Back in the water: Discovery's Shark Week both entertains and informs

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Andrew Warren / TV Media
Vicky and a goblin shark from "Alien Sharks"

Vicky and a goblin shark from "Alien Sharks"

Back in the water: Discovery has a love affair with the ocean's greatest toothy predators, and so does its audience. Sharks -- killing machines so deadly that they've changed very little over millions of years -- are the stars of the channel's annual week-long programming event, and starting Sunday, July 23, they return from the ocean's darkest and most terrifying depths.

Running until the following Sunday, Discovery's Shark Week is exactly as advertised: seven days of shark-centric programs and specials that range from wild and entertaining to smart and fin-formative.

More entertaining than terrifying is Sunday night's big event, one that already has the metaphorical tongues on social media waggling. "Phelps vs. Shark: The Battle for Ocean Supremacy" is pretty much exactly what its name implies: swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time and holder of several world records, challenges a great white shark to a race to discover who is the true king of the waves.

If that sounds a bit too kitschy, then some of the more educational and informative programming might be in order. Monday night's "Alien Sharks: Stranger Fins" takes a look at some of the strangest sharks in the water, like long-snouted sawsharks and deep-dwelling goblin sharks. Friday's "Lair of the Sawfish" goes even more in depth with the enigmatic creature, consulting with experts who are trying to bring the unique species back from the brink of extinction.

Love them or fear them (or maybe even both), sharks hold a special place in the hearts of so many people. Whether you're in it to be entertained or informed, Shark Week has toothy programming for everyone, and it kicks off Saturday, July 23, on Discovery.


Behind closed door: Ever wonder, while out away from home, who else has stayed in the same hotel room in which you spend the night? Chances are it was no one super important, but that doesn't mean that the other guests can't have interesting stories. 

From the minds of Jay and Mark Duplass ("Togetherness") comes a new anthology series premiering Friday, July 28, on HBO, that takes a stab at answering exactly that question. "Room 104" is a mix of comedy, drama and horror that features a new cast of characters checking in to the titular room at an entirely average American motel in every half-hour episode.

Whether it's a man in a Santa outfit, a tuxedo-clad man with his dancing shoes on or a pair of Mormon missionaries, Room 104 hosts its fair share of quirky guests. Of course, as an anthology with new characters in each episode, "Room 104" also features a diverse array of actors.

The list of stars set to appear over the series' run is lengthy but includes some pretty big names. Ellen Geer ("Clear and Present Danger," 1994), James Van Der Beek ("Dawson's Creek"), Mae Whitman ("Parenthood"), Nat Wolff ("The Fault in Our Stars," 2014), Tony Todd ("Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," 2009) and Ross Partridge ("Stranger Things") are just a few of the actors who are set to check in to Room 104 at some point over the next few weeks.

It's a quirky idea on a channel that's known for pushing the envelope. Plan a trip to the couch and check in to "Room 104," premiering Friday, July 28, on HBO.


Grab the Bacon: They didn't get Kevin Bacon the first time, but the graboids are getting another chance. Syfy has greenlit a pilot for a new "Tremors" series, and the star of the first film in the franchise is lined up to star in the reboot.

1990's "Tremors," starring Bacon ("Mystic River," 2003), Fred Ward ("Road Trip," 2000) and Finn Carter ("Ghosts of Mississippi," 1996), told the story of a group of residents in a small Nevada desert town being terrorized by terrifying and hungry creatures called graboids that burrowed through the ground beneath them. It was a box office disappointment but became a huge hit on home video, spawning four direct-to-video sequels and a first attempt at a TV series in 2003, which only lasted a single season.

Bacon, who only starred in the first film, will also serve as an executive producer for the new series. Onscreen, he's returning to the role he played in "Tremors." Now 25 years on from the events of that film, Valentine McKee (Bacon) is much older and struggles with both a hero complex and an alcohol problem. 

"This is the only character I've played that I've ever thought about revisiting. I just got to thinking, where would this guy end up after 25 years," said Bacon in a news release announcing the pilot.

No other actors are attached to "Tremors" yet, but with a star of Bacon's caliber headlining it up, Syfy's pilot should be moving full steam ahead in no time.