Nat Geo Wild’s upcoming SharkFest is a blatant ripoff of Shark Week, and that’s coming from the the broadcaster itself.
In its own promo, Nat Geo WILD confesses that it hopes to net some confused viewers, coyly avoiding the name of its competitor.
But SharkFest could mean more than one network swimming in another’s wake.
Shark Week, like so many so-called educational TV programs, has, well, jumped the shark. In its relentless hunt to chomp up more and more ratings in recent years, Discovery has broadcast everything from documentaries alleging the extinct Megaladon is alive to shows with B-movie horror titles like “Alien Sharks,” “Zombie Sharks,” and “Great White Serial Killer.”
SharkFest, now in its third year, has promised it won’t fall into the same trap, pledging in its press release for SharkFest that it will forgo the melodramatic programs that have stalked the Shark Week schedule for years. While SharkFest includes plenty of programs celebrating the shark’s ferocity, it tempers those with facts and advice urging for the species’ preservation.
“The apex predator is vital to balancing the ocean’s ecosystem, but is reputation has been battered by myths and fabrication,” Nat Geo WILD declares in its press release.
Sure, SharkFest includes programs like “When Sharks Attack: Florida Frenzy” for the inevitably bloodthirsty viewer, but it also may look to change some minds.
“Shark encounters captivate us every summer, but sadly the fear mongering and myth spreading overshadow these magnificent creatures and their vital place in the ocean’s ecosystems,” said Geoff Daniels, Nat Geo WILD’s EVP and general manager.“The fact is, your chance of getting attacked by a shark in your lifetime is 1 in 11,000,000. You are also 30 times more likely to be killed by lightning than to be killed by a shark. So it turns out that it is safe to go back in the water, as long you’ve got the facts.”
SharkFest may be a shameless copy, and the network is not afraid to admit it, but its focus on education and its earnest attempt to reverse the trend of negative shark publicity is likely to be favored by more scientifically-minded viewers. Like the Johnny Cash cover of “Hurt” or the Oreo cookie, sometimes the followup is so much better than the original.
The need for a more balanced perspective on sharks could not come at a more needed time. This summer has seen a string of highly-publicized shark attacks in several Southern states, and while the cause is still being debated, it’s likely that humans are to blame much more than the sharks. Many are even calling for a massive cull of the sharks, despite expert’s opinions that it would not prevent further attacks and might even make the problem worse.
What’s not going to help the cause is further sensationalism that preys on viewer’s irrational terror of shark attacks. Not since the premier of “Jaws” have the infamous ocean predators needed a positive P.R. campaign, and SharkFest may for once help to actually alleviate fears, rather than to simply exploit them.
SharkFest’s weeklong schedule of programming will begin Sunday, July 5, at 8/7c.