There are no sharknadoes in the immediate forecast, but that doesn’t mean Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2013, which begins tonight on the cable channel, isn’t packed with entertainment.
The 26th annual incarnation of this long-running ratings blockbuster includes an unprecedented 11 shark-themed episodes this year, as well as a promising new feature: Shark After Dark, a one-hour late-night talk show hosted by comic Josh Wolf and airing each night during Shark Week. Viewers can interact with the program via Twitter as Wolf welcomes guests ranging from celebrities to shark experts and even shark attack survivors.
Tonight’s schedule opens with Air Jaws: Beyond the Breach, the latest in the series that features gasp-inducing footage of Great White sharks leaping from the water in pursuit of prey, as a documentary crew goes behind the scenes to explore how the TV specials have changed our understanding of these creatures, as well as offering viewers a sneak peek at Finding Colossus, the next Air Jaws special scheduled to air during Shark Week 2014.
Next, a crew of scientists and other shark experts examines evidence recovered from a rash of shark attacks off the coast of South Africa to test one controversial theory that the massive shark responsible for these fatalities might be a 60-foot relative of the Great White that is one of the largest, most powerful predators in history. The working title for this special is Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives.
Monday night’s double bill starts with Return of Jaws, which introduces a robot submarine called Shark Cam that tracks sharks, following Great Whites as they live and hunt off the shores of Cape Cod (the setting for the Jaws feature films). That’s followed by one of my favorite new offerings in this Shark Week: Voodoo Sharks, a special that explores how Bull Sharks have moved from oceans and coastal waters into the bayous of Louisiana. These “voodoo sharks,” as local shrimp fishermen have christened the creatures, are able to live in both fresh and salt water, and they’re turning up by the hundreds in new areas where they previously never ventured. Spooked residents of the area also insist that there’s an even bigger shark lurking in the swamps. Is that just a Creole legend, or a scary new reality? Either way, this hour is creepy and atmospheric.
Tuesday brings I Escaped Jaws, which, as the title suggests, is built around first-hand accounts by shark attack survivors, and Spawn of Jaws, which uses state-of-the-art tracking technology to shed new light on the life cycle of the Great White.
On Wednesday, Top 10 Sharkdown counts off the sharks you really, really don’t want to have a close encounter with this summer, as well as the ones you’re most likely to run into, while natural history producer Jeff Kurr (Ultimate Air Jaws) returns to Shark Week to examine two fatal shark attacks near California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base in Great White Serial Killer.
Andy Casagrande and Devon Massyn host Sharkpocalypse on Thursday, which takes a look at the truly alarming trend that finds sharks moving in closer to shorelines, resulting in escalating shark attacks on humans. Later that some night, a special with the working title Alien Sharks of the Deep follows American and Japanese scientists as they descend into some of the deepest, darkest oceans on Earth in search of incredible new forms of shark.
The final new program of the week arrives Friday with The Great White Gauntlet, which travels to the coast of South Australia, where intrepid divers try to harvest a rare and precious sea snail called the abalone, worth thousands of dollars in the international market. The downside? This creature lives in a Great White feeding ground widely regarded as among the most dangerous places in the world.