Discovery's Shark Week kicks off Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT with 13 gasp-inducing shows, many with titles that seem more sci-fi than science.
Lair of the Mega Shark.
Spawn of Jaws 2: The Birth.
Alien Sharks: Return to the Abyss.
All actual show titles. Discovery is even bringing back Megalodon, the mockumentary that drew criticism last year for its dramatization of a giant prehistoric shark. It's been updated as Megalodon: The New Evidence and promises "shocking new footage." Discovery says this 27th Shark Week features more original hours than ever before..
"The question we always ask ourselves," says Michael Sorensen, Discovery's VP of development and production, "is 'How do we keep pushing the envelope a little bit?'"
Maybe with those over-the-top titles?
"We try not to take ourselves too seriously," he says. "Some of these titles are very tongue-in-cheek." He's quick to add that there is still a "lot of core Discovery Channel— great science, great natural history." And, he says, "if we ever stop innovating new ways to showcase sharks, then Shark Week isn't as special as it is."
The pressure is on to keep it special, because the ratings stakes are high. Last year's Shark Week was the most-watched in the franchise's history, according to Nielsen. And like it or not, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives hit a ratings high for the event with 4.8 million viewers.
As for bringing back the controversial Megalodon, Sorensen says, "It became a mini cult hit, and people are looking to us to continue that story."
There does seem to be a feeding frenzy over all things shark right now.
Shark Week comes less than two weeks after campy Sharknado 2: The Second One, an original Syfy B-movie that featured flying, chomping sharks raining down on New York City. It was a ratings and social-media hit.
Sharknado screenwriter Thunder Levin says he's often asked about the endless interest in sharks, real or not. His explanation: "Things that scare us fascinate us."
But for Sean Lesniak, 9, of Lowell, Mass., it's not about that at all. An avid shark fan, he has been working to stop shark finning — the practice of hacking fins off live sharks — and he plans to watch "every show" of Shark Week. "No! I'm not scared of sharks," he says. "I like learning about them."