included, go into Shark Week withdrawal in the days that follow, don’t despair. SyFy is coming through with a new paranormal addition to its silly shark movies, Ghost Shark, on Thursday, August 22.

Bottom line:
Shark Week 2013 began on Sunday August 4th, on the Discovery Channel in the U.S. Among the highlights will be new documentaries about the extinct giant shark megalodon, freshwater bull sharks near New Orleans, a revised top ten sharkdown of the most dangerous shark species, and a look at extremely rare deep sea sharks. Discovery is also introducing a new feature to Shark Week, a live talk show hosted by comedian Josh Wolf called Shark After Dark.