First off, I’m an artist (and illustrator and designer), not a scientist. (Thus, the image atop the page is from my story “Monster Shark,” about a megalodon loose in a fantasy world. Clearly, IT’S NOT A REAL SHARK nor meant to represent sharks or Shark Week. It’s what I had at hand, and it’s cool. Hopefully that’s enough explanation that you don’t have to fret about it.) But, I LOVE science, and I love sharks — and have for most of my life — and this year, especially, I noticed that there weren’t a lot of reviews online of 2019’s Shark Week programming. So, I decided to take the reviews I was (semi-)live posting on Facebook and collect them for others who might be looking for them.
My ratings go from 1 to 5 stars (or sharks), with 1 being barely worth watching and 5 being a must-see, probably with considerable good science content.
I’ll post these in the order they were broadcast in. But I’ll start with a summation:
SUMMARY: 2019 was a pretty good Shark Week. Perhaps there weren’t as many 5-star/shark reviews, but IMO, there weren’t any 1-star shows, and only the one 2-star show. Oh… Unless you count Shark After Dark, which I didn’t review in detail, but which had very rough Sunday through Tuesday episodes. But, I didn’t give stars for that show, and Wednesday was much better, with Thursday, the final night, being somewhere in between. Basically, if a SAD segment didn’t have didn’t have Bob the Shark (who I unaccountably LOVE) in it, or a shark scientist, it wasn’t worth watching.
Now, on to the main reviews…
EXPEDITION UNKNOWN: MEGALODON of 5. Josh Gates brings his usual adventure travel to see if he can discover what killed off the meg. Maybe a bit heavy on adventure and light on science, but a good way to start Shark Week. Plenty of respect for sharks and the environment.
SHARK TRIP: EAT PREY CHUM of 5. Rob Riggle “tricks” 4 of his buddies into a man holiday that turns out to be all about doing “scary” things with sharks. Similar to the comedy show they did with Shaq, but didn’t work as well for me. Some nice shots of sharks, though.
SHARK AFTER DARK 2019/7/28 – There’s no point in rating this, as it just features more silliness by the Eat Prey Chum guys (well, some of them). No science, but it does have Bob the Shark, who is inexplicably endearing. Maybe he could hook up with Left Shark.
SHARKS OF THE BADLANDS of 5. While Greg Skomol worries about keeping swimmers safe on Cape Cod (following a 2018 fatality), Andy Casagrande and co. venture to a remote New Zealand island to plot strategies to warn people of the approach of sharks. Music is melodramatic, but Casagrande always gets great footage, and there’s some interesting science,
LEGEND OF DEEP BLUE of 5. Researchers head to Guadalupe island to see if they can photograph the legendary 20–foot white shark Deep Blue. She’s elusive, but Casagrande and the rest manage to get some interesting pix and also recover a camera lost by someone 10 years previous.
THE SHARKS OF HEADSTONE HELL of 5. Researchers (and Andy Casagrande, ‘natch) examine the tiger shark population at a remote pacific island where new Australian declare that locals must stop feeding the sharks, a centuries old tradition. The island has had no shark attacks, and the question is: If the food is stopped, will the sharks start looking at swimmers as possible food. The show doesn’t come to any final conclusion, but a number of surprising things are learned about the local tiger shark population. With what seemed like quite a bit of good science and a non-over-the-top score, this is my favorite of 2019 so far.
SHARKWRECKED: CRASH LANDING of 5. Two former-military tough guys, including Paul DeGelder, face the challenges a WWII pilot would if downed in the pacific, while Greg Skomal & researchers give them just enough help to survive. How long can the pair be at sea before dying or being eaten? These survivor-style challenges are interesting, but I’m unsure how much science really comes from them.
LAWS OF JAWS: DANGEROUS WATERS of 5. Shark scientists conduct a series of 5 or 6 dangerous experiments to find out what sharks react to and how to best keep yourself safe in sharky waters. Things I learned: Sharks aren’t much interested in human blood, as we’re not their prey. (Fish blood, on the other hand…) The also like splashing, even on a paddle board. If you have to fend them off, use an object, like a paddle, to keep them away. If you have to turn them by hand, push the top of their head down and away from you. Pretty much everything about spearfishing attracts them: all the sounds plus the dying fish and fish blood.
But, seriously, don’t get into those situations. Watch the Laws of Jaws Series so you know what NOT to do!
AIR JAWS STRIKES BACK of 5. You may recall from last year, that the “Air Jaws” sharks had been chased out of their usual hunting grounds or killed by a pair of rogue orcas, who proved that sharks are not the top of the food chain after all. Well, the Air Jaws crew is hoping that the sharks have just found a new hunting ground. They’ve located a seal colony not too far away, in fairly shallow waters, and get some pretty amazing drone shots of sharks interacting with (and hunting) the seals there. Andy Casagrande shows up to get some underwater seal (and shark) footage. And, we get a drone towed seal decoy for the usual breaching shot at the end, “proving” that Air Jaws has found a new home. That’ seems a bit pat, and I’m not convinced — but there was a lot of good investigation of shark habitat and habits before that.
I didn’t mention SHARK AFTER DARK last night, and it’s not much worth mentioning this night, either — other than to note that they have way too many non-shark guests, and far too few people who have worked on the films to talk about the making of the shows that night. The balance of comedy to info is tilted way toward comedy, and a lot of it’s not very funny — though I remain fond of Bob the Shark. (Who isn’t?) Let’s have more guests who are involved in SHARK WEEK!
EXTINCT OR ALIVE: THE LOST SHARK of 5. The music is a bit over the top, and the guys are willing to jump off of a moving boat to check out unknown sharks, but if you can get over that melodrama, the search for the extinct pondicherry shark is pretty compelling. They get to see a lot of different sharks, catch something unexpected in a net, and I won’t give away the ending. Another good one in a week without stinkers (so far).
CAPSIZED: BLOOD IN THE WATER of 5. For those not aware, I generally consider 3 stars (or sharks) out of 5 to be a “good” rating and generally worth seeing, if it’s a genre you’re interested in. All of which is preamble to this Shark Week original movie — which is pretty good. And I certainly prefer this to fake docs about surviving Megs, and other such bullshit.
The story is about some unlucky souls who sail into a storm, lose their boat, and end up in a harrowing ordeal on, in and around a raft — with sharks, of course. It’s based on a true incident, so, check it out, if you like that kind of thing. It’s not JAWS or DEEP BLUE SEA, by any means, but still respectfully done and not too exploitative.
SHARK AFTER DARK was better tonight, with more guests from the shows and fewer people not interested in sharks.
RETURN TO SHARK ISLAND of 5. A serious look at Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean with great surfing that has suddenly experienced a dramatic rise in shark attacks and deaths — one of which takes place literally just before the film crew arrives. The show looks at possible causes for the recent bull shark aggressions, and some possible solutions — aside from just killing sharks. Like most eco-problems, the source is difficult to pinpoint, but as the show ends, a floating virtual shark is being tested, along with other methods. One hopes solutions will be found.
GREAT WHITE KILL ZONE: GUADALUPE of 5. Scientists go to the shark island of Guadalupe to see if they can determine the “kill zone,” the depth at which the great whites found there hunt. They observe sharks from cages and tag a few with cameras. In the end, their data leads them to believe it varies shark by shark. Beautiful photography, as expected, but only a week for research granted by the Mexican government probably hampered this expedition.
MONSTER MAKO: PERFECT PREDATOR of 5. If you’re a big Mako fan, you might give this 4 stars or more, especially if you enjoy extensive clips from previous Mako expeditions. The mako-loving crew is back looking for “grander” makos — that’s fish that weigh over 1000 pounds. Apparently, these super-makos are becoming more and more rare, and we really don’t know enough about them to protect their migration or breeding grounds. And while I don’t think the crew got too far on that goal, they did get some very pretty pictures, including 2 granders together.
Final notes on this week’s SHARK AFTER DARK… The first 2 days were pretty close to worthless. The last 2 days featured more shark guess and were more on track. Overall, it was pretty uneven, though Bob the Shark still amuses me. And it still bugs me that they only do Monday-Thursday. Why no Friday SHARK AFTER DARK?
FRIDAY (why no Shark After Dark on Fridays or Saturdays?)
ISLE OF JAWS: BLOOD BROTHERS of 5. Andy Casagrade and team return to the isolated ISLE OF JAWS to see if they can find the “shark brothers,” a pair with similar markings who seem to travel together. They do find them, and they’re still together. And the team proves that they actually cooperate when hunting. It turns out both sharks have been tagged by another, so they may be able to find out if they’re blood related — as Andy suspects — though the show ends before they can reveal that. Still, the science is strong here, and Casagrande’s camerawork great, as usual. It’s probably the best show I’ve seen this week, though — because of TV guide tags — I’m not entirely sure if it was new this years.
ANDREW MAYNE: GHOST DIVER of 5. Mayne, a professional magician, gets it into his head to try and make a suit that will make him invisible to great white sharks — an idea that sounds both foolish and dopey. Imagine an anti-shark Iron Man outfit. He goes through several variations, and ends up with something that turns a light blue color when he switches it on — and sharks ignore him… At least for a time. It’s unclear if this concept will stand up to further scrutiny, but, because it seems to end well, I’ll be generous and give it 3 sharks, instead of 2.
I WAS PREY: SHARK WEEK of 5. This hour-long show features 2 shark attack survivors talking about what happened to them in great detail. One is a man from Hawaii bit by a tiger shark while spearfishing. The other is a California woman bitten by a great while while swimming 75 yards offshore near her surfer boyfriend. Both stories are well told and compelling, and it’s interesting that both victims noted that their interactions with the sea didn’t feel right that day, and that the water was cloudy. But, they ignored their instincts and kept doing what they planned. This seems to be this years attack show, and it’s quite good as those go — not nearly as sensational as many. But, it could also have used someone to talk about context and how rare such attacks are.
SHARKS GONE WILD 2 The scientific value of this show seems pretty minimal, but I found it highly amusing and it does collect internet videos from the last year (2018) and highlight shark events, too. IIRC, the human shark fatalities from last year numbered fewer than a dozen, and the chance of a dangerous encounter was less than 1 in a million. Snakes kill far more people — and let’s not even talk about automobiles or guns. Those kind of perspectives are valuable to have when talking to people who think sharks are dangerous to people. They killed maybe a dozen of us last year; we killed millions of them. Let’s stop doing that. Anyway, the videos showed various interactions sharks from getting nipped to rescuing sharks to diving with them. There are also tributes to shark scientists who died in the last year. All in all, a pretty fun and fitting show to have as one of the last for Shark Week.
SHARK WEEK IMMERSION of 5. Immersion is apparently an internet show I don’t watch where they attempt to replicate video game physics and tropes in the real world. In this show, Luke Tipple (shark researcher) and Immersion put two professional game players through their paces to debunk crazy things they believe about sharks. After tests, one of the guys will go in the water with sharks. This is, of course, all played for comic value — which is probably why this is an end-of-Shark-Week offering. But, it’s fun, and the guys learn some shark-loving.
So, that’s it for 2019.
The big winners were the improbably named SHARKS OF HEADSTONE HELL and ISLE OF JAWS: SHARK BROTHERS, with plenty of good 4-star/shark shows coming up behind, lots of solid 3-star outings, and only one that I didn’t much like which got 2-stars.
If people like this reposting, I may go back and re-post my previous years’ reviews, assuming I can dig them out of FB.