The Week Sharks Always Attack

by Chas Danner

Ashley Fetters investigates the origin and evolution of TV's most famous week, now in its 25th year and thus "the longest-running cable TV programming event in history". It started as an idea on a cocktail napkin in 1987, and has matured ever so slowly since then as the Discovery Channel has tried to make sure Shark Week never jumped the shark. The most recent change has been the transition to ultra high-speed cameras (used in the video above), but there have been other shifts as well:

Before the advent of Phantom cameras, Runnette says, Shark Week's evolution included a growing reliance on vivid human testimonies and gruesome cautionary accounts. "It's kind of like a campfire tale," she says. "One thing I've found kind of amazing is that almost invariably, the people who talk to us about surviving their attacks all say, 'I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.' Or, 'I was swimming when I saw a seal over there and I should have gotten out of the water.' Or, 'It was dusk. Everybody knows you don't get in the shallow water at dusk.'"

In other shark news, environmentalists on the West Coast are trying to get the great white added to the US endangered species list, and a recent study has shed some light on shark-fin soup consumption here in the US:

Out of 32 samples taken across the country of the Chinese delicacy with identifiable shark DNA, 26 bowls, or 81 percent, contained fins from sharks listed as endangered, vulnerable or near threatened, according to a report released on Thursday by the Pew Environment Group. The study was based on tests of the soup in 14 U.S. cities, and shark attack survivors collected the soup samples.

Recent Dish on the practice of shark-finning here, here and here.