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Sharks Surface Again for Mid-summer Specials
July 23, 2017  | By David Hinckley

Pointing out that there are too many shark shows on television is like pointing out that there are too many Starbucks.

There are. It’s not even a discussion.

But if people are patronizing all of them, it doesn’t matter.

And now it’s midsummer, which means it’s shark season not just at unsuspecting beaches all around the globe, but on your TV screen, which when you think about it is a safer place to obsess over sharks.

Discovery and Nat Geo Wild both plunge into their annual shark immersions on Sunday night – Discovery with its Shark Week series and Nat Geo Wild with Sharkfest.

Then next Sunday, just about the time it might be safe to flick the remote again, Syfy launches a weeklong series of prime-time shark movies, each one sillier and goofier and therefore even more on-target than the one before.

After 5-Headed Shark Attack, Mississippi River Sharks, Trailer Park Shark, Toxic Shark and Empire of the Sharks, Syfy wraps it up on Sunday, Aug. 6, with Sharknado 5: Global Swarming.

The Sharknado thing kind of lost its buzz after the first surprise attack, but it turned out it didn’t need buzz to become a signature franchise for Syfy. It’s time to face the reality that the Ian Ziering-and-Tara Reid show may outlive all of us.

Discovery and Nat Geo Wild try to be a little more serious about sharks, acknowledging they’re a critical and in many places endangered part of our global aquatic ecosystem.

So Nat Geo Wild punctuates the week with shows like Mission Critical: Sharks Under Attack (Monday, 10 p.m. ET). This special films real sharks in the ocean and explains how far their reputation as man-eating machines is from the truth of their world.

On Wednesday, at 9 and 10 p.m. ET, Discovery airs Sharks and the City: LA and Sharks in the City: NYC. The premise is that there are already more great white sharks off the coast of Los Angeles and may soon be more in the waters off New York City. The specials examine why and what it means. 

So if you can’t get enough shark talk, like maybe you’re a person who watches Shark Tank just on the hope that some week an actual shark will appear, Nat Geo Wild and Discovery both provide shark info aplenty.

Both channels acknowledge the premise that ever since Jaws in 1975, sharks have gotten really bad PR. The idea that killing as many sharks as possible will “solve” some sort of problem is lunacy, to put it bluntly, and that’s the tacit message of many of these shows.

At the same time, Nat Geo Wild and Discovery aren’t stupid. They realize that to get people’s attention, you need more than a PETA lecture on being nicer to our finned friends.

That’s why Discovery is kicking off Shark Week with a much-hyped “race” between Olympic multi-gold medalist Michael Phelps and a great white shark.

Since Phelps’s top speed in the water is about 6 miles an hour while great whites can cruise at 25, it really isn’t much of a contest. You hope that if the shark is chasing Phelps, he gets a really big head start.

But the Phelps thing is really, of course, just the carnival barker getting you into the tent. It’s drawn enough attention that Nat Geo Wild has brought in Phelps’s fellow Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte to do some hosting. He will not be racing against a mako or a hammerhead.

Discovery and Nat Geo Wild have also sexed up some of the show titles. Discovery has Devil Sharks, for instance, at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday. Nat Geo Wild has When Sharks Attack: Florida Frenzy, at 8 p.m. ET Friday, and Sharkatraz at 9 p.m. ET Thursday.

On opening night Sunday, to set the table, Discovery offers Great White Serial Killer Lives at 7 p.m. ET, Phelps Vs. Shark at 8 p.m. ET, Shark-Croc Showdown at 9 p.m. ET and Great Hammerhead Invasion at 10 p.m. ET.

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