Shark Week returns with Craig Ferguson, inadvertently hilarious 'Survival Guide'

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For 23 years, TV fans and nature porn aficionados have approached Discovery Channel's Shark Week with the kind of religious fervor typically reserved for, well, religion.

And for its part, the network has managed to maintain interest by squeezing out hours and hours of new, shark-related programming each go around. Yes, every show contains the obligatory slow-motion breaches, attack survivor testimonials and gallons and gallons of chum, but there are still a surprising number of new, sharky angles to be found.

This year's Shark Week, which starts Aug. 1, seems to be going for laughs. "The Late Late Show" host Craig Ferguson gets his own special, "Best Bites" (Wednesday, Aug. 4, 9 p.m. ET), which finds him feeding sharks, cage-less. And the only thing funnier than the potential for Ferguson squealing like a Scottish lass? "Shark Attack Survival Guide."

Now, there shouldn't be anything funny about shark attacks -- the statistically improbable threat is still enough to keep us happily sunbathing a safe distance from the water -- but host Terry Schappert disproves that by walking a fine line between helpful documentarian and finalist for a 2010 Darwin Award.

Schappert shares the lunacy of "Man vs. Wild" host Bear Grylls, and his military background, but deviates is in his construction of convoluted scenarios and apparent willingness to actually be eaten alive by sharks.

In a sneak peek from the special (Monday, Aug. 2, 9 p.m. ET) Schappert is dropped in the ocean with the burning fuselage, buckets of chum and dozens of sharks to simulate what might happen if a plane crashes in shark-infested waters. (Naturally, if you ever find yourself in a watery crash, and you're lucky enough to not be one of the passengers demoted to chum, you'll remember his easy tip.)

Schappert explains, by example, that you're far less likely to fall victim to sharks if you poke them with a stick. Hilarious? You bet. But also quite disconcerting. The Discovery Channel and its sister networks are supposed to be great defenders of animals -- which, last time we checked, doesn't involve beating them with ski poles.




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Photo: Discovery