For whatever reason, people seem to be fascinated with sharks. There's something sinister about them, their eyes look soulless and their reputation as some of the world's deadliest killing machines obviously gives them a truly ominous vibe. At the same time, they're also rather beautiful in their own strange way. This fascination has lead to an onslaught of programming geared towards these creepy creatures, which has been airing now for two decades semi-regularly on The Discovery Channel. Image has packaged up six 'Shark Week' programs and slapped them onto a pair of DVDs, and thus we have the Shark Week: Greatest Bites collection. Past releases have been thematically linked, which made sense, but this time around the selection is more of a hodge-podge culled from various popular Discovery Channel programs such as Dirty Jobs and Mythbusters, programs that while perfectly enjoyable feel a little out of place alongside the actual shark specific specials that are also included here.
Here's a look at what this latest collection includes...
Surviving Sharks: Les 'Survivor Man' Stroud heads up this interesting special in which he and a few hardy comrades decide to figure out through experimentation whether or not the time of day will affect the likelihood of your being eaten by a shark. Once they've figured that out, they attempt to learn whether thrashing around in the water near a circle of sharks will deter them or attract them. There's some great 'shark cage' footage in here and this'll make you think twice about scuba diving anywhere near a shark without some chainmail on!
How Not To Become Shark Bait: This special follows a team of divers and thrill seekers as they head to the Caribbean to see just what it'll take to coerce native lemon sharks into attacking, the theory being that if you know what not to do around a shark, you won't do it and are therefore less likely to get bitten. They also test various theories on tiger sharks and local reef sharks with varying and interesting results and we learn what types of sounds, smells and vibrations attract and deter the sharks in the area.
Mysteries Of The Shark Coast: This special follows a team of marine biologists to northern Australia where they attempt to ascertain why the largest population of sharks on the planet seems to be decreasing faster than it should be. Hosted by Mike DeGruy, the team set about launching the largest shark tagging experiment in Australian history to find out why the decline is occurring and what can be done to stop it or at least reduce it before it's too late.
Mythbusters Shark Special 2: This episode of the popular Mythbusters series finds the crew trying to prove or disprove a few common myths about sharks: playing dead will help you survive a shark attack; you can deter a shark from attacking you by poking it in the eye; flashlights will attract sharks during a night dive; magnets and chili peppers deter sharks; the smell of a dog will attract a shark; sharks will attack food that is above the water. The results are quite interesting.
Day Of The Shark: This special takes a look at six different shark attacks and attempts to figure out what affected and/or caused them by examining different variables such as time of day and location. Expert testimony discusses the effects that the time of day specifically has one sharks and how it relates to their habits and their nature.
Dirty Jobs: Greenland Shark Quest: In this final entry, the intrepid Mike Rowe and his team travel to the arctic regions of northern Canada where they team up with some eccentric scientists to help tag a rare breed of shark called the Greenland Shark. Not much is known about these slow moving sharks that live only in the coldest waters on the planet. While it would have been nice to get more information on the animals themselves, Rowe and his crew are always interesting to watch and here we get to see them dissect a specimen for scientific evaluation and tag one for further research.
While this material isn't as cohesive as some of the other sets have been, it's still an interesting selection of material. Straddling the line between sensationalist reality TV and educational programming, the six features that make up the set are all interesting enough on their own and while they do tend to play up the 'sharks are scary and want to eat you' angle over legitimate education, that's sometimes half the fun of Shark Week programming in the first place. While some of this material has seen the light of day on DVD previously (the Dirty Jobs episodes in the 'extras' section for one), it all fits in nicely here and fans will definitely enjoy it.
The six features are presented in AVC encoded 1080i 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen in transfers which are noticeably better than those seen on the admittedly nice looking standard definition release but which lack the fine detail that top notch nature documentaries can have in HD. Image has crammed all of the content for this release onto a single BD disc and, not all too surprisingly, there are some minor compression artifacts present in the darker scenes. They're not particularly distracting, but they're there if you want to look for them. More distracting are some more noticeable macroblocking issues that show up from time to time and some moderate instances of edge enhancement. That said, color reproduction looks very good here, even if there are some scenes where skin tones look a bit pinkish. The blues of the ocean and the grays of the sharks themselves look quite nice and while detail can't rival the best of the Blu-ray transfers out there, it does impress periodically, though unfortunately, not consistently.
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Surround Sound tracks that are supplied for each and every one of the six episodes in this collection sound clean and clear though there isn't much in the way of rear channel or surround activity to note aside from some spacing out of the music used and honestly, you'll be hard pressed to notice a difference between this track and the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track on the SD Release. No alternate dubbed tracks have been supplied but the quality of the audio is just fine. Hiss and distortion are never an issue and while there are a few spots here and there where some of the on location audio isn't crystal clear because of whether conditions or surroundings, it's never a problem understanding what's being said. Where you might notice a difference between this mix and it's SD counterpart is in the musical cues, which seem to pack a bit more punch and have a bit more bounce on the lower end of the mix. An English SDH option is included.
While the last collection of Shark Week material was barebones, this time around we actually do get some really good extra content starting with Shark Attack Files IV: Summer Of The Shark which rather in a rather sensationalist and paranoid fashion explores the singular season in 2001 in which a lot more people than average were attacked and/or bitten off of various US coasts. Jobs That Bite and Jobs That Bite Harder are two episodes of Dirty Jobs where Mike Rowe heads to South Africa to help tag great white sharks and to use seal decoys to attract them, and then to the Bahamas where he helps make shark replicas before assisting with making some shark proof scuba gear which he then gets to test out in the open waters. All of this material is presented in standard definition full frame.
Shark Week: Greatest Bites isn't quite as strong as other sets have been but it's still a lot of good viewing. Image's transfer isn't as good as it should have been and none of the extras are in HD but they've made the set available at a very fair price and shark junkies will enjoy this despite its flaws. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.