Every year I look forward to Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, it’s been a staple in my house for as long as I can remember. Even though my family isn’t particularly fond of watching seals and sea lions get munched on, we all sit down and watch mainly because- like everyone else- sharks fascinate us. Shark Week has been running every year since 1988 and people are still not tired of watching the masters of the ocean do their thing. The last two years though people have started to complain about Discovery’s use of “mockumentaries,” or fake documentaries, instead of using fully fact based programs.
Shark Week has always been that bright spot during the year’s television rerun stretch, yes they still show programs from past years Shark Week line up but they always manage to have new shows as well. This years Shark Week got a little help from SyFy’s Sharknado 2, which bolstered peoples interest in sharks even if none of them were flying through city streets. 2013’s Shark Week was recorded as its most viewed year in its long history and this year many of those rating records are already being broken. Sunday’s kickoff to Shark Week had 3.6 million total viewers; with the largest viewership being women 25-54- which is an 18% rise in the demographic this year.
Shark Week didn’t just invade televisions this year either, Twitter and other social media’s were flooded with Shark Week related posts. People are still fascinated by sharks and really can’t get enough of them when they are on our minds, but there is the problem, sharks are rarely on our minds. Unless you are studying, swimming or surfing with sharks they are not part of your daily thoughts. The only time sharks ever make it on the news is when they get to close to shore or they have attacked someone; which honestly -and thankfully- isn’t very often. Shark Week is all about bringing these creatures to the forefront, to show us all the new details we’ve learned about them. But there is only so much we can learn about them when they live in the most unexplored territory on the planet.
So, what is Discovery Channel supposed to do when they need to make sure they are teaching us about sharks and entertaining us at the same time? They turn to making “mockumentaries” which focus on the “what if” when it comes to sharks. What if the Megalodon still lurked somewhere in the ocean? We “fluff pieces” to make sure that people are being entertained by what they are watching but that doesn’t mean that real information and data isn’t being taught to us. In my opinion these “what if” scenarios aren’t impossible like many critics of the new programming are saying, improbable sure but not impossible.
We know less about the ocean and the creatures living in it than we do about the moon or other planets. Every year we learn something new or discover something in the ocean depths that blows our minds away. Shark Week serves two purposes, inform us about sharks and entertain us, sadly if we aren’t entertained we are going to stick around to be informed. I think the “mockumentaries” are a great idea to do both of those things.
Many are saying that these “mockumentaries” are not helping sharks image in the public but really I don’t think anything can really help or hurt their image anymore. We’ve perceived sharks the same way for decades and when the only time you hear about them is when someone is attacked, it is going to take mind-altering information to change peoples view on sharks.
By: Joseph Murillo.