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Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to the TV: It's 'Sharknado 2'
July 16, 2014  | By Ed Bark  | 2 comments

BEVERLY HILLS, CA -- Don't think too deeply about Sharknado -- as if that were even a remote possibility.

But in the realm of TV worth watching . . . well, a lot of people watched the first one last July, and probably even more tweeted about it. Perfect title, perfect storm of lethal flying flesh-eaters arriving in swirling masses from funnel clouds. So Syfy Channel is rinsing, and in some ways repeating, with Sharknado 2: The Second One, which premieres on July 30 but had a poolside screening for television critics Monday night on the grounds of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. (Two of its stars, Tara Reid and Ian Ziering, are shown poolside.)

Mildly put, it was well-attended, with TV writers dining on hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken wings, nachos and the like before settling in for a good howl. There were plenty -- as intended.

"I don't know how to top the first one. You just go for it," said director Anthony C. Ferrante before the sequel began screening in giant-sized fashion on a previously blank hotel wall. The sequel is largely set in New York City, which not only is bedeviled by killer sharks, but by the giant severed head of the Statue of Liberty rolling like a bowling ball through Manhattan.

Last year at this time, Ferrante was still freelance-writing about television for a likely meager living while also lending his talents to lesser films such as Scream of the Banshee, The Five Stages of Grief of a TV Guest Star and Syfy's 2012 Leprechaun's Revenge (in which the term "sharknado" was first referenced). Ferrante also attended last summer's Fox leg of the Television Critics Association "press tour," but had trouble remaining anonymous once word got out about his big Sharknado breakthrough.

Ferrante doesn't worry unduly -- if at all -- about the logic behind the movie that put him on the pop culture map.

"There are no military scientists or anything like that. That was all intentional," he said. "The moment you go in there and start explaining it, it's not fun anymore . . . People get hung up on, 'Oh, sharks can't do that, tornadoes can't do that.' But the beauty of it is that Sharknado is our villain. We can make up the rules as we go along without having to worry about 'mythology.' All my other movies had these insane mythologies."

The first Sharknado featured Ziering (Beverly Hills, 90210) and Reid (Saved By the Bell: The New Class) in the lead roles, with John Heard chipping in as a drunk who soon was gobbled to bits.

Ziering and Reid return for the sequel, but this time with a big gaggle of celebrity cameos, and former Taxi mainstay Judd Hirsch in a more substantive supporting part as a cabbie. Hirsch, who attended the poolside screening, appeared the next afternoon on a panel for the new fall ABC drama Forever, in which he plays the trusty pal of a hunky doctor who's been staying alive for the past 200 years.

Hirsch didn't seem too jazzed to talk about Sharknado 2 when TV Worth Watching pestered him about it during the formal Forever session.

"I don't know. I always think I never grow up enough not to do that," he said when asked to contrast and compare the motivations for taking his two latest roles.

Hirsch then quickly veered off into a discourse on CBS's Numb3ers (in which he also co-starred) and the new ABC series before his questioner brought him back to Sharknado and why he did it.

"They told me I was going to be eaten by a shark. I said, 'I'm in,' " Hirsch said.

Sharknado 2 begins with an inspired appearance by Robert Hays (of Airplane! fame) as a pilot whose jumbo jet is attacked by a swirl of sharks, while a flight attendant played by Kelly Osbourne tries to calm all those panicked passengers. It's a lengthy, well-choreographed and suitably ridiculous segment -- all before the opening credits roll. Besides Hirsch, Vivica A. Fox also has a "meaty" role, while the cameos keep on coming.

Matt Lauer signs on early and stays late as himself, with Al Roker soon joining him on the increasingly concerned Today show set. Kelly Ripa, Michael Strahan and the Weather Channel's Stephanie Abrams also repeatedly play themselves while the danger ramps up at the New York Mets' Citi Field and, later on, the  NYC subway system. "This is a twister with teeth," Roker says at one point.

Viewers also can be on the lookout for Andy Dick as a cop, Billy Ray Cyrus as a doctor, Richard Kind as a former Mets slugger who swats a shark for a home run, Shark Tank investor Daymond John as an ill-fated briefcase carrier and Richard Klein as New York's vexed mayor.

Ziering again cuts a heroic figure as bar owner turned shark slayer Fin Shepard. A chainsaw comes in very handy during his two signature scenes. Meanwhile, Reid's April Wexler (Fin's ex-wife) is destined to suffer more than a flesh wound, but keeps on ticking.

Sharknado 2 is, of course, critic-proof. And a third one already is in the very early stages of development. Director Ferrante says succinctly, "It's in my blood now."

And, at this point, it sure beats a bacterial infection.
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I was focusing on their TV credits, but your complaint is duly noted. No sexism involved if you're implying that.
Jul 17, 2014   |  Reply
I'm not sure what Tara Reid did to deserve the passive aggressive credit slight noting her work in Saved by the Bell: The New Class, rather than American Pie or The Big Lebowski. Ian Ziering did commercials for 1-800-COLLECT or something similar, his trespasses must be relatively minimal.
Jul 16, 2014   |  Reply
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