Well, it’s another Shark Week, and once again I, your Nerdvana Senior Ocean Affairs correspondent, am getting stiffed by Discovery Communications. Shark Week swag? Nope. Front-row seats at the upfronts? Nah. Flyouts for one-on-one interviews at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas with the stars of the shows? Get real. I’ve got to watch these shows at the same time you do, or in this case, the next day, because I JUST GOT BACK FROM MY TRIP TO THE SEA OF CORTEZ WHERE I GOT TO DIVE WITH WILD SEA LIONS!!!
So I sincerely apologize for the delay in getting you these reviews. The editors right now are literally standing behind me, menacingly tapping baseball bats and tire irons on the palms of their hands while I furtively tap the keys in a desperate attempt to tell you what I think about this year’s Shark Week kick off without getting my fingers broke.
As always I promise to grade these shows on both their technical accuracy, entertainment value, and shark conservation value! So… Here we go!!! And we’re starting with uh, [checks notes] another megalodon special.
Expedition Unknown: Megalodon
(Out of 5 shark fins)
So, if this was your first Shark Week, this isn’t a bad show to kick it off. It’s basically a low-rent Air Jaws with the twist of trying to figure out what happened to the extinct (and it IS extinct – don’t make me cut you) megalodon. The show’s thesis is basically that as natural climate change happened at the start of the Ice Age, the temperature shift caused megalodon’s prey animals to get smaller which left them at an evolutionary disadvantage to the smaller great white shark, which began to appear in the fossil record at the time megalodon disappeared.
This should be right up my alley… but I’m unfamiliar with presenter Josh Gates’ hosting style, which was for me was a little too-jokey, and ill-suited for premise I thought deserved a little more gravitas. We get some interesting experiments, and in what is probably a Shark Week record, a non-white male shark scientist in a prominent role in the first hour! So good on Discovery. Based on how many girls come up to me when I do my shows at the various Southwest Comicons and Fests and Fusions, I know this kind of representation is super-important. Just like a Captain Marvel or Wonder Woman, seeing a shark scientist who looks like them can only encourage future representation in oceanography and marine biology.
Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe I’ve just seen this type of show too many times. It just seemed like a weak start, like the show didn’t know what it wanted to be. A dissertation on cryptozoology? An Air Jaws special? A globe-trotting experiment to illustrate the difference between megalodon and the great white? It was just, in the words of Chernobyl’s Anatoly Dyatlov: “Not terrible, not great.” And when you’re going to kick off the best week of the year? You better be great.
Eat Prey Chum
(Out of 5 shark fins)
Man, I know a lot of people are busting on this show online, and I totally get why. It’s super-jokey, and it all hinges on whether or not you find Rob Riggle funny. I do, so I dug it. Riggle basically reprises his role as Shaquille O’Neal’s life coach, and he’s on a mission to find “Zoey”, a tiger shark that apparently has never been tagged by scientists, I guess? That in and of itself is one of Shark Week’s dumber conceits – that there’s a mythic shark who needs a name (I’m down with naming sharks, but it shouldn’t a course of scientific study). He brings along comedic actors who are basically playing themselves as their comedic personas (Adam Devine as a lovable doofus, Damon Wayans as smooth but insecure, Joel McHale as the smug and jaded gadabout, and Anthony Williams as manic black guy). They go through various “training sessions” in the Nassau, Bahamas area under the tutelage of scientists Annie and Tristan Guttridge, shark conservationist Paul De Gelder, and others. It was nice seeing sharks that you don’t normally see on Shark Week (including my favorite shark, the Zebra).
Is it scientific? Not really. Is it fun? Again, if you like this concept, I think it delivered. If you’re only here for the science, you’re probably pissed off. Does it do much for shark conservation? Again, not really. Other than a VERY brief discussion about the problems of the smalltooth sawfish, there isn’t much here, and I could actually point out that Rob Riggle talking about this shark tooth necklace is actually a real problem, because you should NEVER buy a shark tooth necklace unless you can reliably confirm that it was naturally shed by a shark. Shark teeth necklaces, most the time, come from teeth extracted from a dead shark. You can learn more about this by clicking on this link from One Green Planet: Why You Should Never Buy Shark Teeth.
Well, that’s it for Night One! What did you think – do you think Shark Week is jumping the shark? Or are you looking forward to the rest of the week?
Let me know in the comments!