Watch: Great White Shark Feasts on Dead Whale in Cape Cod BaySurfer Lands on Massive Shark, Gets Bitten at Beach in Florida Stay on target Happy 30th anniversary, Shark Week!The Discovery Channel’s annual extravaganza launched in July 1988, and is now the longest-running cable television event in history.But the week-long summer favorite has become its own beast, with a legacy described by conservation biologist David Shiffman as “a mixed bag.““I both love and hate Shark Week, but I watch it every year, the postdoctoral research fellow Canada’s Simon Fraser University wrote in a Washington Post op-ed about the series “good, bad, and sometimes ugly influence.”Originally devoted to conservation efforts and correcting misconceptions, the program evolved into an entertainment phenomenon.Early hosts (scarce though they were) included Jaws author Peter Benchley, British wildlife presenter Nigel Marven, Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, and survival expert Les Stroud.Gaining popularity in the late-Aughts, the programming block shifted gears, hiring the likes of late-night emcee Craig Ferguson, actor Andy Samberg, YouTube personality Philip DeFranco, comedian Josh Wolf, and filmmaker Eli Roth.For whatever reason, Shaquille O’Neal is moderating this year’s anniversary special.“Science is often at the forefront of Shark Week shows, though it’s regularly blended with celebrity cameos,” Shiffman said, citing last year’s “much-hyped” race between Olympian Michael Phelps and a computer-generated, superimposed great white shark.(Spoiler alert: Phelps lost.)“It’s science first, but mixed with entertainment to keep the audience engaged,” Scott Lewers, Discovery’s executive vice president of digital media, said in a statement to the Post.Sure, Shark Week is fun, informational, and inspiring: Kat Mowle, now a University of North Florida grad student studying bonnetheads, recalls first watching when she was eight, growing up in the mountains of Colorado.But with great power comes great responsibility—and Discovery Channel often does not take its role seriously enough.As Shiffman pointed out, there is a “glaring problem” with the firm’s selection of experts, most of whom are men, despite a good gender balance in the field. It also (sometimes deliberately) disseminates false information.“Sometimes they parrot common myths; other times they seem to invent nonsense,” he wrote.“When I give talks, audience members regularly ask about falsehoods they’ve heard on Shark Week. (No, sharks can not smell a drop of blood a mile away),” Shiffman continued. “It would not be hard for the series to hire a fact-checker.”Or just stop lying to viewers.In one case, marine biologist Kristine Stump and colleagues were filmed conducting experiments on sharks in the Bahamas.But, because tagging and measuring animals doesn’t make for good television, Discovery went in with heavy post-production, depicting real science as part of a fictitious quest to solve an urban legend.Shark Week does have some redeeming qualities, according to Shiffman, whose 2018 picks include “Shark Tank vs. Shark Week” (Shark Tank investors swim with real sharks and hear pitches about conservation charities); “Tiger Shark Invasion” (follows creatures in the Galapagos Islands); “SharkCam Stakeout” (high-tech cameras study fish in the Bahamas); and “Guy Fieri’s Feeding Frenzy” (on shark eating behavior and Bahamian cuisine).“But I’d skip ‘Shark vs. Bear,’ survivalist Bear Gryll’s tips on withstanding those uncommon bites,” the expert said. “And although it might be hard to resist the pairing of nude humans and marine predators, I’d stay away from ‘Naked and Afraid of Sharks.’ Sharks everywhere will thank you.”Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.