Want to know why Discovery Channel's Shark Week is still taking a huge bite out of the competition, 22 years after its original debut? Ask my 5-year-old daughter. • She's the one who was clamoring to see Shark Week documentaries with such welcoming titles as Blood in the Water, Great White Appetite and Sharkbite Summer when I brought the review DVDs home weeks ago. • When a kid raised on SpongeBob and Dora wants to see sharks in action, you know a nerve has been touched (Discovery does, too, noting 29.1 million viewers watched in 2008). • The carnage resumes at 9 tonight with Blood in the Water, a two-hour look at the spate of attacks in 1916 that inspired Peter Benchley's classic, Jaws. • As the week unfolds, shark junkies can see Survivorman's Les Stroud check out five of the most notorious shark havens in the world, explore their nighttime habits in Shark After Dark and hear about a former Navy SEAL getting attacked in St. Petersburg on Day of the Shark 2. (Timely, considering the spate of shark stories we've experienced around here lately.) • To whet your appetite for it all — yes, the puns when writing about sharks are irresistible — here are Five Reasons Why I Still Love Shark Week.
Blood in the Water may be the most ambitious, using a cadre of no-name actors to show testimonials from witnesses and re-create attacks from the turn of the century. The only question: Why would somebody from 1916 be talking to a camera like they're on a reality show?
, The local angle
Sharkbite Summer recounts the 2001 hysteria over shark attacks, in part, by featuring Tampa Bay area media covering a school of sharks off the gulf beaches. A line from WTVT-Ch. 13 reporter Charley Belcher is used, but the best footage comes from an interview with snarky St. Petersburg Times reporter Matt Waite: "I was seeing every television news helicopter in the area doing this dance around each other to try and hover over this same set of sharks," said Waite, who eventually wrote a story criticizing the coverage. "Of course there's sharks in the Gulf of Mexico … It's the ocean, for crying out loud."
Turns out, shark attacks are actually decreasing; unprovoked attacks totaled 59 in 2008, down from 71 in 2007. Windsurfers and surfers, who look like seals to a swimming shark, get the worst of it, comprising 56.6 percent of all attack victims.
Head to the Web site discovery.com/sharkweek, and you'll see live blogging from a marine biologist, quizzes, shark facts in Facebook format and a cool alternate reality game where you collect shark data by managing a research vessel (it's cooler than it sounds, really).
As the ultimate seafaring predator, this animal will stay lodged in our deepest nightmares forever. Good thing the Discovery Channel is here to expose the facts behind our fears.
DISHING ON SOME COMING ATTRACTIONS
The TV Critics Association Summer Press Tour got under way last week in Los Angeles, with lots of dish on new shows and updates to old ones. A quick list of my favorite bits so far:
Counter-programming against all the white guys on network TV talk shows, cable will offer View co-host Joy Behar's The Joy Behar Show on CNN Headline News, George Lopez's Lopez Tonight on TBS and Mo'Nique's the Mo'Nique Show on BET.
The best character actor on TV, Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood), will play an old-school U.S. marshal in FX's Lawman.
Director John Singleton (Shaft, Boyz in the Hood) will team with former track star Marion Jones to create an ESPN documentary about her fall after using performance-enhancing drugs.
The Lamas family gets the Jon & Kate award for filming a reality show with E! after dad Lorenzo Lamas learned son A.J. slept with ex-wife/stepmom Shauna Sand.