It started as an effort to boost conservation and evolved into Megalodon, and this year–in its 28th consecutive year–Discovery Channel’s Shark Week looks like the world tour of predators. The cable network announced the lineup today for their most famous week of programming, which is moving up from its normal late summer spot to the week of June 26-30. The network has taken criticism in recent years for putting too much emphasis on entertaining docufiction shows like Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, and Shark of Darkness. This year’s festivities get back to the science, featuring a schedule packed with research, technology, and shark studying experts from Cape Cod to Australia to Bikini Atoll.
Headlining the announcement is news that Eli Roth (director/writer/producer Hostel, Cabin Fever) will return as the host of Shark After Dark, a nightly wrap-up show featuring celebrities, scientists, and shark fans riffing about the night’s featured programming and next day’s lineup. Roth will also front Shark Week Sharktactular, an hour-long countdown of the greatest sharks in history, fan videos, and sneak peeks of the week’s programming.
Other highlights of the week include Air Jaws: Night Stalker, a program follows shark expert Jeff Kurr and shark biologist Neil Hammerschlag as they track the nighttime hunting capabilities of great white sharks. Fans were delighted to learn that it will be narrated by Lena Heady, the actress behind the cold-blooded Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones
And marine cinematographer Andy Casagrande will show up more than once. In The Killing Games he teams with Dr. Jonathan Werry to investigates a horrifying new hunting technique used by great whites off the coast off Australia…rather than waiting for seals to enter the water they snatch them from the shore. Jungle Shark finds Casagrande and marine biologist Dr. Craig O’Connell on a Costa Rican river, learning how migrating sharks avoid crocodiles. And Isle of Jaws tracks Casagrande’s own discovery of the new location of shark breeding grounds.
Isle of Jaws and some additional programming will introduce a new virtual reality app, Discovery VR, meant to work in conjunction with the broadcast to create an immersive experience.
Shark Week is Discovery’s biggest week of the year and has featured everything from Live From a Shark Cage, which saw journalist Forrest Sawyer locked up and dunked, to the controversial mockumentaries, to Anatomy of a Shark Bite (rumored to be the second-highest rated show in SW history.) Celebrities from Craig Ferguson and Andy Samberg, to Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) and Adam Savage (Mythbusters) have hosted. Discovery has also taken some criticism from the science community for acting a bit “Hollywood” about the ratings which, while they’ve continued to trend upward, slowed greatly and took a big dive in 2014. The network continued to tout record ratings “across key demos.” Discover Science magazine went so far as to analyze the claims and create a reference graphic refuting the data, as scientists do.
Nonetheless, viewers came back in 2015 with an average daily audience of 2.5 million viewers and a 1.46 rating in the 18-54 primetime demographic. Shark Week’s highest rated show ever was 2013’s Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, with 4.3 million viewers. Channel President Rich Ross, who took over in January 2015 decreed there would be no more misleading programming during his tenure.
No dates have been released yet for any of the shows, but you can pick your favorites from the full descriptions shared in the complete slate on Discovery’s site. In the meantime you’ll have to whet your appetite with this teaser promo, which is much more pleasant than last year’s; you may recall a happy seal being released into the wild only to be gobbled up by a shark? Thanks for the nightmares, Discovery.
And apologies. If you’ve read all this way looking for information on Sharknado, that’s over on Syfy this summer.