Hyped about sharks: What's the catch?

Jake Tapley

There is something undeniably intriguing about Shark Week. Though we tend to pass it off as “thrill-seeking meets cheap entertainment,” could there possibly be some sort of formula behind the continual success of Discovery Channel’s yearly series?

For those of us who watch the program, we typically know what to expect. However, year after year, we maintain a high level of anticipation and fascination towards the renovated lineup. And for those that have not watched, the intrigue is all the more intriguing.

So, here is the million-dollar question: Why do so many people eagerly await a five day celebration of an animal that they probably give little thought to the rest of the year?

Though I certainly don’t have a million-dollar answer, I believe I can speculate.


As a society, we seem to have an obsession with living vicariously through various modes of entertainment. When we watch a movie or listen to an album, it is this vicarious nature that draws us in and causes us to want to replay or repeat. Essentially, we are addicted to escapism.

But if it was just a simple matter of us wanting to get out of our daily routine, then it wouldn’t necessarily have to be sharks. So, why sharks?

I think, in a way, it is because we don’t usually give them much thought. I mean, think about it – the only people who frequently deal with sharks either study them or live in an area that is affected by them. So, unless you live by the coast, that probably doesn’t include you.

This situational truth acts a veil, shrouding sharks in mystery.

In this way, the show is tailored to us – the people in the middle of the country. If our lack of knowledge wasn’t enough, then our lack of experience with sharks will step in to make up for any lost ground.

Every year, we tune our television sets to Shark Week, and every year, we are surprised. But, of course we’re surprised – we don’t know what to expect. We don’t even know how they can continue to fill up hours upon hours of programming, but they do. And that’s the point.