Discovery's Shark Week makes its mark again


Two unrelated things happened almost exactly 10 years apart, and nobody could have predicted how they would eventually become intertwined.

Director Steven Spielberg's heart-stopping thrill ride "Jaws," based on the novel by Peter Benchley, hit theaters on June 20, 1975, turning the mysterious great white shark from an enigma into the ultimate nemesis (even if a frequently malfunctioning mechanical shark nicknamed Bruce played the title role in most scenes).

On June 17, 1985, Discovery Channel launched, and then only a bit over two years later, on July 27, 1987, it premiered Shark Week, a programming event showcasing films exploring all things shark.

Now, in 2010, "Jaws" celebrates its 35th anniversary, while Discovery marks its 25th. And starting on Sunday, Aug. 1, with a special called "Ultimate Air Jaws," "Shark Week" launches its 23rd annual edition.

This year also saw the debut of a new fake shark whose name also begins with B. On June 14, Craig Ferguson, the Scottish-born star of CBS' "The Late Late Show," announced on his show that he would be host of this year's Shark Week event with an appearance by Brian the puppet shark, who inexplicably spoke with a very posh British accent.

After explaining how much he loves Discovery Channel -- calling it "an excellent channel, much better than CBS, that features lots of animals eating other animals, kind of my thing, really" -- and making a pro forma lawyers-are-sharks joke, Brian proceeded to call upon all the sharks of the world (along with barracudas, "which is not a shark, but still quite scary") to gather in the Bahamas, where Ferguson will be diving with sharks. Apparently the goal is to eat him, "then finally we can get Craig Kilborn back!"

First up is the aforementioned "Ultimate Air Jaws," in which shark expert Chris Fallows and filmmaker Jeff Kurr ("Air Jaws," "Air Jaws 2") return to the coast of South Africa.

Also on Sunday is "Into the Shark Bite," created by the producers of Discovery's "Time Warp" series. Filmmakers use high-speed HD cameras to literally go inside a shark's jaws.

On Monday, Aug. 2, is "Shark Attack Survival Guide," in which Green Beret Terry Schappert shows … well, that should be self-explanatory. Also on Monday is "Day of the Shark," recounting the stories of six people who survived shark attacks.

"Shark Bite Beach" comes up on Tuesday, Aug. 3, recalling the year 2008, which saw multiple shark attacks on normally peaceful beaches in Mexico and Southern California.

Then, on Wednesday, Aug. 4, is Ferguson's "Best Bites," which reviews the top moments from past Shark Week specials.

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