Once we shared so much, “Shark Week” and I. For years, I awaited the Discovery Channel’s 168 straight hours of reeking buckets of fish guts, shot-glass-sized serrated choppers, surly sea captains, poorly acted dramatizations and overly simplified moral lessons that make no sense. (Remember: Sharks don’t kill people; people kill sharks who kill people.) It was a glorious mix of comfort and fear, knowing that for seven straight days I could hit “power” and score made-for-TV gore.
Click! The Crocodile Hunter’s Cro-Magnon predecessor, Rodney Fox, humanity’s largest living chew toy, shows off the massive side wound donated by a white shark during a spearfishing tourney in 1963. Four hundred sixty-two stitches of baseball-like underbelly sure to twist your stomach in knots.3 p.m. Click! All right, cage match time! In this corner a 20-foot whitey flosses its teeth with 3-inch steel. And in the other corner — way down in the other corner — a cameraman panics in his wet suit.
Click! It’s Valerie and Ron Taylor, Australia’s Siegfried & Roy, happily swimming with a school of blue sharks, the ocean a powdery sanguine as Valerie teases the beasts from inside a thin skin of titanium links. You want sexy? Try a chain-mailed blond with fish swinging off her forearm.
But then something went wrong. This season, the bite-light programming included a documentary focusing on the least deadly sharks. “Did you know that of the more than 500 species of shark only five are known to attack and that most specimens are under a foot long?” As a matter of fact, I did — I just don’t care. Nobody does.
So perhaps the Discovery marketing team will benefit from the words of this one-man focus group: Shark freaks want to see VW-swallowing submarines that frappé lifeguard boats. That’s not to say we don’t care about the fate of these magnificent eating machines. We care more than anyone; it’s part of the reason we watch the shows and inevitably absorb the lessons. But we don’t tune in to be educated; we tune in to be scared. The TV-ratings sharks could learn something from their equally ravenous seafaring kin: If you want to start a feeding frenzy, make sure you bring plenty of blood.
— Matt Walker