Has “Shark Week” Jumped Itself?

As far as afflictions go, the one I am forever doing battle with is one that seems downright quaint and dare I say . . without entering the hyperbolic chamber . . . stoic?

I can’t lie.

And I’m not just talking about my hips either. Nah . . that there refers to all five foot eleven-ish of my great white self. I don’t lie and I banish those who do so willingly. Which is why I’ve made the decision to Dear John entire programming blocks for Discovery Channel’s money mako, otherwise known as Shark Week, rather than keep it on for every television viewing minute of my day as I’ve done for many years.

Yep, the truth always makes the scene with me, for better and most times for worse. The lowdown that Shark Week has run on me is just plain dirty business, and Imma have to call it out because Gloria Gaynor taught me how. Because the cold hard truth is that throughout my relationship with Shark Week, I’ve had to deal with the ‘others’ who have threatened to uproot the good thing we have going. Time after time, I’ve looked the other way. Until now . . .

Shark Week has always been one of my favorite times of the television year. Shark Week is what Herman Melville would’ve come up with if he’d been a television executive. It’s what Quint would’ve starred in if he’d been born inside another time, where getting paid didn’t rhyme with whiskey and peanuts. Shark Week is why Peter Benchley wrote, Stephen Spielberg imagined and John Williams scored.

But the current iteration leaves me more melancholic than a nurse shark who can’t find a nice doctor to marry. Shark Week has been changing in a slow drip evolution whose acquittal is simply a byproduct of its immense popularity. To paraphrase a favorite Pat Riley quote (I’ve got tons of ’em) . . Shark Week is suffering from the disease of more.

When Tory, Kari and Grant from Mythbusters did an episode to commemorate the twenty fifth anniversary of Shark Week back in 2012, I was totally down with it. Back then, their build team constructed a replica of a Megalodon in an episode titled Sharkzilla. As far as cross promotional unions go, this one made sense for several reasons. Both shows are on the same channel. The episode was consistent with what both productions are about. And science . . it was about science.

Celebrity show crashers to el semana del tiburon are nothing new. And truth be told, I tuned in to last year’s episode when gold medalist Michael Phelps raced a great white shark. It was the highest rated Shark Week telecast ever, because like me, peeps tuned in to see whether Phelps could in fact beat a real shark . . and if he got eaten, well . . bonus!

Of course, the entire premise was snake oil in the water, seeing as how great whites usually don’t move in a straight line unless they’re chasing Blake Lively. So with that flawed premise in mind, I tuned in to fifty seven minutes of mostly fluff . . and then was treated to a race between Phelps and a shark out of a Pixar flick. I didn’t blame the show for stealing an hour of my life as if it were a State of the Union address. It was my fault for having trusted gimmickry, when the truth of the matter is that the good stuff about Shark Week? Ain’t got a big name stapled to the marquee.

Shark Week 2018 is a baton death march (Not a typo) of one celebrity shark host handing off to the next. And for every episode that entertains me, there is a Hyde-like other half that rankles my gills. Nay . . that pisses me off.

Shaq and sharks is great fun. The dude is too much fun and he is a mega celebrity whose personality is bigger than any fish in the sea. And the “Shaq Shark Cage” was cool. But Aaron Rodgers, while arguably the best quarterback in football, didn’t move the needle for me in the least. Ronda Rousey’s appearance was incredibly entertaining because the girl was simply not fazed in her swim with the big fishes. It was almost eerie how chill she was, and it showed me the side of her persona that catapulted her to the top of her profession: fierce, determined, relentless. Fascinating stuff.

And then there’s Guy Fieri. Fuck. Is it not enough that this fucking guy has hijacked the Food Network? The episode featuring Triple Dick was an exercise in cruel and inhumane punishment . . for the few minutes I lasted before turning the dial. And no . . I ain’t even tuning in when those Shark Tank suits hijack an hour’s time with their schtick, thank you very much.

Shark Week, for me, used to be about learning; it was about adventures in remote locales and strangers who enriched me with their knowledge inside an hour’s time. These strangers were marine biologists, oceanographers and scientists who translated their passion for the deep blue sea into something that mattered. These peeps weren’t in it to further a brand or cross promote the fuck out of a show that didn’t need the publicity in the first place. Nope, these peeps were just real deal modern romantics who wanted to explore space, from right here on earth. Peeps who devoted their lives to working with the top down, and the results make life better for the inhabitants of land and sea. Win? Meet win.

And don’t even get me started on the Shark After Dark show that serves as a wrap up of the day’s programming. The format is more derivative than The Strokes. Here’s an idea: Ditch the dime store comedy and fill that hour with fucking sharks, why don’t cha?!

Alas, we live in a time where no good idea goes unpunished. Where a good thing gets shipwrecked to the excesses of glamour and glut. Because sometimes too much of a good thing? Is too much. So I’ll just pick my spots from now on. I’ll tune in to the shows on Shark Week that float my fin, and I’ll find something else to watch when the big names try to upstage the real stars.

It’s plenty safe to go in the water. Dry land? That’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish . . .