Shark Week marks 20 years of terrifying TV - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Shark Week marks 20 years of terrifying TV

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Posted: Monday, July 30, 2007 4:20 am | Updated: 7:05 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Les Stroud’s survival knowhow has gotten him through some risky terrestrial escapades on his “Survivorman” series, but as Shark Week’s underwater anchor he discovered you can’t just roll with the punches.

Sometimes you have to throw a punch yourself — exactly what Stroud did during the filming of “Shark Feeding Frenzy,” casting a right hook into the snout of a Caribbean reef shark that had mistaken his hand for a meal. The shark special, one of eight new programs to air during Discovery Channel’s 20th-anniversary marine spotlight, gave Stroud the ultimate hands-on experiment: Find out what the big fish likes for dinner.

Luckily for Stroud, the defense mechanism worked.

“The best way to stay calm is having that understanding that, in truth, the majority of predators don’t want anything to do with you,” he says. “They are afraid of being injured. You injure their jaw, they can’t get food. They understand that.”

Punching a shark’s snout, which can stun its sensory ability, is one of the safety tips loaded into this year’s survival-themed week.

Shark Week, initiated in 1988 and watched by more than 19 million viewers last year, is cable television’s longest-running event. Discovery Channel general manager Jane Root, citing the great white rogue of the 1975 movie “Jaws” as the pilot of mainstream shark mania, says curiosity and excitement about the carnivorous creatures continue to surge.

“There’s always a moment when you think, ‘How much more can you say about sharks?’ but they are these astonishing predators from another era that swim around the world,” Root says.

“There’s something very primal about sharks that is both very frightening and intriguing.”

On TV

For Shark Week, new specials air nightly beginning at 9 p.m. through Saturday on the Discovery Channel.

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