Discovery Channel's Shark Week and E. J. Altbacker's Shark Wars Take Up Where Jaws Left Off

TV shows and books that prove sharks still have the power to intrigue and terrify.

By , Columnist
The 1975 hit film Jaws put the fear of sharks into every man, woman, and child who set foot into a movie theater that summer. Certainly there is something to be said for capitalizing on a proven product. For twenty-four years The Discovery Channel’s annual series, Shark Week, has been doing its part to make sure that the fear of sharks Jaws instilled in us hasn’t dissipated over time.   

Shark Week is cable television’s longest running programming event, which this year begins on Sunday, July 31. Seven all-new specials will be featured, as well as some of the more popular Shark Week programs from the past.

Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg is Discovery Channel’s Chief Shark Officer. As well as being featured in the on-air marketing campaign, he also hosts his own Shark Week special entitled Shark City. Jumping into shark-filled waters, Samberg will introduce viewers to a specific group of sharks that live off the shores of Nassau, focusing on their personalities, quirks, and feeding patterns. Sounds very hands-on. I wasn't able to preview this particular special but from its description, it sounds like it could be an interesting and educational hour of television. With Samberg at the helm, it's sure to offer a few laughs, as well.

I did get a look at Summer of the Shark, which pulls no punches describing how in the summer of 2009, panic descended over Australia’s beaches. Shark attacks were rampant; swimmers were frequently mauled and in some cases killed. The public was terrified; experts were called in to find out the cause of the brutal assaults occurring all over the country. Might this be a prelude of things to come? was the question on everyone's mind.

Killer Sharks is a dramatized version of how South African authorities dealt with a rash of shark attacks that descended upon their coastal beaches during the tourist season of 1957. A massive rogue shark was suspected of being responsible for the carnage. Killer Sharks is more like an actual movie than any of the other Shark Week specials. The acting is quite good and the story is made more chilling by the fact that it is based on fact.  

It should be mentioned that the more squeamish among you might occasionally have a problem with these Shark Week programs. The reenactments can be extremely gory, while the actual footage of sharks doing their worst will probably be disturbing to some.

That said, if you can appreciate how dangerous these animals are, you’ll probably find them fascinating, as well.

On the literary side: if you have middle grade kids who are fascinated by the shark craze, you might want to introduce them to the first in the series of Shark Wars novels. Author E. J. Altbacker, who has written for numerous animated TV shows such as Justice League and ¡Mucha Lucha! has now written a shark-based undersea adventure novel. Think Star Wars meets Warriors and you’ll get the idea that there is enough action and fun here to interest the most reluctant reader.

Shark Wars is available now and its followup, Shark Wars: The Battle of Riptide, will be available in December 2011.

Discovery Channel's Shark Week begins July 31. For more information and show schedule head on over to the Discovery Channel Shark Week site.

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Mindy Peterman is a freelance writer whose focus is on television, movies and pop culture. She has written over one hundred articles for the award winning website and has conducted interviews with producer Peter Asher, psychic-medium John Edward, Greg Grunberg and Bob Guiney from Band…

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