Discovery Channel’s Shark Week returns for its 30th anniversary on July 22, but up first is its scrappy competitor, NatGeo WILD’s Shark Fest—which this week has expanded to two weeks and starts July 15. Full schedules for each are below.
Shark Week will have a cross-over with Shark Tank, which seems so perfect it’s amazing it didn’t happen earlier, and it will conclude Shark Week with a special episode of one of its shows: Naked and Afraid of Sharks. Food Network’s Guy Fieri and his son Hunter will also start in a new special, a sign of synergy now that the two networks are owned by the same company.
I’m most interested, though, in Shark Week revisiting its worst decision in its 30-year history.
Five years ago, Discovery aired a program that pretended to be a documentary, and pretended that an extinct shark was still alive. Then the network defended that decision and kept lying to its viewers with other fiction.
Producers hired by the network even lied to scientists they were interviewing. That hurt Discovery’s credibility, and irreparably damaged public understanding and trust in science.
The new special is called “Megalodon: Fact Vs. Fiction,” and is produced by Pilgrim Studios, the same company that produced great reality TV, such as Top Shot, and also produced the original Megalodon nonsense. While the description for the new show acknowledges that Megalodon is long dead, it seems to be trying to reframe the fictional special as something worthy of more than a delete button:
“With the help of experts, we re-examine the original Shark Week special, dissecting key scenes to see if they paint an accurate picture of how Megalodon would have lived and hunted if it were alive today.”
Speaking of experts, it’s good to keep an eye on what actual scientists think about its programs. When I expressed concern about this special on Twitter, a marine biologist replied that another scientist was interviewed for this special, so that’s promising.
The scientist most well-known for his critiques of Shark Week is Dr. David Shiffman, a marine conservation biologist who tweets as @WhySharksMatter.
Earlier this year, he tweeted that “Shark Week has been a particularly bad actor in this space (though they’ve been much better lately). If someone got all their shark facts from Shark Week, it’s no surprise they’d be terrified and oppose conservation.”
A stunt week of shark-themed programs can be fun, entertaining, and informative. It can also sensationalize and lie, and do real damage.
So what will Shark Week be this year?
Shark Fest doubles down
This year, they both used variations on a line from JAWS in their press material: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” (NatGeo) and “we definitely are going to need a bigger boat!” (Discovery).
NatGeo WILD’s GM Geoff Daniels had a related jokes in a press release:
“We are literally jumping the shark this year by serving a supersized feeding frenzy of jaw-someshark specials, and by taking the first bite, we’re giving Nat Geo WILD viewers a bonus week of the shark shows they love. Why wait, when we need to inspire everyone to save our sharks now, more than ever? With so much SharkFest, we’re gonna need a bigger network!”
While NatGeo WILD’s Shark Fest will last two weeks, its second week seems to mostly be repeats.
The press release only includes shows up through July 22, and notes that the “supersized SharkFest also includes special encores of SharkFest’s past hit specials, which will continue to air in primetime through Friday, July 27.”
Here are the eight new specials coming during Shark Fest, according to NatGeo WILD:
When Sharks Attack: Mayhem in Mexico
Premieres Sunday, July 15, at 8/7c
Cancun is an ideal getaway, renowned for its beautiful beaches, fascinating culture and scenic landscapes. Usually a pristine location, the waters of Cancun suddenly becomes a hotspot for shark attacks between 2011 and 2013, with six attacks along its shores. Locals who have never seen an attack are baffled and hotels start to wonder what is putting their guests at risk. A community where shark attacks have never happened wonders, what could be the cause? Scientists put their heads together to figure out the cause behind the surge in attacks.
Shark vs. Tuna
Premieres Sunday, July 15, at 9/8c
Witness a clash of oceanic titans in the remote crystal-blue battlefields of Ascension Island. Yellowfin tuna and mako and tiger sharks are all apex predators, but to these sharks, yellowfin tuna are the ultimate prize. The tuna are often faster, fitter and bigger than the sharks, reaching well over 250 pounds. Any shark hunting these beasts needs brute strength and a little bit of luck to capture one. But when a third player enters the game, the scales tip. Who will win?
The Whale That Ate Jaws: New Evidence (working title)
Premieres Sunday, July 15, at 10/9c
The Whale That Ate Jaws examined an extraordinary incident that occurred at the Farallon Islands, 27 miles off San Francisco, in October 1997. A boatload of tourists witnessed the ultimate clash of the titans and caught it on tape. Two killer whales attacked and drowned a great white shark and ripped out its liver. The incident raised a lot of questions and left biologists mystified. Since then, there have been other attacks, some caught on camera. Now, we explore these new events and the fascinating science behind the killer whale’s taste for shark meat and share some shocking revelations in The Whale That Ate Jaws: New Evidence. Experts weigh in to reveal astounding new discoveries in shark and whale behaviors.
Big Sharks Rule
Premieres Monday, July 16, at 9/8c
It’s an ocean of giants. South Africa has a dramatic, rocky coast that’s raked by churning currents. Warm, cold, rich and murky water collide to create “shark central”, with enough food to sustain the biggest. Giant sharks like great whites, tiger sharks, bull sharks, ragged tooth sharks, and whale sharks all reign supreme in these waters.
Premieres Tuesday, July 17, at 9/8c
Imagine diving into the ocean only to discover that you’re surrounded by one of the largest shark frenzies on the planet. Well, that’s exactly what these researchers did in the name of science. In Polynesia, the largest school of sharks — about 700 — patrols the waters en masse. Follow an international team of scientists as they study these magnificent creatures at night, when they are most aggressive, to discover their mysterious hunting strategies and social behaviors. The result: incredible new behaviors never seen before, or caught on camera.
Shark Kill Zone (working title)
Premieres Wednesday, July 18, at 9/8c
Sharks may be at the top of the ocean food chain, but catching a meal isn’t always straightforward or easy. So how have these denizens of the deep ruled the oceans for so long? Design and adaptation. They must adapt to survive, which on occasion means bringing the feast closer to shore. Discover the surprisingly diverse ways sharks hunt and the solutions they’ve found to catching prey. Some wait in ambush, others slowly stalk their prey and still others chase at high speed. Whatever the technique, all sharks are exquisitely designed for their specialized roles as ocean predators.Scientists weigh in on the evolutionary ways in which sharks have fine-tuned their hunting skills and behaviors and reveal some incredible observations.
When Sharks Attack: The San Francisco Slayer
Premieres Sunday, July 22, at 8/7c
Just north of San Francisco lies a rugged coastline renowned for its picturesque cliffs and sandy beaches. But in 2004, this wilderness-lovers’ dream became a nightmare when the area was stunned by four separate shark attacks over the course of six months. A team of investigators takes a closer look at what could be the cause of these mysterious and terrifying attacks and reveal the science behind what is driving them towards the crowded waters.
When Sharks Attack: Anatomy of a Shark Attack
Premieres Sunday, July 22, at 9/8c
Without a doubt, sharks are the most notorious and feared predators in the ocean. In recent years, the number of shark attacks around the world has risen, and understanding how these predators think and behave is more important than ever. Experts break down stories from shark attack survivors, and the science behind shark behaviors and attack methods, to reveal how to handle an attack.
The Shark Week 2018 schedule
Discovery Channel’s 30th Shark Week kicks off July 22, and will include these 22 specials:
ALIEN SHARKS: GREATEST HITS – Airing Sunday, July 22 at 7PM ET/PT
To flying jaws… To flailing saws… From ghostly green eyes… Unbelievable adaptations…and unique mutations… Deep below the ocean’s surface live some of the strangest creatures and most frightening sharks on Earth. And the deeper you go, the more mysterious they get. In Alien Sharks: Greatest Hits, we’re recounting the biggest discoveries, weirdest adaptations, and most memorable moments from the past five years of Alien Sharks. Produced by Discovery Studios.
BEAR VS SHARK – Airing Sunday, July 22 at 8PM ET/PT
We’ve seen Bear Grylls survive almost every land-based scenario imaginable, but in Bear VS Shark, Bear takes on a whole new set of challenges against the ocean’s most powerful predators. And in typical Bear Grylls fashion, he pushes the limits beyond anything we’ve seen in the history of Shark Week. Chumming from a helicopter? Check. Diving into a feeding frenzy? Check. Human bait? Check! Produced by Electus.
SHAQ DOES SHARK WEEK – Airing Sunday, July 22 at 9PM ET/PT
In the hopes of securing the ultimate symbol of fame and fortune – your very own week – Shaquille O’Neal inadvertently signed himself up to be thrust into the teeth of the 30th Anniversary of Shark Week. There’s only one problem. Shaq doesn’t do Sharks. To overcome his fear of sharks, he’s going to need some help – enter Ex-Marine and comedian Rob Riggle who will help train him at Atlantis, Paradise Island in The Bahamas for the big plunge. Produced by Anomaly Entertainment / Will Packer Productions.
RONDA ROUSEY UNCAGED – Airing Sunday, July 22 at 10PM ET/PT
Olympian and UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey sets out to test her courage and prove the fighter mentality that made her a champion will allow her to stare down any opponent- even the Mako Shark. Former Navy diver and shark attack survivor, Paul De Gelder, coaches rookie diver Ronda Rousey through three rounds of survival training against heavyweight opponents including deadly Bull Sharks, all building to a historic “Main Event” where Ronda attempts to step outside the safety of any cage to face the ultimate fighter of the sea – The Mako. Produced by Propagate Content.
MONSTER TAG – Airing Monday, July 23 at 8PM ET/PT
In this thrilling and urgent Shark Week special, Aaron Rodgers, Lindsey Vonn and Rob Gronkowski will join forces with top shark scientists to learn crucial information about the ocean’s top predators. Shark populations are in trouble worldwide, but a daring collection of dedicated shark researchers are using the latest satellite technology to try and save them. If researchers can use satellite wildlife tags to figure out where sharks feed, mate, and birth their pups, the information will be critical to conserving the species. Produced by Propagate Content.
GREAT WHITE ABYSS – Airing Monday, July 23 at 9PM ET/PT
The deeper you dive the bigger the sharks? A team of experts go to Great White hotspot Guadalupe Island to look for the biggest sharks of their kind. Once before, a 20-foot female named Deep Blue showed herself, then disappeared into the deep. Is that where all the giant sharks live? Dr. Mauricio Hoyos thinks so. In a combination of deep-water cage and submarine dives, Hoyos and expert shark diver Jimi Partington, plus Andy Casagrande go looking for big, bigger – the biggest sharks in the deep water around Guadalupe. Produced by Anomaly Entertainment.
CUBA’S SECRET SHARK LAIR – Airing Monday, July 23 at 10PM ET/PT
In 1945, one of the largest sharks ever recorded was captured in Cuban waters. This Great White was named ‘El Monstruo’, but sightings of huge sharks around Cuba didn’t end there. The phenomenon of massive sharks around Cuba puzzled scientists, but for years the island nation has been closed off to outsiders. Now, two teams of researchers have finally been granted permission to delve into the mystery of Cuba’s gigantic sharks. To the south, a team looks for a massive Great Hammerhead known as ‘The Queen’. And off Cuba’s north shore, the hunt is on for another ‘El Monstruo’-sized Great White! Produced by ITV.
GUY FIERI’S FEEDING FRENZY – Airing Tuesday, July 24 at 8PM ET/PT
In the food world, Guy’s known as the perfect eating machine…but he’s finally met his match when he goes flip flop to fin with the ultimate feeding machines of the sea. In this one hour special, Guy and his son, Hunter, head to the Bahamas to experience local cuisine and explore and understand just what makes the waters around these islands the perfect all-you-can-eat buffet for such a wide variety of shark species. Produced by Citizen Pictures.
LAWS OF JAWS– Airing Tuesday, July 24 at 9PM ET/PT
Shark attacks are on the rise but are these attacks the result of the shark’s behavior or our own? Our team of expert divers Liz Parkinson, Mike Dornellas and Nick LeBeouf and professional cameraman Andy Casagrande put this theory to the test. By reenacting five harrowing real-life encounters and putting their own lives on the line. The most daring shark experiments ever attempted help to uncover the keys to survive. If you step into the waters this summer, make sure you know the LAWS OF JAWS. Produced by Lucky 8.
AIR JAWS: THE HUNTED – Tuesday, July 24 at 10PM ET/PT
In 2017, five full grown Great White sharks washed up dead on beaches in South Africa. The necropsy revealed they were eaten alive and their livers were devoured. What is the only massive sea predator that has the ability to capture, kill and wipe out a group of 15-foot, 3,000-pound Great White sharks? Orcas. Shark Biologist Alison Towner is on the case, searching for the killers in these grisly crimes and sleuthing for the answer everyone is asking: will they attack again? On her journey, Alison locates two Orcas, named Port and Starboard, easily identifiable by their drooping dorsal fins and she determines how they could be the attackers. In one of the most gripping stories of survival, Alison teams up with conservationist Chris Fallows and filmmakers Jeff Kurr and Andy Casagrande to find out how these Great Whites are being wiped out and what can be done to save them. Produced by Original Content group / Shark Week Entertainment.
AIR JAWS: BACK FROM THE DEAD – Airing Wednesday, July 25 at 8PM ET/PT
In 2001, filmmaker Jeff Kurr joined shark photographer Chris Fallows off South Africa to witness an amazing great white behavior – sharks launching out of the ocean as they attack seals. The fabulous Air Jaws series was born! Now, 17 years and 7 shows later, orcas have killed several sharks off Cape Town and driven off the rest, so the future of the phenomenon is in question. Jeff and Chris travel to New Zealand to search for a new Air Jaws location – and look back through the fabulous visual record of South African ‘flying’ sharks to help them find the right spot. Produced by Shark Entertainment.
SHARK TANK MEETS SHARK WEEK – Airing Wednesday, July 25 at 9PM ET/PT
In a never-before-seen matchup, two titans of TV come together in SHARK TANK MEETS SHARK WEEK. This time, the Sharks aren’t battling to buy businesses; instead they are all vying for a $50,000 donation on the line. The Sharks are each paired with a shark-centric non-profit where they interact with sharks and uncover the issues sharks are facing. They’ll discover the threats of finning, micro-plastics and the shark-saving measures of tagging or ecotourism. Armed with their newfound knowledge and life changing experiences, our Sharks head back to the Shark Tank studio where, for the first time ever, they have to pitch each other. Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Barbara Corcoran, and Kevin O’Leary have to convince their fellow Sharks, including Robert Herjavec, why their non-profit deserves to win the $50,000 donation. It’s a feeding frenzy of Shark versus Shark. Produced by Radley Studios.
SHARKCAM STAKEOUT – Airing Wednesday, July 25 at 10PM ET/PT
SharkCam is back and with smaller tags, Dr. Greg Skomal and the Woods Hole team go to the Bahamas to investigate the private lives of Bull, and Hammerhead sharks, guided by Doc Gruber and Dr. Tristan Gutteridge of the Bimini Shark Lab. In the past, SharkCam has revealed fascinating new behaviors of white sharks – what new things will the team discover about the hunting techniques of these other three fierce predators? Produced by Big Wave.
SHARKCAM STRIKES BACK – Airing Thursday, July 26 at 8PM ET/PT
SharkCam Strikes Back celebrates the remarkable discoveries the team have made in the last 6 years and takes a tongue in cheek look at some of the disasters. From napping great whites to SharkCam being attacked, its highlights footage SharkCam has captured over the years. It all started with the Shark Week’s 2013 RETURN OF JAWS. Produced by Big Wave.
SHARKWRECKED – Airing Thursday, July 26 at 9PM ET/PT
It’s the most dangerous stunt Shark Week has ever undertaken. In a raw, immersive adventure that includes blowing up a boat in the middle of the ocean, Paul de Gelder and James Glancy spend two days floating with sharks. With no food, water or sleep, their physical condition deteriorates and the risk of shark attack rises. How will the sharks behave? And will the men get attacked? The location is the waters of Cat Island, the Bahamas. One of the last refuges for the endangered Oceanic White Tip. A shark said to be responsible for hundreds of deaths of shipwreck survivors during WW2.The experiment is so dangerous a safety and medical team will float 300 feet away from the men, monitoring their every move. Within minutes, sharks start to arrive. Over the next 2 days an extraordinary survival story unfolds as the sharks get increasingly confident. Produced by Big Wave.
TIGER SHARK INVASION – Airing Thursday, July 26 at 10PM ET/PT
An invasive species is turning one of the world’s oldest marine ecosystems upside down. Dr. Neil Hammerschlag leads a team, including cameraman Joe Romeiro and local expert Alex Hearn, to the Galapagos to observe and document how tiger sharks – new to the islands in the last 10 years – have re-set the underwater order in one of the sharkiest places on the planet. Produced by Radley Studios.
MEGALODON: FACT VS. FICTION– Airing Friday, July 27 at 8PM ET/PT
In Megalodon: Fact Vs. Fiction, we’ll dive into the question: WHAT IF the largest shark that ever existed were still alive today? With the help of experts, we re-examine the original Shark Week special, dissecting key scenes to see if they paint an accurate picture of how Megalodon would have lived and hunted if it were alive today. We’ll look at new evidence from Megaladon’s beginnings. Plus, you’ll get an exclusive Shark Week first look at Warner Bros. Pictures, The Meg, opening August 10, 2018. Produced by Pilgrim Media group.
BLOODLINE: THE SPAWN OF JAWS – Airing Friday, July 27 at 9PM ET/PT
Over four decades ago, giant Great White sharks off Long Island NY gave rise to the legend of JAWS. But all those big sharks were caught, killed and disappeared – until now. With protection, the sons and daughters of Jaws are making a comeback. Dr. Craig O’Connell goes looking for the legendary monsters of Montauk to see if the bloodline of Jaws continues. Produced by Pangolin Pictures.
GREAT WHITE SHARK BABIES – Airing Friday, July 27 at 10PM ET/PT
Their big, their angry, and their pregnant! These large Great White females migrate to Guadalupe for one last big feed of seals before they go off to have their pups. But where do they go? Dr. Mauricio Hoyos believes they head to a biosphere reserve on the coast of Baja because local fishermen report catching many Great White pups there. So, Hoyos and his science team of Michelle Wcisel and Dr. Toby Daly- Engel will track the sharks to Baja, use genetics to identify which pups belong to which females, and confirm a birthing ground to be protected. Produced by Northern Pictures.
RETURN OF MEGA SHARK – Airing Saturday, July 28 at 9PM ET/PT
One of Shark Week’s most exciting missions over the years has been the search for the largest Great White sharks in the world – the mega-sharks. Now Jeff Kurr and Andy Casagrande go to New Zealand to look again for giant White sharks lurking in deep water off the coast and revisit the most exciting events and discoveries from the past to help guide their search. Produced by Shark Entertainment.
SHARKS GONE WILD – Airing Saturday, July 28 at 10PM ET/PT
Discover everything that has happened in the world of sharks this year – the unbelievable viral videos, the biggest news stories, and the latest cutting-edge shark science. Produced by Main Event Media / All3Media.
NAKED AND AFRAID OF SHARKS – Airing Sunday, July 29 at 9PM ET/PT
Stranded on a barren island in the middle of the most shark-infested waters on earth, 5 Naked and Afraid All-Stars must survive for 14 days, exclusively on what the ocean provides. Ky Furneaux, Ryan Holt, Chris Fischer, Steven Lee Hall, and Eva Rupert are separately inserted by boat on an island in the Bahamas. They may be Naked and Afraid veterans but here they are in Shark territory. The boat lands and our Shark Expert comes ashore with the familiar looking bags and some unfamiliar items. These items will help the all-stars survive and get to their completion point over the next 14 days. Produced by Renegade.