Discovery Channel’s, “Shark Week,” was started in order to debunk the stigma that surrounded sharks and to inform viewers of the ocean’s apex predators. The spread of information helped create genuine interest in sharks across generations. Now, “Shark Week,” has become overrun with celebrities and has forgotten the goal it originally set out to accomplish.
“Shark Week” used to be about spreading awareness. People were and still can be terrified of sharks. After the release of “Jaws” in 1975, people actually killed sharks in large numbers in order to prevent attacks.
“Shark Week” started in the summer of 1988 in order to share information on why sharks actually might attack and why they are beneficial to their ecosystems. The Discovery Channel would play nothing but shark documentaries, which were often led by marine biologists and scientists, for a week in order to inform the public about sharks.
I’ve been an avid “Shark Week” fan from a very young age. I would be glued to my couch all week and absorb all the information I could.
As a fan of the week-long event, I was able to see the slow decline. The first celebrity I remember seeing on “Shark Week” was Shaquille O’Neal. He was on an episode called “Shaq Does Shark Week,” which also featured Rob Riggle and Kevin Hart.
The year after that, Rob Riggle had his own show with Adam Devine, Anthony Anderson, Joel McHale and Damon Wayans Jr. That year also featured Michael Phelps and Guy Fieri with his son, Hunter.
This year has a celebrity episode every night. Mike Tyson, Shaquille O’Neal, Adam Devine, Will Smith and Snoop Dog are all on the roster for Shark Week 2020. The episodes they are given seem to have priority over the documentaries being shown.
This seems to be because “Shark Week” is trying to appeal to a larger audience. They want to use comedy and familiar faces to lure in younger viewers.
The part that upsets me most is the portrayal of sharks in these shows. Having inexperienced people interact with sharks sets a bad example and also forces the experts to speak more about the danger they might represent to the celebrities instead of the many ways they are beneficial.
This goes against the show’s original goal of informing people about sharks and making them seem like less of a threat than they really are. USA Today shares that dogs and bees are more likely to kill you than sharks.
I don’t want to turn on the Discovery Channel to see Mike Tyson. If I wanted to do that, I would wait for his upcoming return in the ring. I watch “Shark Week” for the sharks and not the B-List celebrities.
It seems a lot of people feel the same. I’m in a great white shark interest group on Facebook. I would often talk about episodes with other members in the past here.
Most everyone in the chat seems to be upset about the new direction the program is taking. While I can understand the Discovery Channel wants to draw in new viewership, it would be preferable if they didn’t do it in a way that neglected the reason they started in the first place.
I don’t know what marketing challenges the Discovery Channel is facing, but most people are interested in information that is presented to them in an appealing way. If they could find a way to do this in documentaries without utilizing celebrities that draw from the true stars of the show, “Shark Week” could once again make fans new and old happy.