* Marks, that is! Wednesday’s Shark Week offerings ranged from Fintastic to Great (white), and I was I was downright giddy from the get go. It’s weird how this week has taken such a tonal shift after a frankly disappointing Night 1 and 2. My girlfriend, who was watching me stew over the the first nights, asked me: “maybe it’s just saturation?” And I was worried she might be right, that maybe after years of Shark Week, SharkFest, good shark movies, Sharknado movies, bad shark movies, that I hit the point where like the junkie in Guns n’ Roses classic hit “Mr. Brownstone”: I used ta do a little but a little wouldn’t do, so the little got more and more (I’m both impressed and a little worried that I got that lyric right).
But no, like Shaggy, it wasn’t me. It was Shark Week not living up the expectations set by 450 million years of evolution. It was pretty good all around, with tonight (well, last night) a high water mark, and not bong water rings left on the coffee table by Tyson vs Jaws and that Dude Perfect abortion, of which I expect my opinion will not change, unlike 2018’s “Let’s Kill Guy Fieri” (again, it was called “Guy Fieri’s Feeding Frezny” – ed.).
While it was still pretty #SharkWeekSoWhite, there was more balance than has been in the past, and we went from super hard science to stoner laughs, to science, and over all, all three shows are worth watching. Let’s dive in!
Monster Under the Bridge (5/5)
Ok, Discovery, I get it. There’s a bridge, and there’s big sharks underneath it, so we’re calling them “monsters,” and someone REALLY took their English lit major to heart, and we’re going to get a Monster Under the Bridge title, and everyone is going to accept it … but it just doesn’t SOAR, dammit. But once you get past the title, this is literally the best show of the week so far. Just top notch. It gets a little into the “let’s find a shark named X for science reasons I guess!” premise, but who cares when all of a sudden we’re talking about possibly a new sub-species of Great Hammerhead shark called a “Keys Hammerhead.” A team of scientists (shark ecologist Dr Tristan Guttridge, PhD candidate Laura McDonnell, and University of Miami’s Dr. Neil Hammerschlag) works to dive, boat, and scrape the DNA out of the theory that hammerheads in the Florida keys get big and more aggressive because conditions (especially around the pilings over the Overseas Highway) are conducive to specificity that makes for great television. Darwin was the original influencer.
And it really is great TV — I could spend an hour with just the Goliath Groupers, or in the company of the the school of tarpon, but the scientists make you want to be on the boat or buddy’d up with them, because this isn’t a show that’s sensational, while being totally sensational. I immediately starting Googling how deep the wreck of Vandenberg is because I want to dive that (90 feet to the deck, 140 to the keel – totes doable).
It’s a show that fulfills the promise of Shark Week – exciting, beautiful, science-based, with just a touch of the razzle-dazzle.
More like this please.
Adam DeVine’s Secret Shark Lair (4/5)
I love smart comedy that pretends to be dumb. Workaholics was to me a prime example of it, an even better office takedown than Office Space or The Office. It was pretty much my reality during my Level 1 tech days, you know that time in your life where you’re trying to find a career while simultaneously trying to maintain your personal identity and have fun with your slam poet/raver/goth club circle outside of work (that last part might just be really specific to me).
Adam DeVine seems like an unlikely person to host a show, and you’d think I’d like the him and his crew less than the Dude Perfect guys. But Adam, Ders, and Blake are in on the joke. They’re not going “WOOOOOOO!!!!” constantly and if they are going “WOOOOOOO!!!!”, they’re thinking to themselves “WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?!?!” It’s basically a comedy show, with shark scientists trying to either stay out of the way, or get in the way. And that’s OK. Discovery is literally filling a week of programming with shark documentaries. Get mad at the documentaries that are doing dumb things, not the dumb thing trying to do a documentary.
And yeah, it’s dumb, flirts with crude, but it’s charmingly dumb and I kinda wish I had been on that boat. OK, not kinda, definitely. It’s also weird that this show had more POC scientist and diver representation (Will Smith: Off the Deep End notwithstanding) than any other show so far — including the one set in South Africa.
The show can be summed up in this exchange, during a descent during a deep dive:
Dr. Austin Gallagher: “Don’t descend too fast, it’ll be rough on your ears.”
Adam DeVine: “What? I can’t hear you. My ears.”
Great White Double Trouble (3/5)
This one’s fine. If I sound un-enthused, it’s only because this show was a little oversold on the core concept. It basically goes like this: OK, there are great white sharks (GO ON) in Australia (UH-HUH), but they’re two separate populations (LET’S SEE WHERE HE’S GOING WITH THIS) and they’re like the gangs from West Side Story (MMMMMhmmmmm) except they’re BOTH sharks (STOP, YOU’VE HIT GOLD).
Which may not be as easy to prove as you might think. If you like great whites and cage diving, this is worth a watch, and there is a moment, where some maniac obviously had a moment of zen clarity, seized control of the editing booth, and crafted about five minutes of some of the finest shark footage you’ve seen set to a musical score that transcends science and becomes beauty. If you just want to see that part, I think it’s about 48 minutes in on your DVR timing.
I wish, I wish, I wish Discovery and Nat Geo and PBS did this more often. Music sets the mood, whether you’re putting on Bill Withers for a long night at home, or watching apex predators glide along the invisible planes of their world. You could set it to thrash metal, if that’s what you’re in to, but the experience is going be markedly different.
Night 5 tomorrow. Sorry — thing’s have been a beast. Went for a night hike on Tuesday, had Dive Guide class on Wednesday, and working OT tonight and tomorrow. My problem, not yours, and that’s why God invented DiscoveryGo.