While these reviews were written during 2021, for some reason, I forgot to post them on my site until Shark Week 2020. (They were posted on FB as they ran.) These things happen… Especially during a pandemic. So, let’s go with my usual piece of Monster Shark art as the header to kick us off…
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.
CRIKEY! IT’S SHARK WEEK (of 5)
Robert Irwin, son of the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, wants to get out of the zoo and learn more about sharks. Helping him at a tiny isle at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef are marine biologist Madison “Madi” Stewart (a.k.a. “Shark Girl”) and familiar Shark Week figure, shark attack survivor, and shark conservationist, Bob de Gelder.
Robert then heads about 1400 miles south to look for great whites in Australia’s most southern waters. They leave Madi behind (sadly) and pick up marine ecologist Charlie Huveneers. Since they’re pros, they soon lure some 15-footers to the boatside cage for Robert’s 1st encounter with a Great White. He’s impressed, and even more impressed when a Great White bite measures in around 2000 Newtons of pressure, perhaps twice as much as a croc bite.
The “shark vs. croc” angle is contrived, but it’s only touched on a little, and it’s always fun to adventure with the Irwins, including 17-year-old Robert. Because the Irwins care about animals and science, the week is off to a very good start.
TIFFANY HADDISH DOES SHARK WEEK (of 5)
Discovery seems to always want to load its Sunday kick-off night with celebrities to draw in viewers to watch the sharks. Robert Irwin, who has obvious wildlife conservation creds was first this year. Comedienne (her term) Tiffany Haddish is up second, and the first fish-out-of-water for this year. She promises to bring “No fear,” but I doubt any of us buy that. Shark sex scientist Dr. Toby Daly-Engel is taking Tiffany to count male vs. female sharks, which starts with prepping chum. This and the dives make for the usual joke opportunities, but the shark reproduction science is good. Next, she joins Shark Week regular Dr. Craig O’Connell and marine ecologist Alannah Vellacot to help laser measure and try to get ultrasounds of pregnant tiger sharks. Tiffany does pretty well, and she’s pretty funny, despite my dislike for comedy shark shows. There’s even some science!
JACKASS SHARK WEEK (of 5)
I don’t do Jackass. Just never have. No desire to see it. Men doing stupid stuff just doesn’t generally amuse me. (I don’t watch “funniest home videos,” either.) And I don’t tend to like the “comedy” shows of shark week. So… How bad will this be? Apparently, one comedy show this year wasn’t enough for Dr. Craig O’Connell, who takes the Jackass guys to learn about bull sharks. Naturally, one plays matador. Next, they measure bite force with one guy sitting on an inner tube with bait, and his butt in the water. They make themselves stinky to see if sharks are attracted to humans. (They’re not.) They pull a guy with bait on a wakeboard to see how fast sharks swim. Then they chum the water and “jump the shark(s)” with a waterboard. This gets the jumper, “Poopies”–who’s stupid enough to cannonball (deliberately or not) at the end of his jump–bitten bad enough to tourniquet and head for shore immediately. They decide to end the show just swimming with and appreciating sharks. The only smart thing they’ve done. This is not really for me, but they get an extra start for actually getting hurt doing stupid things around sharks. Don’t do that. Dr. O’Connell, what were you thinking?
EXPEDITION UNKNOWN – JOSH GATES TONIGHT – SHARK WEEK SUNDAY (of 5)
Josh Gates hosts the after-show for Shark Week again this year. Cocktail is “Shark Repellant.”Guests are Tiffany Haddish, the Jackass guys, and SW regular, Dickie Chivell. Tiffany is funny and likes sharks, plus points for a lot of Shark Week firsts. Bob the Shark, whom I find unaccountably amusing, is back again. Yay! Steve-O does stupid things on his own time, too. Poopies’ shark-bit hand is still recovering, and may take months more — if ever — to return to full functionality. Mandalay Bay in Vegas has a predator-based zoo aquarium. Josh gets to dive with more than 30 sharks. It looks like great fun. Shark nut Dickie Chivell talks about his shows this week and his dangerous self-inflicted shark encounters. Ends with joke mail and a bit of science news, but not enough to get above average entertainment. Tomorrow looks promising, though, and the house band remains good.
SUNDAY 2021 SUMMARY (of 5)
As usual, Sunday is celebrity night on SHARK WEEK, and that usually doesn’t get us the best science. If we’re lucky, we get some nice shark footage & some enthusiasm from presenters. Robert Irwin and his crew are the night’s highlight, and Tiffany Haddish was fine. Jackass were… asses, but maybe taught a lesson not to fool around with sharks. Aftershow was fine, but I’m hoping there’s more science to come. Now to check out SHARK ACADEMY on Discovery, and hope it’s not a bad reality show.
AIR JAWS: GOING FOR GOLD (of 5)
The Air Jaws folks, including Chris Fallows, Alison Towner, and Dickie Chivell, are back with a show that attempts to measure and compare shark athletics as they breach and attack seal decoys. They’ve even brought in a sports announcer to rattle off the stats like miles per hour, height of jump, and hang time. Sure, it looks cool, but I’m not sure there’s any real scientific value in such statistics. Hopefully, they’re taking other data while making sharks jump. (I guess they’re marking height by the highest part of the shark.) According to the, the world record for a jump stands at 15 feet, though, again, I have no idea why that might be worth anything scientific. They do have a lot of cameras, above and below the water, and therefore get many nice shots of great whites. They give awards at the end to the 3 sharks “competing.” It’s silly, but if you like jumping sharks, there are plenty of pretty images.
JAWS AWAKENS 2: SLASH VS. PHRED (of 5)
In New Zealand, the big great whites Slash & Phred seem to be converging on each others’ territory. The show wants to know “Who is the king of these waters?” Which I guess will be determined by their stats. The crew here, including “certified wildcard” Dickie Chivell, hope to measure the sharks in various ways. But first they have to find them amid the other big male sharks. The emphasis is on finding Slash to compare with past Phred measurements. They have a 3D fake 12’ long shark to compare against any sharks they find. Slash shows up and takes a big chunk out of it, but not in a way they can measure his length. Whoops. Time to bring in the laser measuring device and one of Dickie’s questionable shark cage contraptions. Slash would rather bite the cage than get measured, but Dickie manages to get some snaps. Slash measures 19’2”, Phred 20’. Lots of dramatic music, but the sharks are beautiful, and these people love them, and I can’t dis that.
EXPEDITION UNKNOWN: SHARK TREK (of 5)
William Shatner takes Josh Gates up on his last year’s offer to take The Shat diving with sharks. (Yes, that really happened.) Both Gates and Shatner amuse me, so this is a good mix. Shatner claims to have a deep fear of sharks, and wants to get over it. Josh plans 3 shark excursions to cure him (or perhaps kill him) in the Bahamas. Naturally, there are many Trek references and jokes. They start in the Atlantis resort predator lagoon, where they wade with hammerheads. Then they dive into the deep habitat to encounter some huge sawfish. They fly to another spot where “shark whisperer” Christina Zenato will take them on a wild shark dive. Christina has developed a rapport with some of the reef sharks, and can literally pet them into immobility by touching their heads She puts a couple of sharks on Shatner’s lap, so he can pet them. Craig O’Connell then takes them to see tiger sharks. (At least the celebs he’s with tonight aren’t idiots, unlike last night.) O’Connell has brought his magnetic shark barrier fence to test again. At Tiger Beach, Craig and Josh have to jump through a school of lemon sharks to reach the bottom and set up the barrier. Then, they bring Shatner down. Unlike the jackasses of Jackass, these guys actually pay attention to O’Connell’s warnings and safety team. Amazingly, the barrier seems to keep the sharks off their backs. (Too bad it needs rare earth magnets to work.) At the end of the dive, neither Gates nor Shatner seem afraid, and declare fear conquered. (Though, like last night’s Tiffany Haddish, I’m not sure they were scared to begin with.) Overall, this much love and respect for sharks can only help the world.
EXPEDITION UNKNOWN – JOSH GATES TONIGHT – SHARK WEEK MONDAY (of 5)
After his own shark special, Josh Gates brings Bill Shatner, Brad Paisley, and Robert Irwin (from last night) on his after-show. Tonight’s cocktail is Romulan Ale (as always, the drinks look good). When Josh says he worried about Shatner’s safety, Shatner replies that being carried off into the deep in a shark’s mouth would be a pretty spectacular way to go, and notes that Gates would make a fortune talking about it. Shatner is a pretty great talk show guest, and at 90 years young, he looks and sounds amazing. Brad Paisley drops by to plug his show from tomorrow night, apparently another celebrity with comedy bit. I’ll be reviewing it, of course. Then, it’s back to outtakes from the Shatner show, which are funny. 17-year-old conservationist/photographer Robert Irwin drops by in his regulation khakis to chat about his Sunday-night show (which I liked a lot). Like his famous (late) dad, Robert’s enthusiasm is contagious, and he’s funny and charming, too. Let’s hope we see more of him in future Shark Weeks. The show ends with the usual funny mail and Dr. Austin Gallagher saying the contrast of yellow can attract sharks, and split-fin diving flippers can also, because of the extra turbulence they create. It’s worth noting that I really like the house band, though I don’t remember what name they ended up with from last year. In all, it’s another after-show with Shatner that’s about as good as it gets.
MONDAY 2021 SUMMARY (of 5)
Two decent shows, one very good show, a great after-show, but that still only drags it up to 4 stars/sharks.
MOTHERSHARKER (of 5)
Scientists are looking for tiger shark pupping grounds, speculating it may be near shores where people swim. Dr. James Sulikowski plans to place an in-utero tag on a pregnant shark, which will then come out when the animal gives birth and relay the birthplace info. His team takes the Shark Whisperer Christina Zenato (see last night’s Expedition Unknown) with them. So, they need to find a pregnant tiger using an underwater ultrasound–some trick! While trying it, the scientists get swarmed and have to back off, only to return for an even more dangerous night dive. With no results, they return for “Tutu Tuesday,” find a pregnant tiger, bring her beside the boat, and put the tag in her. It all works, and they find the birthing grounds are near South Carolina beaches, which may help to explain the high number of shark attacks in the area. Scary music abounds, but they are doing some risky, scary stuff. Nevertheless, points off for amping the threats and for not putting scientist names on screen.
BRAD PAISLEY’S SHARK COUNTRY (of 5)
Country superstar Brad Paisley invites comedian JB Smoove to go shark diving with him — because there has to be comedy in these. Hosting them are Dr. Austin Gallagher and bioacoustician Dr. Erica Staaterman (helpfully labeled) who study shark hearing. The sharks seem more interested in Brad’s music than in fish mating sounds. New location, this time JB goes in along with Brad & scientists. Sharks don’t seem interested in speargun sounds; it must be the thrashing fish they like. Third dive, attracting sharks and seeing if sperm whale sounds will drive them away. It does, while JB’s cow bell seems to attract & drive them into a frenzy. They go back to the boat where Brad plays a live concert that seems to draw the sharks to the boat. For the finale, Brad dives in and plays underwater, but JB brings the cow bell… So, apparently, regular music doesn’t drive sharts nuts; cowbell does. It’s nice to see a bit of science in these celebrity shows, but I’d rather have more science and fewer celebs.
THE SPAWN OF EL DIABLO (of 5)
In 2018, shark behavioral scientist Michelle Jewell discovered shark siblings born years apart, to the same parents. She believes that female white sharks may control the courtship and select their mates. She thinks that, in mating season, males may stake out territory so that females can find them. She teams up with Captain Chip Michalove & Dr. Greg Skomall to check out the white sharks off of South Carolina and find out about their mating habits, if she can. They get lucky and find a right whale carcass, an all-you-can-eat buffet for white sharks. They hook one, and bring it to the boat to tag. Michelle worries that if whites are super selective of mates, losing a mate may endanger the species. They see lots of males with scarring from what’s probably territorial battles.
Michelle now wants to compare what they’ve seen with Mossel Bay in South Africa and reunite with fellow scientist, Dr. Enrico Gennari. Why would a male shark bite another shark, besides protecting mating grounds? Photographer Devon Massyn will help Michelle look for El Diablo, one of the largest and most aggressive sharks she’s ever seen. She wants to entice the sharks to breach, and, by doing so, find their territory. They get some good breaches, including one that might be their target, El Diablo. Mapping out their hits, they place a shark-shaped decoy in the water where they suspect El Diablo might be. A couple of sharks bite the decoy’s tail, actually eating their go-pro camera. Then one comes and bites it on the face–El Diablo.
Michelle decides to get into a cage and repeat the experiment, to try to get more data, pictures, etc. on both the scarred smaller sharks and El Diablo, if she can. She has“balls” of iron the size of the moon. “Can you get that bait a little bit closer?” she asks, meaning basically right next to her cage — like, close enough to bite the cage. Of El Diablo ramming her cage she says, “Yeah, it was a little bit dicey, but it comes with the job.” (I have a new hero.) “A good time was had by all.” She thinks breaching is a way to show fitness. She also thinks the mating grounds have been under their nose — in South Africa — this whole time. With strong science and good pictures, this is easily the best Shark Week show yet this year.
EXPEDITION UNKNOWN – JOSH GATES TONIGHT – SHARK WEEK TUESDAY (of 5)
Sadly, they skip the mixed drink for a sponsor drink plug tonight. Josh’s guests include JB Smoove, who goes heavy on the comedy for his segment, and pretty light on sharks. Author/Actor/Filmmaker Kevin Smith is definitely afraid of sharks. Don’t look for him in the water with them any time soon. (So, why is he here?) ‘Cause he loves JAWS. But he’s mostly here to plug his new Masters of the Universe show (starts July 23). He’s pretty funny, though. Then the show does a pun intervention for Bob the Shark, so he won’t make any more bad puns. (But that’s why we love Bob!) They put him above a dunk tank, and if he puns, kids throw balls to maybe dunk him — but they have to hit the target. This bit gets split throughout the last half of the show. Shark expert, Allison Towner, who is in 3 shows on this Shark Week drops in. And apparently, one of the shows she’s in is on Discovery+. (Lots of commercial plugs tonight.) Dr. Riley Elliott, from Shark Academy (also Discovery+). He talks about the time a great white jumped into one of his intern’s boats. They then had to get the shark out of the boat and revive it. A good story. He also talks about this show, which I’ve only watched a bit, but it seemed interesting. He’s also a crusader against shark finning, which should be a crime worldwide, in my opinion. Stop the senseless slaughter, please! And yes, Bob gets dunked. Once. Not a bad show, but I’ve docked it a star/shark for excess commercialism.
TUESDAY 2021 SUMMARY (Of 5)
One great show, one very good show, one decent show, and a decent after-show. Best night of Shark Week 2021 yet.
MECHASHARK (of 5)
Kina Scollay and shark scientist Dr. Mark Erdmann want to find the great white shark mating grounds — who doesn’t? So, to better mingle with the big fish, they’ve built a mobile shark cage shaped like a shark. They’re looking at the bottom of New Zealand, the Foveaux Strait, and start out in a traditional cage, spotting some very large animals. Last year, Kena drove the “Snack Box” diving cage. Now they’ve got the new Mechashark, all 14’ and 400# of metal of it. The sharks don’t attack it right away, but a bad current kicks up, sweeping Kina and his new super-sized snack box toward the open sea. But, he nurses it back and gets new amped-up thrusters. Next they try an area heavy with seals and find 4 very large female sharks with possible mating scars. Sharks bite the mech’s tail, damaging it enough that it sinks. Kina has to switch air supplies and abandon ship, swimming to the cage they send down for him, through shark-infested waters. After repairs, the mech is attacked by some males, which are then driven off by an even larger female. Does this lend credence to Michelle Jewell’s mating territory theory from last night? I think it just might. Science not super-great, but shark interaction amusing.
THE REAL SHARKNADO (of 5)
The stars of the Sharknado series, Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, go from the green screen of their films to diving with actual sharks. Are sharks as dangerous as their movie series would make out? Dr. Tristan Guttridge (“A real shark expert”) takes them under his fin to find out. He notes that there are only about 10 people killed by sharks every year, worldwide. Ian (pronounced EYE-an — I am not kidding) will dive with sharks, while Tara will observe and interact from a cage. They want tigers, but start with reef sharks. Unlike other celebs, these 2 seem more thrilled than scared by their encounters, even with the tigers show up. Tara’s even in the cage by herself. (Props!) Unlike in the movies, during a storm, sharks retreat into deeper water, avoiding the turbulence. But Ian & Doc will dive up to 100’ during a storm to check. Sure enough, enough sharks go deep that our heroes return to the surface when things get crowded. Next, to prove that most species of shark do not jump to claim prey, Ian and Tara are sent out in chummed water in a see-through kayak, with fish dangling over their heads. They are, of course, completely safe. Next, they return to Tiger Beach to see whether tigers will eat debris in the wake of a storm — they use animal-friendly fruits to test. Tigers live up to their “vacuum cleaners of the sea” reputation, and happily eat all the apples, bananas, oranges. So, they’ve proven that there can be no sharknados, and both stars have new respect for sharks. And there’s a funny kicker, too. One of the better star-education shark shows.
RETURN TO THE LAIR OF THE GREAT WHITE (of 5)
Dr. Craig O’Connell goes to Western Australia to see why great white attacks are on the rise. They go with an experienced area abalone diver, Mark Payne, and “Shark Girl” Madison Stewart (My fave from this year’s 1st night.) As with many of the 2021 shows, they’re looking for the shark nursery, where juveniles grow. The 3 divers pick a spot to try to observe big females, but aggressive sub-adult males chase them into an emergency cage. They move further offshore to the deeps, to see if that might be better. Their ROV picks up a juvenile white, so they lower their cage 70’ down above the abyss to get a better look, but don’t find what they want. A fishing boat, though, shows them where they caught a very young juvenile. So, further into deserted waters they go. They find a nice kelp bed, but Mark’s mobile cage gets snagged in the kelp, so Craig has to leave his safe cage to help out. Things get tangled on the way up, and Craig nearly runs out of air before surfacing. They night dive in a cage, to see if they can find more juveniles–and they find one. Knowing they’re here, they now try to lure them out during the daytime with a tow-cam as bait. They find one, and decide to cage dive to see if they can find it. In fact, they find 2 — or maybe 3 — and they’re super aggressive, and manage to tip over the cage, which is momentarily scary. Craig still manages to measure all 3, proving this is a juvenile nursery. And they theorize that the fact that these white shark pups are so aggressive may explain why there are more attacks in nearby waters. With good science and genuine suspense, this one gets high marks.
EXPEDITION UNKNOWN – JOSH GATES TONIGHT – SHARK WEEK WEDNESDAY (of 5)
After starting with another JAWS parody sketch, most of which are funny, Josh previews the guests, Dr. Pimple Popper (ugh!), Rob Gronkowski, Joe & Lauren Romero, and back to Mandalay Bay. But before that, the traditional cocktail, the “Man Eater.” The Doc is the first guest and–Ugh!–she has a show I can’t watch, but they talk about her Shark Week special, which is tomorrow night. (But I turn away from her show promo. You know I’m tired of these cross-promos anyway. I decide not to watch her in-studio demo, either. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.) The Expedition Unknown next season preview doesn’t quite make up for this first guest. Gronk is next, and he talks a little about last year’s appearance in Shark Week and his new French Bulldog, plus other miscellanea. Thank heaven the continuation of the Mandalay Bay Aquarium is here to drag the show out of the 2-star range. There, he helps give a sand tiger shark a physical for part of their captive breeding program, including a bit of somewhat embarrassing sampling. Lauren & Joe, married shark researchers, are next, with their show airing next Saturday. We’ll see what it’s like when we get there. Then we have mail, and a fan re-creation of JAWS, made by guys who post THE DAILY JAWS website with over 100,000 fans. This “remake” seems so amusing that for me, it saves this show. Good choice putting it last.
WEDNESDAY 2021 SUMMARY (of 5)
Well, Sunday remains the dog of the week, as Wednesday had 2 really good shows, one good show verging on very good, and then a pretty mediocre after show with too many plugs and not enough scientists. So, of the 4-star/shark days, I think Tuesday (with the best single show) edges out Monday which beats Wednesday — though it’s nice to see three strong nights in a row. With a few less goofy celebs, we might get a 5-star/shark night yet.
DR. PIMPLE POPPER POPS SHARK WEEK (of 5)
Okay, I didn’ like the preview for this last night — because dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee’s program is one I would consider torture to watch. And even the brief clips at the start of this show were things I don’t care to watch. So, we’ll see how much time I have to avert my eyes on this. Dr. Austin Gallagher is Dr. Lee’s guide to the shark world. They dive on a shark “cleaning station” and watch the smaller fish help groom the sharks. Then they dive on a reef and see sharks catch live prey. They’re building up Dr. Lee’s interest in shark skin, but that connection often seems to tie to clips of her show that I don’t want to watch. So, they get a skin impression, and then tag some sharks, and place down a tracking station. And, of course, more pimple clips. If they’re trying to make me not watch either this show or hers, they’re doing a good job. The show’s suspense comes when sudden turbulence makes the water murky like a heavy fog, and the humans have to group together and return to the surface. I prefer celeb “sharks are nice” education shows to endless shark attack ones, but I couldn’t wait for this one to end. (Sorry, Dr Gallagher! The gross inserts were not your fault.) I’m glad that there are dermatologists, but I’m equally glad I don’t have to watch them work.
SHARKADELIC SUMMER 2 (of 5)
Snoop Dogg is back to guide us through another collection of his favorite shark clips from “live on camera” videos plus some science. Some of the usual Shark Week scientists, including Julie Anderson, are here to talk about why the US is seeing an upsurge in encounters. Greg Skomal and Chip Michalove go from Cape Cod to South Carolina to tag some of their new population of Great Whites, in an ongoing science segment. They get one, and then find a dead whale — shark buffet — to check out some more. In another science segment, Clara Calatayud is doing a population survey of mako sharks to learn more about those migrating from Baja to California. Josh Jorgenson explains the migration of the great hammerheads and tracks them with a drone. He also notes that a great hammerhead can easily kill most other sharks. Giancarlo Thomae explains that white sharks are only now returning to Santa Cruz because their life cycle is so long, it’s taken a while for these endangered animals to replenish their populations. After a close encounter while kayaking, he also suggests that juveniles hang out closer to shore because they don’t have the body mass for deeper, colder waters. (And I hope that the bikini girl getting shark bit is getting residuals from these clip shows!) Snoop is a genial and amusing host, and makes me laugh more often than the Shark Week “comedy” shows. I like spending time with him. Maybe one year, he’ll get in the water with his pals the sharks.
MEGA JAWS OF BIRD ISLAND (of 5)
With great white breeding populations declining in South Africa, scientists are hoping to learn more about the sharks’ birthing grounds. One place that very large females have been seen is Bird Island, where a shark up to 20’ long — “The Mother of Bird Island” — has been spotted in past years. In False Bay, former home of Air Jaws, no breeders have been seen for 3 years. Photographer Chris Fallows leads a team to look for these adult breeders, hoping, like many this year, to find mating and pupping grounds. With him is biologist Enrico Gennari and professional loose cannon Dickie Chivell, here billed as “shark wrangler.” (His title changes with every show.) Shark-killing orca Port and Starboard drove the sharks away by killing so many, but where are the sharks now? The team decides to put some cameras on the bottom to look for sharks, and finds a juvenile while cage diving. There are enough sharks around, some not whites, that they have to wait an extra day to retrieve their camera rig. Checking the film, they find Bird Island is a nursery for young great whites, but not for breeders. Nearby, Allison Towner races to another area where a huge female, nearly 20’, has been spotted. Allison’s team tags her, and parasites on her indicate she’s been living mostly in deep waters. So, maybe that is where the sharks have gone to escape the orca. Not the conclusion anyone was hoping for. And not a lot new in this show.
EXPEDITION UNKNOWN – JOSH GATES TONIGHT – SHARK WEEK THURSDAY (of 5)
The last after-show of the week starts with a guy coming to reclaim all of the show’s rented props, but of course there will be guests, too. The Land Shark is tonight’s cocktail, with Bob the Shark as guest mixmaster. As usual, the cocktail sounds yummy. First guest is shark expert David Blaine — no wait, he’s just a street magician. They talk about his magic and stunts, one of which included sharks, but he hopes to do a Shark Week special next year. He then does a remote card trick with Josh, that neither Josh nor I nor anyone in the studio have any idea how he did it. Mind blown.
Next, Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank, a show that always disappoints me when I see it in the listings and then remember what it ACTUALLY is. 🙁 O’Leary was on a previous Shark Week. Next, Josh actually goes diving on an artificial reef (wreck) — finally adventuring himself — to observe reef sharks. The dive master feeds the sharks, who get pretty agitated, and only his chainmail saves him from a serious arm chomp. I like this better than most interviews. Tristan Guttridge returns to plug upcoming shows, Monster Shark of Andros Island and Great Hammerhead Stakeout. (He’s in 4 programs this year.) These look like they might be better than a lot we’ve seen this week. We’ll see; fingers crossed. Then it’s time for viewer mail and recap of the week in clips. Pretty fun. Ongoing show highlight, the intro-exit music from the house band, which I think is called the Insect Surfers. Do they have an album?
And now, a message to the host: Josh, buddy, this episode was more fun than some of tonight’s shows, but… I think doing these Tonight shows with SO much promotion of other shows for the network may be wearing out your welcome in general. You’re a charming guy, though not so much when plugging non-adventure shows. Don’t let Discovery make you a shill for shitty programming — either during Shark Week, or other times. I look forward to getting back to regular Expedition Unknown.
THURSDAY 2021 SUMMARY (of 5)
Thursday is often an odd duck during shark week. Sometimes, it’s stocked with great science, sometimes it seems like a dumping ground before the weekend. The fact that the after-show always ends on Thursday doesn’t help, even when the after-show’s aren’t great. Tonight took a hit right at the start from the disgusting Dr. P show — I can’t bear to write it out again, and there are things there that I can never unsee. I’ll watch the Jackass show again first, unless they cut the clips from Dr. Lee’s show. (The ads promoting it have been bad enough.) Snoop Dogg’s show was a highlight, as was the Gates Tonight after-show. Sadly, the show in between was just more Great White stuff we already know. Let’s see some OTHER sharks in the next few days, please!
SHARK ACADEMY (Discovery+) (of 5)
Dr. Riley Elliot picks 8 multi-ethnic shark and diving enthusiasts with no shark training, to see if any have what it takes to make his team for a future expedition, which he hopes to open up to more than just the usual academics. There are no eliminations, “…unless you get taken out by a shark.” Which is great, because people leaving the island gets tiring and has no place in science. They have 6 weeks to learn a decade’s worth of skills. Scott has a team of 3 experts to help him with getting the recruits trained. The technique is to put the recruits in a real-life testing situation and see how well they follow instructions. I wasn’t sure about this show at the start; I didn’t think “reality show” and shark science would work so well. But, surprisingly, with this show and this crew, it did! I was actually clapping and cheering at the final tests. I didn’t always like all the people, and a few weren’t developed as well as I might have liked, but… When the field narrowed, I found myself deeply rooting for 2 of the contestants, and clapped and cheered at the final decision. In the end, it proved to be a GREAT show. Good shark science, and a bit of real-life drama and camaraderie. No matter who won — and I won’t spoil it — these 8 people who went through Shark Academy will surely be friends for life.
This show is on DISCOVERY+, but it looked like they were going to show it on the regular Discovery channel, too, starting at the end of Shark week. I almost wish I’d saved it for last, but let’s hope the next few days bring us some good shows, too.
NINJA SHARKS 2: MUTANTS RISING (of 5)
Dr. Craig O’Connell is back (thankfully without the Jackasses) with Caroline Colada (sp?) and team to try to figure out why thresher sharks show up off of Montauk, Long Island, New York for 2 weeks every summer. The team’s goal is to find, tag, and track threshers, so they put out a sensor array and then start “fishing,” quickly luring in a mako and some blues. While in South Carolina, sand tigers are on the prowl. Sand tigers can gulp air to allow them to float in the water column, and researchers are mapping WWII shipwrecks to figure out what the sand tigers are doing within the ecosystem. It also seems they may use schools of smaller baitfish as camouflage. Meanwhile, after a near miss, Craig and team finally manage to get a fin cam onto a young thresher. They discover the thresher circled a local reef for hours, and then they retrieve the camera. In Alaska, Chris Fallows and Andy Deinhart are checking out salmon sharks in chilly waters. These sharks have a special adaptation to help them conserve heat. They look like a hybrid between a mako and a (small) great white, and swim very close to the divers, who get great video.. Craig’s team sees some interesting movement of the threshers through the water column, but no hint on why they’re on this reef, 2 weeks a year. After tracking down another shark, they conclude that the threshers are coming here to feed, which will help conserve them. A few points off for “scary” music, not labeling all scientists, and a slightly misleading title. “Ninja” does not mean “special powers.” But YAY for more shark variety!
MONSTER SHARKS OF ANDROS ISLAND (of 5)
Andros is the biggest island in the Bahamas, but little is known of its sharks. Here reality mixes with legend, such as the Lusca, a mythical creature with the tail of an octopus and a head like a shark. Dr. Tristan Guttridge wants to find out if Andros has a population of great hammerheads and whether or not they migrate. He and the team — wife and photographer Annie, marine ecologist Alannah Vellacott, and local scientist Khrys Carroll — want to look in places where people report the Lusca to see if there are hammerheads there, and then tag them. They stake out the island with underwater surveillance systems. They go to a blue hole-dotted area known as the Predator Channel. (An ocean channel, not a TV station.) They quickly spot a hammerhead hunting near shore and get some pics. Alannah and Tristan dive into a big blue hole known as “Shark Hole,” which is very murky but has amazing underwater topography. They see some sharks and then retrieve their surveillance cameras. Khrys and Annie break from the rest to check shark reports at a buoy, but all they find are agitated silky sharks. They decide to do a night dive in the channel. They see many cool animals, including a tiger-tail sea cucumber, which looks amazingly like a long tentacle. They switch off the lights, and briefly see a huge hammerhead when the lights come back on. It’s impossible to tag at night, though, so back to daylight diving and tagging. Months later, the tag info suggests that these hammerheads may spend their entire lives in the Bahamas, and like to hunt near the blue holes. Andros could be a key site to study these amazing fish. (They find no Lusca, theorizing it’s just the sharks.) Only downside is some overly dramatic music (there’s a difference between adventurous music and melodramatic music, programmers!), but it’s still one of the best shows of the week.
I should have mentioned earlier in the week that there are a LOT of women scientists this year (rectifying a complaint from previous years), as well as plenty of non-white shark experts. You don’t have to look like me, Peter Benchley, or Steven Spielberg to dig sharks!
MYSTERY OF THE BLACK DEMON SHARK (of 5)
In Mexico, legends tell of El Demonio Negro, a black demon shark that has plagued local fisherman for generations. Forrest Galante and team go to Baja to get this colossal ash-colored animal on film, if it exists, amid a sea of volcanic islands swarming with life and other sharks. Baja is a 1000-mile long strip of desert sticking out into the ocean, a very harsh environment. They start by crashing their dune buggy. 😀 Locals claim they’ve seen the monster in the last year, following (and killing) the whales. They move into the path of the whale migration, anchor above a sea mount, and start to chum to attract blue sharks — feeding many by hand. But a mako chases the blues away, literally, and no monster rises from the deep.
So, they move to a reef nearer the tip of Baja where seals congregate. And then they move 300 miles offshore to Revillagigedo Islands, 4 uninhabited volcanic isles, before the whales spread out over the seas. (Though I’m thinking they’ve gone far from those fishermen’s sightings now.) Some of these islands rose in the 1950s, so there is great “new” habitat here, and the team goes all the way to Socorro Isle, where they find whales with young. A middle-of-the-night sonar alert causes the crew to dive into the water in their underwear to see what’s up. They find themselves in a swarm of silkies feeding, perhaps on leavings stirred up by something below. The next day, they put a pair of inflatable whales on the surface and play whale distress calls to see if this will attract their monster. Galante also dumps some fake whale milk… and then they wait. The sharks are interested, but… no demon.
They decide just to follow the real whales, and find… manta rays. Looking for whales, they also spot a huge black fin and dive in to find… a whale shark. Galante concludes that viewed from above, the dark silhouette might make this appear to be a Black Demon Shark. It’s certainly big enough to give a fishing boat a good bump. But this is no demon eating whales, just a filter-feeding shark following in the wake of them. There are an amazing number and variety of sharks and fish in this adventurous show, too. Another of the week’s best.
I WAS PREY: TERRORS OF THE DEEP 2 (of 5)
Usually, these shows highlight 2 real-life shark attack stories, often with surfers and spearfishers. Here we get4 — and somehow, that seems less exploitative. I have trouble telling these shows apart, but the listing says this first aired today (7/16/21), so… Here we go. Braxton was bit in the leg in Hawaii in September 2015 by a 12+ foot tiger shark while spearfishing. He punched her in the nose and swam for shore and to rescue while posting a video to his family. In June 2017 Tiffany and her husband Jay Jay went boating while on a cruise. Swimming alone, her right arm was bitten off by a tiger shark. She swam to the boat, and they raced for shore, rescue, and surgery. She now has a cutting-edge mechanical arm. Todd is a surfer who was attacked by a great white shark while surfing in August 2007 off the California coast. The bite on his torso went through the surfboard, too, then it came back for his leg. A surfer friend helped him paddle to shore and air rescue. Micki went to Caicos on a diving expedition to watch sharks. While in close quarters with a shark, the animal suddenly turned on her and bit. Her husband is a skilled surgeon, and he and another doctor (the people on the trip were hospital workers) stopped the bleeding and got her help. She lost muscle but kept her arm, and fought flashbacks afterward. All these people survived to resume their lives and go into the water to do what they loved again. (Though sadly Todd was later killed in a car accident.) The stories were emotional and inspiring. Or maybe I’m getting soft in my old age.
FRIDAY 2021 SUMMARY (of 5)
After waiting all week, we finally get away from shows about Great Whites and other “maneaters” and have some more variety in our sharks. About damn time. Sometimes, Fridays in Shark Weeks are for leavings and shark attack shows. We get one of those, as usual, but we also get the best programming night of the week. And even the prey show was good. What I want in Shark Week is science, adventure, and education, and if you combine them, so much the better. Tonight, we got that, and shows where the comedy came from the situation, not as part of the plan. Best night of Shark Week 2021, and I doubt tomorrow will top it.
RETURN TO SHARK VORTEX (of 5)
Underwater cinematographer Joe Romiero, Marine Biologist Lauren Benoit, and team examine what happens to New England’s shark species — great whites, makos, and others — come fall, when the summer’s nutrient-rich vortex currents go south, and some animals become trapped in pockets of warm water. Makos are essentially warm blooded and territorial but solitary, and a pack of blues keeps a lone mako from Joe’s bait. At night, the blues return, as does the mako, but the pack doesn’t intimidate him now, and he easily takes the bait. Great whites are also “warm blooded,” and Joe wants to know how they hunt in the fall. Dr. Greg Skomal, a white shark expert, joins Joe for this investigation. The whites are hanging out to bulk up on seals before heading south.
Porbeagle sharks look like smaller torpedo-shaped great whites (only 9’ long) and they have a strong warm-blooded system. They’re built for diving in cold water. Expert Dr. James Sulikowski joins Joe to look for them. They’re hoping to find pregnant porbeagles, who they think might actually like the cold, to further their shark studies. They catch a big one, but it escapes their efforts to tag it. It takes them days to catch another — a 10’ pregnant female. They sonogram her and attach a fin cam, both firsts. It takes a heroic effort to recover the camera in the fall seas, but they get amazing data about the pregnant shark moving up and down in the water column to feed. It turns out, the porbeagles may stay in New England all year long. Great show.
SHARK WEEK BEST IN SHOW (of 5)
This show gives bronze, silver, and gold medals in various categories from all 30+ years of Shark Week. In the first clip, they have Andy Casagrande, who I notice hasn’t been in the shows this week. (Odd. Why?) But he’s here a lot. They also have acceptance speeches by the winners, including him. Too many clips to cover individually, so I’ll list the categories: 1) Wildest Feeding Frenzy, 2) Shark vs. Machine (the sharks win), 3) Weirdest Sharks, 4) Great White Heavyweights, 5) Craziest Shark Tech, 6) Shark Week Horror Stories, 7) Jawesome Sharks, 8) Fiercest Shark in the Sea, 9) Most Dramatic Breach, 10) Dopest Night Photography, 11) Mind-Blowing Scientific Discoveries, 12) Bravest Shark Week Moments, and finally 13) Best in Show. (I don’t think I missed any.) I won’t give away the final winner, except to say that it comes from one of the previous categories. Obviously, this show focuses on great images and exciting moments, but it also reminds of some scientific firsts, and of course it lets us see some cool sharks. So… I won’t be too hard on it. It was fun.
I WAS PREY – SHARK WEEK (2021) (of 5)
The shark attack survivor series returns. (Making me wonder if the one last night was a replay, though it said it wasn’t.) We had 4 stories last time, but they only preview 2 people this time. I thought 4 was better, as it was less self-indulgent. Let’s see how this one goes…
In 2017, spearfisher (of course) Rick saw his friend Glen attacked by a bull shark. (Glen survived to do a segment on this series.) Rick, a US Navy Diver, moved to Australia, and in 2020 went spearfishing on the Great Barrier Reef, an hour out from port. 35’ underwater, a 12’ bull shark ignored punches on its nose and bit his thigh, but didn’t break his femur and let him go. He got to the dive boat but almost bled out on his way to the port and hospital. The doctors saved and reconstructed his leg. He went back into the water 4 ½ months later.
In January 2021, animal rehabilitator & veterinary student Brook was bitten on her thigh by an adult tiger shark while on St. Kitts doing a long-distance swim during a break in her studies. (She talked to Shark Week only weeks later.) The tiger had her leg above the knee, so she punched it in the nose, but it didn’t care. She used her thumb on its eyes, and it let her go. She got to her friend’s kayak, but was afraid of bleeding out until speed boats and rescue arrived. She lost her left leg below the knee. She plans to swim in the ocean again when she’s able.
These two storylines were intermixed during the show. The 2-victim shows are definitely more gruesome than the 4-victim show was. But maybe only having 2 means they’re running out of people to do these shows, because, really, shark attacks are very rare. I’m not gonna dis these emotional stories, but they’re not science.
SATURDAY 2021 SUMMARY (of 5)
Saturday started out with a very good, science-based program. Then we got an amusing clip/awards show. And then another shark attack show, which I’m glad they’ve moved to the end of nights near the end of the week; I seem to tolerate them better there. Pretty typical Shark Week Saturday programming. My theory is that they’re putting more science toward the end of the week when only us die-hards are still watching, anyway. Not the biggest bang to go out on, but with one solid snow, not too bad, either.
SHARK WEEK 2021 FINAL SUMMARY
Shark shows are running most of the day on Sunday, July 18th, 2021, BUT… With Serengeti 2 taking most of the evening, the only new show on Sunday is SHARK ACADEMY, and since I’ve already watched that series on Discovery+, I’ve already seen and reviewed it. (Watch it! It’s one of the week’s highlights.) So, even though it’s only late Saturday night, I feel qualified to wrap up and summarize the week.
Overall, it was a really good shark week, falling just a tad short of great. The celebrity shows dragged it down. Most were good, two were very good (the one with Robert Irwin and the one with Shatner & Gates), but the Dr. P one was nearly unwatchable because of clips from her revolting medical show (see review), and the Jackass one was terrible. You know when I gave that show an extra star (2 out of 5) because someone actually got bitten how bad it was/is. Only worth watching as an object lesson on what NOT to do. The rest had the usual, educational: “Sharks aren’t bad; they’re really cool” message. Which is always worth repeating.
The science-based shows had a few stunts, a few that got marked down for unnecessary scary music and drama, but also some really excellent programs — most of which appeared near the end of the week. The best, for me, though, was Tuesday’s The Spawn of El Diablo, which had a great combination of science, adventure, and guts. Also in the 5-star category were Mystery of the Black Demon Shark, Return to Shark Vortex, Monster Sharks of Andros Island, the after-show featuring Shatner (on Monday), and Shark Academy, mentioned earlier. But there were a LOT of 4-star shows, too. See the individual reviews to sort them all out.
The after-show, Josh Gates Tonight (Shark Week edition) was a true mixed bag, with some excellent segments, but it had too few actual shark experts from the nightly shows, and WAY too much focus on plugging other shows on the network — which is a problem with Josh’s non-Shark Week after-show, too. As I said in another note this week, Josh should stick to adventure — which he excels at — and not plug every shitty program Discovery wants him to. Doing those endless plugs is not helping his rep.
It’s worth noting, too, that there seemed to be a LOT more women and non-white scientists in the programs this year, which is great. You don’t need to be from Northern Europe to love and want to study and protect sharks. Good job, programmers! Keep it going!
In the end, it 2021 was a very good Shark Week, though I wish they’d cut back on the comedy and celebrities — especially stupid ones — and give us more science earlier in the week. Of course, I expect to be watching (and reviewing) next year to see what happens. Until then… Watch some sharks and read some of my books. (Including the upcoming sharks-included serial.)
FINAL RATING FOR 2021 SHARK WEEK: (of 5)
HOLY JUMPING SHARKS… THERE’S MORE!
Turns out, Discovery+ has at least one Shark Week 2021 show that didn’t make it onto their over-the-air channel. So, for those of us who didn’t want Shark Week to end, there’s more. Let’s take a look as I find and watch them…
SHARKBAIT WITH DAVID DOBRIK (of 5)
From the intro, I gather that David Dobrik is an internet sensation who makes a living doing stupid/goofy things with a hand-picked group of friends, some of whom he’s known most of his life, some of whom he’s picked up along the way. Basically, they go on adventures or try stuff together like the old Coke-Mentos volcano on a grand scale. There are about a dozen of these people in various shapes and sizes who do this stuff with him. This time, they’re going Shark Diving. Paul de Gelder and Dr. Craig O’Connell team up with this crew, and thank God it’s a lot more amusing than the Jackass show was. After completing their scuba training, they head out into choppy seas for their first live dive, and a number of them get sick and some head back to port, and only one, super-stud Todd, actually manages to dive. The next day, only Todd and Joe are willing to go back out with David, the rest are out of the adventure. But that’s okay, as I’m not fond of all the vomiting and banter, and with just a couple of guys, there’s some good shark diving and even some science going along. And in a way, it’s a much better “ordinary Joe does science” thing that most of the celeb shark shows. I’m docking it a star for lingering on the vomit too much, but I enjoyed it overall.
(Turned out, this was the only one I managed to find before life got in the way again, but maybe I’ll turn up more in 2022.)