There are few things in America that can unite people for an entire week quite like Shark Week does. Well, besides major sporting events like March Madness or the recent Olympics or a major movie release (see Dark Knight Rises). Since 1988 Shark Week has been shocking and aweing viewers, inspiring belligerence through a variety of drinking games and scaring open-water swimmers for fear of being mistaken for a seal by the “asshole of the sea.”
Millions of people tune in every year for more info about these mysterious creatures, but when talking to my friends about the annual event, I found that a lot of people don’t really care anymore about Shark Week. Shark Week is losing its mystique.
So why is Shark Week becoming less fascinating? The biggest and most common answer is that it is just the same material regurgitated in only semi-new ways every year. They bite! We get it!
This year, Discovery upped their production by adding the epic Phantom camera to their shooting arsenal. The Phantom is capable of incredibly detailed slow-motion, 1,000 frames per second of videography glory. But really, the shots are still the same: a fake seal floating behind a boat and a shark jumping out of the water to rip the decoy in its jaws or a dude in a cage, studying Great Whites with a dramatic musical underscore. This year, it’s just a little slower and specifically groundbreaking for those drinking games that have participants chug during slow-mo shots. Like from the time the shark breaks water until it is completely submerged again. Drunker, yes. New, though? Not really.
There is only so much that can be said about the same animal for an entire week annually for 25 consecutive years. Certain attempts at fresh material like getting the Mythbusters involved are definitely more on the creative side of the storytelling. But how many tales of shark attacks do people really want to listen to? It’s pretty much always the same.
Somebody paddling out on a surfboard or waiting for a wave and they get attacked…barely escaping death and requiring dozens, if not hundreds, of stitches. “It definitely gives you more respect for the open ocean.” Cool story bro.
Now, if Discovery could actually capture one of these live shark attacks in progress, THAT would get ratings.
We are fascinated by animals in the wild that we don't understand and may (hopefully) never cross. That’s a huge reason why Shark Week has been so successful for 25 years. Sharks are mysterious and scary creatures. But there are plenty of other things in the wild that people would love to spend a week learning about and being scared of.
How about Snake Week? Or, shudder, Spider Week? Or better yet, let’s get a special about the Amazon on TV for a week. I don’t think it needs to be about one animal to attract viewers by the masses.
Shark Week will likely draw in record viewership this week. Twitter and the blogosphere are rampant with Shark Week-related material only half way through the event, though it’s getting less positive than in years past. 25 years was a great run but what say we kill Shark Week before it’s too old to swim anymore and start something fresh, eh?