Sharks out of the sea, into the air and onscreen

New York Times News ServiceAugust 2, 2013 

  • ‘Sharknado’ in Columbia

    Regal Entertainment Group is bringing a one-night only midnight showing to theaters around the country – including two in Columbia and others around South Carolina. Sharknado enthusiasts can see the showing at 12:05 a.m., Saturday at Columbiana Grande off Harbison Boulevard and Sandhill Stadium at Village at Sandhill in Northeast Richland for $12.50 a ticket.

    The made-for-TV movie drew a crowd of television viewers who made snappy tweets all night long. At its peak the #sharknado hashtag registered 5,000 tweets per minute and accumulated 600,000 social media mentions, according to a Regal press release.

    As the official movie tagline says: “Enough said!”

Two questions demand our attention here at the midpoint of the summer: Can the shark hunters, who arrived on Wednesday, mobilize in time to save us from the next sharknado, which is forecast for Friday? And what is it with all the fish on television all of a sudden?

The CBS miniseries “Under the Dome” has been pretty successful this summer, but nothing has created the buzz that a much-lower-rent science-fiction offering, “Sharknado,” did when it was broadcast on July 11 on the Syfy channel. “Sharknado” is a ridiculous movie about a freak weather event that sucks sharks from the ocean and drops them onto Los Angeles, and when it hit, people went nuts.

Celebrities made Twitter wisecracks about it. Disaster-relief organizations used it as a promotional opportunity. Though not that many people actually watched the initial broadcast (about 1.37 million, according to Nielsen), the “Sharknado” storm was so powerful that it reversed the natural order of the Hollywood universe. Normally, a film is released in theaters and turns up later on TV. On Friday night (actually, 12:05 a.m. on Saturday) “Sharknado,” a made-for-TV movie, is receiving a one-night-only screening in more than 200 theaters. Already saw it on TV?

“Cinema audiences will be treated to never-before-seen footage, including a behind-the-scenes featurette and a gag reel,” a news release announcing the screenings says.

Lest you think Syfy is just making this stuff up, the esteemed Weather Channel has a new show in August called “Strangest Weather on Earth.” Among the phenomena a news release for the show promises will be explored: “airborne fish.” Also, “raining frogs.” So there.

Can it be mere coincidence that the NBC Sports Network – part of the same corporate family as Syfy – has announced a six-part series beginning on Wednesday night called “Shark Hunters”? The show follows five captains as they compete in tournaments. All three contests are on the East Coast, while the sharknado danger is, as Syfy has documented, clearly highest on the West Coast. But the middle of the country is safe, right? Maybe not.

More sharks turn up on Sunday when the Discovery Channel begins its annual “Shark Week,” and Nat Geo Wild starts its weeklong “Sharkfest.” If you thought the shark infestation was just a saltwater problem, think again. “Sharkfest” includes an episode of “Monster Fish” on Aug. 9 called “River Shark!” Note the exclamation point.

On “Monster Fish,” Zeb Hogan, a biologist, goes all over the world looking for giant freshwater fish, “from 600-pound goldfish to car-sized catfish to mysterious river sharks,” as a news release announcing this summer’s season put it. “River Shark!,” the season finale, is teased with this line: “Bull sharks are known to patrol inland waterways, even surviving in freshwater 2,000 miles upriver.” You can run, or swim, but you can’t hide.

Sharks aren’t the only fish or fishlike creatures that have infested broadcast and Web television this summer. One of the more entertaining waterborne shows has been “Top Hooker,” an Animal Planet competition series that began in June and is now down to the final few episodes. You knew this was going to be an amusing show from the initial news release, which declared, “The search is on for the best hooker in America.”

These hookers – the series began with 10 – are the kind who fish, but this show hasn’t been merely drab shots of guys and gals casting at a riverside. The elimination-style competitions have included all sorts of stunts, fishing-related but not necessarily involving fish. One of the challenges was to back a motorboat that was hitched to a pickup truck through a twisting course to the water’s edge. That same episode found the competitors in a giant tank full of catfish, which they had to snag with their bare hands.

The new Pursuit Channel (“we deliver the outdoors”) is about to begin promoting itself with droll spots featuring Fish Fishburne, a fishing expert with a wacky sense of humor who is familiar to fans of the Outdoor Channel and other outlets where fish are favored. And last week Netflix joined in the mania, sort of. It began offering “Mako Mermaids,” an enjoyable follow-up to the Australian series “H20: Just Add Water.”

In the new series, three mermaids decide to get legs and try land. “We are about to enter a world of chaos and danger,” one tells the other two. Apparently, even mermaids have heard about those sharknadoes.

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