Its Shark Week! Right now! AAAAH! Shark Week, Discovery Channel’s programming tradition of kindergarten nightmare fodder, is 24 this year. That means it pre-dates the internet. I remember gathering around the TV with my entire family, including my highly-white-noise-sensitive mom, making it one of the few times we all watched TV together as a perfect image of Atomic Familyhood.
The Discovery Channel is celebrating this year’s Shark Week by throwing an iOS-platform smartphone bone to its viewers. That’s right: a “Shark Week Live” app is available for free to iPad and iPhone users (sorry Android) to “play along” with the programming. Sadly, the app is needy and sort of irritating. Discovery Channel doesn’t actually intend to provide two different channels of shark-based content, they just want you to pay attention to them. And they will reward you. With points.
That’s it. When Shark Week is off, which is most of the time, the chat boards on Shark Week Live light up with trolls awkwardly hitting on each other (“R u blond????”) as if they had just activated AOL for the first time (“shut up judee!”).
The median age of posters on these off-hours sharkboards seems to be 12. When Shark Week programs are airing (after 9 pm every night this week), Shark Week Live offers bland trivia related to whatever’s on (“What was Eric wearing when he was attacked by a Great White Shark?”), shark-related infograms (surfer outline vs seal outline), and sponsored advertising lodged firmly at the top of the application’s interface (Toyota has a what now?). Whenever you get a question correct, the app bleeps. When the app’s image changes, it boops.
What if you don’t have television or HD or the box or anything, but still want to party with some fearsome yet endangered aquatic predators? Shark Week Live! Except not really. Like similar offerings from other pre-internet age media behemoths VH1 and MTV, the Shark Week Live app is billed as a “co-viewing” experience. “Co-viewing” initially referred to a parent or guardian watching television with their child/ward, making it a term for something that there used to not be a term for at all. In this context, co-viewing makes the interwebs your couch buddy, which, for millions, it already is.
Discovery Channel must be asking themselves how Shark Week, a beloved institution of now-quaint cable television’s heyday, can stay relevant in a world where the opportunity to watch things is defined by the internet above and beyond actual teevee. The choice of dude’s-dude Andy Samberg as Shark Week host also points to an acknowledgement that internet is king where cable once ruled. As Shark Week Live bips and beeps like a demanding seafood restaurant placemat, one imagines Discovery Channel asking the viewer “Still here. I’m here. Right here. Dude!”
Fantastic. I don’t have a TV these days and I’m not going to go down to the local bar demanding that they turn on Shark Week. These days, Shark Week means more to me as code for Having The Painters In. You know, wink wink. Menstruation. Chumming the Waters Of Life. Shark Week has never had a female host. Discovery Channel barely knows what female hosts are for. Former Shark Week hosts include Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe, the guys from Mythbusters, and the guys from American Chopper. Dirty Jobs once aired segments of a search for a possible female co-host, all of which ended up coming off as more of a joke about how squeamish chicks are rather than an actual stab at trying to find someone with fortitude and looks. Interesting, considering how former QVC host Mike Rowe himself is also notoriously squeamish and bad at driving expensive machinery for which he is not a licensed operator.
While Discovery Channel may not be explicitly freaking out about blood in the water, ignoring opportunities to feature strong female hosts and spending possibly millions of dollars on hokey attention-hustling for a prevalent phenomenon that doesn’t need a name invokes images of boardroom meetings where people in suits actually use the word “eww!” when even thinking of what comes naturally to every woman ever.
They should know that while diving during menstruation may result in injury, sharks are probably not aware of the Red Menace:
In general, diving while menstruating doesn’t seem to pose problems, but there are some factors of which women should be aware. First of all, there is no evidence to show that a woman who dives while menstruating is at increased risk of shark attacks. The average blood lost is very little and usually occurs over several days. It is also known that “many shark species are not attracted to the blood and other debris found in menstrual flow”.
And they should also know that the best way to revivify a decades-old viewing tradition is not to overoccupy the senses with a bunch of garbage, but to advance the content beyond Top-Ten style rehash programs (see Planet Earth’s unbelievable Great White Shark vs Seal breach sequence) and get hosts that actually kick actual ass. Like Anne Burrell. Or me.