Shark Week

Call me Ishmael.  Long before the movie there was a book and since paperback pop trash sci-fi was only a hobby I can say that Jaws was worth the $.75 I paid for it and the 2 hours it took to consume not unpleasant if not particularly memorable.  I have no idea why people think Spielberg is a genius either.

Nor are sharks a particular terror of mine, the reason I don’t swim in dark water is my acrophobia and the sensation of falling, not because I’m afraid of getting eaten by a big fish.

Still there is no denying the mass fascination.

About 24 years go the programmers at Discovery were wondering how they could fill the hot dead humid air of August when they came up with an idea.

The Evolution of Shark Week, Pop-Culture Leviathan

By Ashley Fetters, The Atlantic

Aug 13 2012, 1:02 PM ET

Now the longest-running cable TV programming event in history, Shark Week has cemented itself as a fixture in the pop-culture lexicon, both seriously and meme-tastically. Stephen Colbert and Tracy Morgan (the voices of their generation, of course) have both publicly professed the sanctity of Shark Week in recent years: In 2006, Morgan’s character on 30 Rock sagely advised a colleague to “Live every week like it’s Shark Week“, and Colbert proclaimed it the second holiest annual holiday next to the week after Christmas in 2010.

By 1994, Shark Week had lured Jaws author Peter Benchley on board as the show’s first-ever host. For its 15th anniversary in 1997, the sharks had costars-Celebrity Shark Week, it was dubbed, with appearances by Julie Bowen, Mark McGrath, and Brian McKnight, among others. Volleyball player Gabrielle Reece jumped into shark-infested waters without ever really informing the producers that she was more than a little new to scuba-diving: “I thought if I told [Discovery],” she said, “they wouldn’t let me come.”

To this day, Runnette says, the team continues to develop its programming simply by asking themselves the question that spawned the first Shark Week: “What would be the most fun?” (“Chum underpants” and “the meat suit” are just two unforgettable responses that Runnette mentions, laughing at the memory-but clarifies that neither one has ever been or will ever be actually implemented.)

Shark Week, though, Runnette says, has never been at a loss for fun. “It’s taught us that it wants to be almost like a holiday-which it is for a lot of people,” Runnette says. “They want to wave little flags that say ‘Happy Shark Week.’ I always see pictures of all these cupcakes and these party decorations that they have to celebrate Shark Week.”

A beginner’s guide to Shark Week – a bloody American tradition

Amanda Holpuch, The Guardian

Friday 10 August 2012 12.28 EDT

Thrashing limbs, bloodied ocean and the shell-crushing teeth of the most-feared creature in the sea: this my friends, is Shark Week.

Broadcast annually for a quarter-century, the shockingly educational and often voyeuristic week of shark-oriented programming has dominated American airwaves each summer, courtesy of the Discovery Channel.

The combination of courageous camerawork, melodramatic music and terrifying facts – a shark can smell a single drop of blood in an Olympics-sized pool! – has been a ratings boon for Discovery since its inception.

For the past 24 summers, the network has hosted shows including: Teeth of Death, In Search of the Golden Hammerhead, The Man Who Loves Sharks, Shark Shooters, Blood in the Water and Jaws Comes Home.

And though people are more likely to die from digging a hole in the sand than from a shark attack, the programming’s focus on these aquatic onslaughts plays up to the fears most famously induced by Jaws (whose author happened to host the first Shark Week) and helps get great ratings along the way.

“People are quite obviously a greater danger to sharks than the other way around, so I talk to them about how we can show that or how we can talk about that,” Runnette said.

Happy Shark Week.  Tomorrow, Little League Baseball.


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