\'Shark Week\' Returns For Another Summer Splash

It’s a matter of jaws and effect.

Viewers’ 28-year summer obsession with the ocean's most fearsome fish continues June 26, when the Discovery channel uncages the latest week-long installment of "Shark Week."

Except this summer’s swim will soften the sensationalism of years past and chomp down on science instead.

"As people become more exposed to sharks in pop culture, they become more curious about their behaviors," said Mike Sorenson, executive producer of Shark Week at Discovery. "We've succeeded in unpacking some mysteries of the shark. There's so much we don't know and that's what's fueling this curiosity," the TV shark czar said.

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Last season a collective 42 million tuned in to see what was stirring in the waters. But you’d think after all these years, the network would be running out of fresh bait to keep viewers on the hook.

Think again.

To quench shark week fans’ briney bloodlust there will, of course, be tons of close calls, cages rattled, gadgets destroyed, seals snapped and sharks gone airborne. But put away any excitement about pre-historic mega sharks this season.

Three years ago The Discovery Channel learned the hard way that its most die-hard shark fans are far more interested in science.

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New technologies on this season of "Shark Week" will bring audiences within petting distance of the fierce and frequently misunderstood fish.

(Discovery Channel)

They prefer the spirit of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau to the meteorological mayhem of “Sharknado.”

Discovery’s “a-ha” moment came in 2013 when it quietly snuck the mockumentary "Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives" into its “Shark Week” lineup.

No fewer than 4.8 million viewers tuned in, making the faux documentary the most watched program in “Shark Week” history.

But it left a bad taste in their mouths and when it became clear the doc was a hoax, fans filleted the network.

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Since then, Discovery has opted to dive into a renewed, deep commitment to science.

"You have to draw people in with excitement and then educate," said Neil Hammerschlag, a consulting scientist whose research is the focus of this season's episodes of "Tiger Beach" and "Air Jaws: Night Stalker."

From top to bottom, edutainment flows through the gills of new "Shark Week" programming. This season will showcase how new technologies can bring audiences within petting distance of the fierce and frequently misunderstood fish.

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"Shark Week" viewers can expect tons of close calls, cages rattled, gadgets destroyed, seals snapped and sharks gone airborne.


Improved tagging and tracking technologies will follow stealthy shark migrations farther than ever. A self-propelled shark cage will allow marine biologists to record the behavior of great whites off the Coast of Guadalupe in shallow waters. The REMUS-an AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) cam that looks like a robot torpedo-will track the never-before-seen hunting techniques of great whites at depths of up to 2,000 feet.

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The cameras and the gizmos may keep improving but the stars remain largely the same. Ten of the 16 shows this year will feature great white sharks, the "ferocious man eaters" mythologized in the "Jaws" blockbusters. Other specials feature bull, mako, reef or tiger sharks.

Chris Lowe, a prominent shark scientist who helped produce 15 shows with Discovery and will be a consultant to two shows in 2017, still harbors reservations about the channel's programming.

"For a long time Discovery had alienated many of the leading shark scientists because they weren't funding research," Lowe told The Daily News. "Most of 'Shark Week' was dedicated to tiger sharks and white sharks because they bite people."

Although it's clear the criticism reached well beyond the scientific echo-chamber, the Discovery Channel will continue to satisfy audience's feeding frenzy with programs that are big on bite.

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"The scientific community has no platform or voice to share like this," said Joe Romiero, a filmmaker for seven seasons of "Shark Week" and host to another three. "A human based show with a high science value is an amazing platform for people to get information about these animals."

We are getting the information, sure, but at what cost?

"You can't encourage people to promote conservation if you're trying to scare them." said Lowe. "It's hard to get people to try to protect sharks if they still fear them."

Source : http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/shark-week-returns-summer-splash-article-1.2675411

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