Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shark Week: A Lost Opportunity

Its that time of year again, we’re in the midst of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week and content wise, little has changed.

shark week Photo taken at Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto

Once again Shark Week is dominated by fictional documentaries about mythical shark monsters that “may or may not exist.” It seems that the popularity of low budget horror films like “Sharknado 2” and “Ghost Shark” have created a fan base that simply isn’t satisfied by tried and true educational documentaries.

One big problem is that Shark Week has been around since 1988, most large shark species have been documented in contemporary wildlife films with breathtaking cinematography. Not content to air old material, its understandable that Shark Week producers have opted to create more structured “fictional” content.

Notable research scientists have voiced concerns that Shark Week producers tricked them into participating in “mocumentaties”. Shark Week film crews pretended to document shark research projects, then incorporated that interview footage into the likes of Shark Week offerings such as “Voodoo Shark” and “Monster Hammerhead”.

Discovery channel has a thin argument that some of these specials are true documentaries, since the subject is outlandish fisherman’s tales as opposed to known animal species. However, when you actually sit down and watch one of these pieces, it doesn’t take long for that premise to feel like a stretch.

The most unfortunate thing about the Shark Week lineup is that there really is a wealth of true documentary subject matter begging to be explored. Unfortunately it relates more to environmental & man-made factors that threaten nearly every single shark species, currently pushing them to the brink of extinction. As such, there would only be minimal use of embellished shark attack reenactments, and there in lies the problem.

Check out the program listings for Shark Week 2014, the titles say it all.

United States Viewers (or Canadians who claim to live there) can let Discovery Channel know what they think about Shark Week through this survey.