Monday, 15 July 2024

‘Shark Week’ delivers enough scares to keep you out of the ocean


The longest-running series on television happens to be the soap opera “General Hospital,” first airing in 1963. Even though “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel runs for a week every summer, the fact that it’s been on the air since 1988 is still impressive.

This year’s host of “Shark Week” is John Cena, an actor and professional wrestler who actually looks like he might be able to grapple with a shark and survive intact.

Starting on Sunday, July 7, the annual celebration and investigation of shark habits and behaviors kicks off with “Belly of the Beast: Bigger and Bloodier,” one of last year’s most popular shows.

“Belly of the Beast” features a marine biologist, marine scientist, and cameraman traveling to a new location and heading back into the belly of a 29-foot whale decoy with new shark attractant features to create the biggest feeding frenzy ever with 18-foot “Breeder” sharks in New Zealand.

Closer to home, “Makozilla” probes the wave of savage assaults against the sea lion population of California’s coast that has sparked fears of a monstrous predator dubbed “Mako-Zilla.”

Recent discoveries, including a 600-pound mauled sea lion with massive gashes, hint that a 16-foot-long predator could be responsible. A team of shark experts embarks on a mission to unveil the identity of the colossal predator haunting the coast.

The second night brings “Great White Serial Killer: Sea of Blood,” recounting three fatal Great White Shark attacks that occurred off a small Mexican fishing village, including one in which a victim was decapitated.

Shark attack survivor Paul De Gelder joins a shark investigator and a local biologist to launch a plan to identify the killers and keep the villagers in the Sea of Cortez safe.

Tuesday night brings “6000lb. Shark,” where marine biologists go searching for the fattest Great White Sharks off the coast of New Zealand and attempt to obtain their poop to study what they are eating.

I could pass on the excrement research, but these scientists will use cutting-edge science with the aim of weighing a Great White accurately for the first time, revealing if the sharks can reach a staggering 6,000 pounds.

Middle of the week delivers “Great White North” looking into a growing population of aggressive Great White Sharks in an unlikely location, Canada.

Shark expert Andy Casagrande heads out on an expedition along Nova Scotia’s coast to investigate a surge of Great White Shark encounters and figure out if this new population could be the largest in the world.

Thursday night’s “Monster of Oz,” finds in southwestern Australia an unknown predator with a taste for Great White and Mako Sharks, igniting fears of sea monsters in the abyss. Filmmakers and scientists attempt to track down the killer.

On Friday, “The Real Sharkano” has shark advocate and attack survivor Paul De Gelder (he’s in several of the programs) visiting an ultra-remote island of shark-worshipping natives to see if their secret ways of swimming with deadly sharks holds the secret to humans and sharks living together in peace.

In “Shark Attack Island,” a South Pacific paradise has become a shark attack hot spot with Bull, Tiger, and Great White sharks moving closer and closer to the resort beaches, fatally attacking seven people in the last five years.

On the last night of Saturday, July 13, “Sharktopia” takes us to Indonesia’s Raja Ampat islands, where a team of researchers hunt for one of the region’s last living leopard sharks.

But as they venture deeper into the unknown, the journey brings them face to face with some of the weirdest and wildest sharks on earth.

Using the latest underwater ultrasound and birthing tag technology in “Mothersharker: Hammer Time,” researchers aim to solve the mystery of where the elusive pregnant scalloped hammerheads give birth, and it may be closer than anyone realizes.

With the exception of the first and last nights, three programs air nightly to fill out the “Shark Week” extravaganza with probably more information, particularly on Great White Sharks, that may keep you out of the ocean just like “Jaws” did a half-century ago.

Discovery is not alone in the “shark” game. National Geographic has announced, on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the bestselling book by Peter Benchley that went on to become a box-office sensation, the greenlight for “JAWS @ 50” (working title) to air next summer.

This feature documentary will include footage and photography from the Benchley and director Steven Spielberg files, and all-new interviews from the worlds of film, literature, pop culture, and ocean conservation.

The film will capture our endless fascination (think “Shark Week”) with sharks and the changing dialogue about these awe-inspiring creatures. National Geographic reminds us that they have celebrated sharks for over two decades with their annual “Sharkfest” summer event.

“JAWS @ 50” is touted as creating a thrilling sense of discovery, showcasing a new generation of ocean scientists and explorers who help us better understand sharks and deepen our understanding of their vital role in a healthy ocean.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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