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It’s shark week. What debuted in 1988 is now television’s longest-running programming event. To celebrate, look back at this essay Linda Holmes wrote in 2018 on how Shark Week proved successful. At the time the play was written, Shark Week was in its 30th year.
This week, Discovery is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Shark Week. Do you understand what this means? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!
Well no nothing. This means that if you are under 30, Shark Week has been around since before you were born. You have never known Shark Week! On the day you were born, someone might have said, “Boy, I’m looking forward to shark week next year.” And the other person, hopefully, would have folded their eyes and said, “Are you? “
It wasn’t always quite the phenomenon it is now. Perhaps Shark Week came to fruition in November 2006, when Tracy Jordan, performed on 30 Rock by Tracy Morgan, gave Kenneth the page these tips: “Live every week like it’s shark week. If you care about using whatever search engine you want, you’ll find that there are plenty of contraband goods out there with this same tagline, snatching both 30 Rock and Shark Week simultaneously.
Since then, Shark Week has been ubiquitous. How many? He even came in a meeting starring Stormy Daniels which aired earlier this year on 60 minutes.
The saga continues. This year, Discovery is airing specials including Alien sharks: the biggest hits, Cuba’s secret shark lair, Guy Fieri’s binge eating, Shark Tank Meets Shark Week, Castaway, Great baby white sharks, Sharks gone wild, and my favorite an adaptation of an existing Discovery property Naked and afraid of sharks. Shark Week now makes full use of every other reality / unscripted cliché: celebrities, food shows, baby animals, nudity, branded extensions … this thing is a machine. They even revisit their catastrophic Megalodon special from 2013, which makes the fiction sound like science to the point that the credibility of the whole network and yes it originally had some credibility has been damaged.
And, after all, what is more fundamental to the culture of our collective moment than attracting more attention to wallow in your worst decisions?
This year you can get a plethora of shark related products that allow you to advertise a cable programming event yourself! You can build a shark at the Build-A-Bear Workshop, buy Shark Week ties, or eat Swedish fish from a Shark Week bag!
Look: The Shark Week phenomenon is, on a fundamental level, very… bizarre. (That’s a very technical term in the TV industry.) It started as a Discovery Channel marketing blossoming, a way to get viewers in the summer by shouting BOO! on beaches and oceans using the power of science. They’ve also used it in the past to encourage conservation and to highlight the issues facing shark populations, and they still say they do, to some extent. But that’s not why there’s a special this year called Sharkcam implementation. Sharks represent an example of a common fear which, while real, is very unlikely to affect an individual. You wouldn’t be able to attract a large audience with the thrill of Diabetes Week or Auto Accident Week. The dangers of sharks are an exact reminder of the threat and the distance that this type of exploitation requires. It’s right in the pocket: it’s exciting, but the chances are very low that this is how you’re going to die. Try this with increasingly unstable weather conditions the week.
But at some point, Shark Week started to be treated as a real time, like Flag Day or October. It extends beyond Discovery. Now we also have a Sharknado film every summer. (The last Sharknado: it’s about time premieres August 19, and that 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 ” Sharkfest ”, which will be two weeks this year and is already underway. (Offers include Shark vs. tuna, The jaw-eating whale: new evidence, and Shark elimination area.)
It 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 vacations are invented for the purpose of making you buy gifts. Shark Week is just here to make you watch Shark Week.
There is a lot of science on television, on public television in particular. There are also a lot of wildlife on TV. But when Shark Week organizes a crossover with Shark aquarium just because they both have “Shark” in the title, and when they do Naked and afraid of sharks just for the laugh you get when you read the title aloud (just did; just got one) you’re pretty far off science and curation. The key is not to live every week like it’s shark week. The key is to experience Shark Week like any other week. Because it is.
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