Shark Week 2010: Dun Dun ... Dun Dun ... It's Baaack!
by Kim Potts, posted Jul 30th 2010 3:00PM
Like that great TV philosopher, Tracy Jordan, advised his co-worker pal Kenneth, we should all live every week like it's Shark Week.
Fortunately, this week -- starting Sunday night -- actually is Shark Week, Discovery Channel's annual lineup of programming dedicated to the sea dog (as sharks were known until the 16th century).
This year's Shark Week, the network's 23rd such celebration, kicks off with a new special called 'Ultimate Air Sharks' (Sunday, 9PM) and will be hosted by famous Shark Week devotee Craig Ferguson.
Shark Week 2010!
It runs Aug. 1 through Aug. 6, and this year's Shark Week lineup includes six new specials:
- 'Ultimate Air Jaws' (Aug. 1, 9PM), which was filmed with a special HD camera that captures 2,000 frames per second, meaning that when the sharks jump out of the water and into the air at 25 MPH, the film will slow the action down to such a slow pace that you'll be able to count the shark's teeth!
- 'Into the Shark Bite' (Aug. 1, 10PM), in which HD cameras make it possible for us to actually see inside a shark's jaws during a shark bite.
- 'Shark Attack Survival Guide' (Aug. 2, 9PM), featuring Green Beret Terry Schappert diving with real sharks to recreate five shark attacks and what you should do to survive them.
- 'Day of the Shark' (Aug. 2, 10PM) returns with six new real-life tales of people who survived shark attacks, including a Louisiana fisherman who survived an attack by two (!) bull sharks while he was standing in shallow water and a Navy Seal who was attacked in Sydney Harbor while participating in an anti-terrorism maneuver.
- 'Shark Bite Beach' (Aug. 3, 9PM) travels back to the summer of 2008, when a series of shark attacks took place along the coast of California and Mexico. The special recreates some of the attacks and sheds light on why they happened and how the survivors managed to avoid tragic outcomes.
- 'Shark Bites: Adventures in Shark Week' (Aug. 4, 10PM) - 'Late Late Show' host (and big Shark Week and 'MythBusters' fan) Craig Ferguson leads this special, which looks back at some of the best moments of Shark Weeks past and busts some shark myths. Buzz is that Ferguson also goes diving with and feeds sharks, and not from the inside of a cage.
In our nod to what many a viewer would agree is the most addictive programming on the tube, here's a little look at what a big role sharks have played in pop culture ...
We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat
Indeed, for the granddaddy of sharks in pop culture is 'Jaws,' Peter Benchley's 1974 novel (which was inspired, partly, by a real-life shark attack at -- wait for it -- the Jersey Shore, which would go on to become its own pop culture phenomenon) that inspired four movies, a theme park ride, tons of tie-in merch and Oscar-winning music by John Williams. Last month, 'Jaws,' the original movie, marked the 35th anniversary of its release, when the Steven Spielberg-directed classic began its run to a Best Picture Oscar nomination.
Jumping the Shark
When Fonzie ski-jumped over that shark-infested water on a September 1977 episode of 'Happy Days,' little did we know he had inspired a future phenomenon, thanks to Jon Hein's Website and catchphrase that has come to describe anything good that takes a sudden turn for the bad. Like Tiger Woods, the current season of 'Rescue Me' and cupcakes (great when they were bake sale goodies or something you took to school to celebrate your birthday, bad now that they've become a trendy treat that costs $6 apiece).
"Candygram ... Plumber ... I'm Only a Dolphin"
Yes, it's the Land Shark from 'Saturday Night Live,' one of the silliest, but funniest skits from the show's earliest years. Original 'SNL' cast member Chevy Chase provided the voice of the Shark, who would knock on a stranger's door, pretending he was a plumber, a candygram deliverer or, in a last ditch attempt to get a human to answer the door, a dolphin. Once the sap took the bait and opened the door, Land Shark attacked, consuming the person's whole head.
Land Shark appeared several times in the show's first three seasons (including a season 3 ep hosted by 'Jaws' star Richard Dreyfus, who was attacked by Land Shark at the end of the show), though his last appearance was during the 27th season in 2001, when he attacked Tina Fey while she was co-hosting 'Weekend Update' with Jimmy Fallon.
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The Shark Angels
Co-founded by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (aka the 'Whale Wars' people), the Shark Angels is a group devoted to helping save the more than 100 million sharks that are killed each year, many by hunters who capture them, cut off their fins with hot metal blades (and sell them to feed the shark fin soup craze) and then toss them back into the water, where, unable to swim, they sink to the bottom and die slowly. The Shark Angels try to change all that through education and confiscating illegally-gotten fins, among other things, including pointing out that, despite sharks' predatory reputations, more people are killed each year by falling vending machines than by sharks.
Chompie, the Shark Building
As if the fact that they've been doing it for 23 years didn't suggest how seriously the Discovery Channel folks take their Shark Week business, this should seal it: The network's corporate headquarters building, in Silver Spring, Maryland, was turned into a shark this year: a giant inflated shark head was anchored to the front of the building, a tail in back and two giant shark fins were attached to the building's sides. Chompie, who was first stuck to the building in 2007 to celebrate the 20th Shark Week, is made up of more than six miles of fabric and remains inflated via the 10 air blowers that are constantly blowing 2000 cubic feet per minute of air each into the five pieces. If Chompie were a real shark, he'd be 446 feet long and weigh 84,000 pounds.
Go Shark Yourself!
Just as you can 'Mad Men' yourself at AMC.com, i.e. make a 'Mad Men'-style cartoon of yourself, the Discovery Channel website offers fans the chance to shark themselves, or others, by uploading a photo and turning the person in the pic into a shark.
Sharks have made for some great cartoon characters. Our top five: 3. Kenny, NBC's 'Kenny the Shark,' about the titular Tiger shark who grew bored of life in the ocean and walked his tailfins into a new home, behind the house of his human pal Kat; 2. 'Finding Nemo's' Bruce, the great white shark who led an abstinence group of sharks who refused to eat fish ("I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food"); and 1. Jabberjaw, the talking ABC cartoon shark who sounded like Curly from the Three Stooges, went around repeating Rodney Dangerfield's lament "No respect" and, when not busy being, with his human teenage pals, the ocean-life version of Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. gang, was also the drummer in his band, The Neptunes.
Famous Shark Week Fans
Celebrities: they're just like us! Which means they also love Shark Week. Among the famous types who count themselves as Shark Week fans: 'Modern Family' star Julie Bowen, singer Brian McKnight, pro volleyballer Gabrielle Reece, Tracy Morgan's '30 Rock' persona Tracy Jordan, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in 'Step Brothers,' 'The Hills' stars Lauren Conrad and Stephanie Pratt, 'Scoundrels' star David James Elliott, 'Heroes' alum Adrian Pasdar, 'High School Musical' star Ashley Tisdale, 'Sonny with a Chance' star and pop singer Demi Lovato, Sugar Ray singer Mark McGrath and, of course, Shark Week 2010 host Craig Ferguson, who once called Shark Week his favorite holiday.
If you're planning a Shark Week celebration, there's certainly no lack of great shark swag to sink your teeth into, including shark party supplies, shark gummy candy (in baby blue, killer shark and hammerhead shark versions); shark fin candy lollipops; Shark Bites fruit snacks; an Animal Planet shark keyboard; a cool 4-D shark anatomy puzzle; great white shark slippers; a shark pinata; the 'Shark Week: Jaws of Steel Collection' DVD box set, featuring the complete 2009 Shark Week lineup; a three-foot long plush shark; shark fin headband; and a plush shark puppet that looks an awful lot like Bruce, Craig Ferguson's puppet shark friend.