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The Early Beginnings of Shark Week: Growing a Cultural Phenomenon

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

Since 1988, Shark Week has grown into an American staple - a cultural phenomenon, if you will. Here at Shark OFF, we totally understand the mass attraction and curiosity in regards to these powerful predators!

According to Discovery, Shark Week is cable television's longest-running event in history. Now in it’s 32nd year, Shark Week has over 20 hours of brand new programming planned for this week. But where did it all start?

In an interview with The Atlantic, a Discovery executive explains that the idea for Shark Week was thought of at a post-work brainstorming session at the bar, and was scribbled down on a cocktail napkin. Even though it had been over a decade since the release of Jaws, the impact of the film had not died down (did it ever?), and Discovery executives noticed that when it came to their shark related programming, ratings always spiked. Clark Bunting, one of the creators of Shark Week says that he was “as surprised as anyone else” to see the ratings explode.

Now, let’s talk about the first ever Shark Week program: Caged in Fear. Premiering on July 17, 1988, this special’s description was: “a new motorized cage is tested for its resistance to shark attacks”. For years to come, we saw similar nail-biting programming.

While over the years, Shark Week programming has gone back and forth many times from being entertainment based to education based. Although recently, many of the larger, more advertised Shark Week programs have turned to be misleading and/or “flashy” (ahem, Mike Tyson v. Jaws and Phelps v. Shark), Shark Week still does quite a bit of good on the shark conservation front. Discovery’s goal is to create educational content, from the importance of clean oceans to the horrors of the shark finning trade. According to their website, they also partner up with Oceana and are avid advocates for the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2019. Also, if you’re not super familiar with the awful shark finning trade, you should definitely check out our blog about it here.

Let us know what program you’re most excited for below in the comments! Now, enjoy watching away! (And also consider donating to an ocean cleanup organization)

Also, before you go, we just want to remind you that we understand both your fear and fascination with sharks. Boss Momma Shea (CEO) was traumatized from watching Jaws as a child - that’s why we want to help you Lose the Fear and Love the Ocean with our proven, tested shark repellent jewelry. Shark OFF to the rescue!

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