It May Be Time to Give Shark Week the Hook

Time was, I looked forward to Shark Week on Discovery: a week of thrilling documentaries about the apex predator of the seas that showcased the power, majesty and sheer awesomeness of sharks —eating machines seemingly designed only for killing.

Well, we’re halfway into Shark Week 2012, and I’m already very disappointed — especially because the network is celebrating 25 years of this toothy ratings-grabber. The main cause is not a problem that’s new this season, but it’s just that it’s really bothering me now.

I noticed the other night on this SHARKZILLA program that the shows were set up like stupid reality shows, with on-camera testimonials that are just as lame as anything on JERSEY SHORE.  On this SHARKZILLA program, some science guys were trying to construct a robot to mimic the ancient megalodons, from size to biting power. So the narrator says of this engineer (Let’s call him “Gary”; I don’t recall his real name), something like, “Gary needs to develop a sturdy but lightweight metal skeleton.” They cut to Gary who says, “I need to develop a sturdy but lightweight metal skeleton,” like he’s a Real Housewife of the Atlantic Ocean.

Later, there was AIR JAWS, in which the divers were spliced into the scene incessantly to say dumb stuff over and over: “The camera sled was really tiny” after the narrator said it. There was no time to develop rhythm or pace or excitement, because scenes of great white sharks leaping out of the water were interrupted by talking heads of divers saying, “I couldn’t believe I say him leaping out of the water.”

Dude, if you would shut the hell up and the show would take its Ritalin, we viewers could see it for ourselves, too.

Also, it feels like the powers-that-be are running out of ideas — revisiting flying sharks by doing “Flying sharks on three continents!” — and things are getting stale. This is probably a function of the programming stunt’s own success. Is there any more to be learned from sharks at this point? Maybe the series needs to be rested for a couple of years to give scientists a chance to do more research and come up with more new facts about the sea beasties.

And these documentaries used to be about the mysterious denizens of the deep, not divers patting themselves on the backs for getting close to them. I recall that the expedition that documented the South African sharks breeching as they chased seals was a scientific revelation, and the footage was shown in regal slow motion. Now, the shows about the divers and how swell they are. I can just hear them as they mug for the camera: “Aren’t I brave?”

I don’t know and I don’t care. About you, at least. I wanna see the sharks. I wanna see them eat seals and try to break into cages to eat divers. I don’t want to see a breathless drowned-rat-type talking about how his $13 billion science-y robot seal got eaten on the first day, so he’s been bravely soldiering on without it. Whatever, dude. Nice pictures, and video, but could we see footage of the sharks, too?

It’s called “Shark Week,” not “Cool Diver Week.” And Shark Week used to be on the bleeding edge of TV trends, setting the high-water mark, not breathlessly dog-paddling in the wake of what’s “hot” (and derivative) on other channels. I dread the coming of JERSEY SHARKS, but I know it’s out there… waiting…

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