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Pros: An attack by a cookiecutter shark? GET OUTTA HERE!

Cons: Nothing too exciting in either one of these shows

Five nights in and Shark Week 2014 seems to have hit a brick wall. Though I wasn’t altogether blown away by the previous night of shows, the two featured on Thursday, August 14 didn’t much excite me in the least. Could part of this simply be that, as a viewer, my tolerance for shark-related programming is wearing a little thin after watching four days of Discovery Channel’s annual celebration of underwater predators? Possibly, but I think that, considering that the two hours of premiere shows on Thursday dealt mostly with the tried and true formula of examining shark attacks, there’s a case to be made that by this time Shark Week 2014 has simply run its course and mostly exhausted its supply of exciting and original ideas. Either way, the two shows on Thursday were relatively unexciting and perfectly skippable.

Even the sharks were sleeping come Thurday night’s Shark Week programming block.

Thursday kicked off with the ho-hum I Escaped Jaws 2. Just the title alone is enough to have me rolling my eyes in disgust; going in, I expected nothing more from this show than a parade of gruesome photographs of shark-inflicted wounds and a series of talking heads giving the usual “I can’t believe I’m alive” speeches. OK OK – so I know these kinds of shows are Shark Week’s bread and butter, but how many times can Discovery Channel produce pretty much exactly the same show? As if the tiresome formula wasn’t bad enough, this program in particular seemed to have more commercial breaks than most of the previous Shark Week specials, as if the producers couldn’t even put enough of a quality show together to stretch it to the normal 48-minute range. Whatever the case, this program wound up being a case of something that’s already been done.

I Escaped Jaws 2 actually made me want to watch Jaws: The Revenge so I could again witness the truly horrific death of Sean Brody. There’s got to be something SERIOUSLY WRONG with ANYTHING that actually gives me a desire to watch Jaws: The Revenge

Traveling around the world in search of new but painfully familiar shark attack stories, I Escaped Jaws 2 shows off the usual batch of recreated attack scenes, punctuated by “hard-hitting” witness testimony and bits and pieces of (generally unremarkable) actual video footage of the incidents. You’ll hear about a wakeboarder whose arm was more or less destroyed by a great white, a Brazilian man who watched as a shark devoured his foot, hear from the first man attacked in Massachusetts waters since the 1930s, and shudder to think about the extremely unfortunate Australian Abalone diver who found himself the victim of shark attacks not once but twice in the last decade. This last segment is the only one that (for me) was somewhat shocking – though mostly for the fact that this guy, performing one of the most outright dangerous jobs in the world, has continued diving even after his face was torn to shreds in the mouth of a large white shark. Any viewer who’s watched any amount of shark-related program already would get the gist of I Escaped Jaws 2 long before sitting through it: when sharks attack people, bad things happen. As such, in my opinion, the show was mostly a waste of time.

greg pickering
Greg Pickering – the man attacked twice in a decade by sharks. Sheesh!

The second show of the night entitled Sharkageddon was marginally better, following a native Hawaiian surfer named Kala Alexander as he attempts to determine the causes of a recent hike in the number of shark attacks reported around the island state. Though Hawaii had previously had an average four shark attacks per year despite their miles and miles of coastline, as recently as 2013, that number had jumped to 22, leading marine biologists to start looking for answers. As was the case in I Escaped Jaws though, a viewer vaguely familiar with sharks wouldn’t gain much from watching this show since any knowledgeable person would be able to tell you the reason that shark attacks in Hawaii are increasing are because human beings enter the ocean. Period. At some point, speculating on the specific reasons behind shark attacks is absolutely ridiculous: sharks get hungry and eat things…many different things…and almost any thing. If people happen to be in the area where a hungry shark is prowling and looking for food, said people are as likely to be devoured as anything else. That’s how nature works.

Most of the attacks in Hawaii intriguingly weren’t blamed on the Great White, but rather somewhat smaller species like this, the tiger shark.

Anyway, Alexander winds up consulting local experts who each offer up potential reasons for the increase in shark attacks. These reasons range from humans being mistaken for sea turtles (apparently, a once-endangered variety of Hawaiian sea turtle has made quite a comeback in recent years, leading to them being a favorite food source for the local tiger sharks), to the idea that sharks are beginning to associate human activity with free and easy access to food. This last idea is not at all surprising considering that most if not all fishing operations result in large amounts of fish waste being casually dumped into the ocean, providing a smorgasbord for any nearby sharks to chow down on. Additionally, spearfisherman and Hawaiian dinner cruises that routinely throw leftovers over the side serve as additional easy access to food for sharks. It’s really no wonder that animals like the tiger shark (creatures that are notorious for being not at all picky about what they eat) would equate humans with food – even if that food source is the human being themselves. Again, many viewers would be able to come to a rational conclusion to the problem facing Hawaii just by using common sense. Do we really need a drawn-out, hour-long program to explain this to us?

oceanic white tip
The Oceanic Whitetip Shark – notorious for devouring ship and plane wreck victims and in some people’s mind, the shark responsible for the most number of human deaths.

Sharkageddon, like several other shows airing during this year’s Shark Week, took a more dramatized approach to presenting its story, playing more like an ongoing narrative than a straight-forward documentary. It was certainly more interesting to me than was I Escaped Jaws 2, partially due to the more impressive production that Sharkageddon was afforded. Still, nothing could quite make up for the fact that neither of these two shows really had a ton to offer the viewer: after some of the programs earlier in the week blew me away with their underwater photography and level of new and exciting information, both of Thursday’s shows seemed a rehash of information that most viewers probably already knew. It’s almost like Thursday night should have been labeled as “Sharking for Dummies:” though “newbies” might have enjoyed the two shows featured, this block of programming simply wouldn’t be all that interesting for viewers not on their first Shark Week rodeo. Given that the next two days of Shark Week look pretty lousy (a reexamination of the blatantly phony Megalodon documentary on Friday and a “let’s pat ourselves on the back” wrap up show on Saturday), it appears that the best of Shark Week 2014 is behind us; Discovery Channel (and maybe most of the viewers as well) seem to be cruising to the finish line at this point.

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