10 ideas to emulate Shark Week
Critical bumps aside, Shark Week commenced its fourth decade on Discovery this past Sunday.
Handfuls of athletes and crossing-over TV personalities highlight the laypeople in the event’s 31st observance. Among 28 windows of programming over eight evenings, the network pledges riveting fact-based insights and conservation education.
The summertime institution is filling a public-relations prescription after a few fact-deviating, liberty-taking lowlights. If it steers clear of vaguely or deceptively delivered fiction about Megalodons and inter-species swimming races, fewer heads will spin.
Maybe then fewer people will plaster Shark Week with the entertainment adage of its species. More significantly, the annual block could get serious about inspiring similar occasions surrounding other wonders of nature.
Human fascination with peerlessly gargantuan, carnivorous fish is self-explanatory. Even when new discoveries are slow to come up, some shark facts never lose their surprise. Likewise, the drama of bystanders exercising various levels of caution has found reliable preservatives in saltwater.
Still, why has there only been a week for sharks all this time? There are 51 other weeks per year, and only so much National Geographic or David Attenborough-narrated programs can cover in the animal kingdom.
Shark Week will power on at midsummer and build on its track record of fluctuating receptions. But meanwhile, these 10 hypothetical imitators could watch, learn and reserve a given week to present other key animals in an improved fashion.
The art of the vampire tale does not stay out of the mainstream for long. Likewise, Batman buffs never need to wait many years before another adaptation.
So why not take more looks at those characters’ shared basis? If nothing else, it would make a tempting build-up to Halloween.
While there is no perfect comparison, bears are somewhat to North America’s forests what sharks are to its oceans. They tend to savor apex predator status, and are the poster animals of warning signs when humans enter their range.
Yet the threat ratio is upside-down in terms of a given species’ long-term prospects. Just as Shark Week introduces creative conservation initiatives, ursine enthusiasts would surely pounce at the equivalent.
It is not just movies preaching how ants “can teach you a lot about successful societal structure.” There is pure, well-documented scientific merit to that notion. The same goes for bees, termites and others who may not belong on our property, but are invaluable on theirs.
Be honest, is it not a tad mind-blowing to watch a domestic shorthair prowl across the living room, then turn to the tiger on TV? The resemblance between their walking, walking-to-running and pouncing pattern strikes like the reminder that sharks are fish stuns. It lets pet owners see their four-legged friends in a faraway endangered species.
Two years ago, PBS set a precedent for this proposition with The Story of Cats. The two-part miniseries covered wild felines from overseas and North America while comparing them to their household cousins.
The accepted expert consensus hovers around an upper-30s count of total wild cat species. Domestic breeds break the 40 plateau. That is too much to give proper coverage with one week of primetime programming. Some would have to wait for another year, so the sooner someone makes this an annual practice, the better.
While there are differences between the seemingly indistinguishable alligator and crocodile, they all fall under “crocodilian.” The same goes for caimans and something called a gharial (or gavial).
In last year’s Shark Week, the Australian saltwater crocodile guest starred as a competitor of the tiger shark. And that does not account for the crocodilians native to the Nile, Asian rivers or America’s Gulf Coast.
As with the proposed Cat Week, this would offer Americans comprehensive, connective looks at distant and companion canines alike.
Even with untamed breeds, the dogs of this continent interlock with its often overlooked human chronicles. In several pockets of the modern U.S., wolves and coyotes have enjoyed significant roles in indigenous spirituality. One legend, still relayed to children, has the land’s first people declaring the animals “The First Healer.”
Beginning to see a parallel with the modern “man’s best friend” cliché?
If there is ever a week for our common pets’ wild relatives, there should also be one for our own. Period.
You could call this Bird of Prey Week to avoid confusion with extinct reptiles. But the interest of smooth-sounding titles tends to win out.
The bald eagle would be the rightful face of this occasion. It played prominent roles in indigenous customs before any European influx to North America. Since then, it has become the national animal of the United States.
Beyond public-sector shields and currency, eagles join condors, hawks and falcons as common mascots. Owls and many less-publicized fearsome fliers could fill a few hours of programming as well.
Why does it have to be snakes, Dr. Jones?
Beyond that and other pop-culture permeations, serpents inhabit every temperate or warm-weather continent. As with sharks, their species can be separated by their danger or lack thereof to humans.
Like birds, cats and dogs, it is not unheard of for some to serve as pets in developed societies. Elsewhere, snakes have a dense, ongoing history of roles in ritual, religion and mythology.
Among ocean dwellers, only Cyclopean cetaceans outsize the largest sharks. As far as one NatGeo documentary concludes, only the orca can overpower the great white.
From Free Willy to Vancouver Canucks jerseys to the now-hotly debated SeaWorld shows, the killer whale is a leading species among magnets for fascination. The humpback, whose vocalizations are go-to ASMR material, represents one of many other varieties.
If demand for a week on the definitive marine mammal is not yet apparent, supply might bring it to light.